Business Ideas for Kids PLUS Successful Entrepreneurs Who Started Out Young
If you want to raise an entrepreneur start them out while they are young. This is Lisa Illingworth’s entire business model, that entrepreneurial thinking can be taught and children can make their business ideas real. She is the CEO and co-founder of Futureproof which provides children as young as 8 around Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal with entrepreneurial skills through a series of bootcamps and workshops.
Illingworth says the first step for parents who are helping their child to launch their own business, is to expand their thinking around what their children are capable of.
“Businesses for kids need not be any less complicated or simplistic from that of an adult entrepreneur.
“Kids are able to accomplish more than what we expect and should be given the freedom to try and experiment with business concepts, and who knows, possibly land on the one idea that proves successful. The underlying factor of any successful enterprise is to always solve a problem.”
Here are some of the ideas that they have seen work for kids that have been through Futureproof’s program.
This idea is generally easy and quick to start, with few overhead and setup costs, provided parents are prepared to share the oven and help supervise when it comes to the baking. Importantly, kids must keep track of all the ingredients, baking cups and packaging costs and factor those in when setting their price as these can quickly become hidden costs and sink the business.
This is perfect for those starting out and need to gain some confidence. We have seen many hybrids of this idea, with one little business even paying a license fee to a parent for an exclusive use of the recipe and another labelling coloured meringues as ‘unicorn poop.’
For kids that prefer being outdoors and live in secure areas or have access to a collection of cars and a water point. This is also great for kids that are old enough to walk to the houses inside a complex and the convenience factor for adults is very attractive.
Equipment needed is light in the form of sponge, bucket, water and soap and if the kid wants an upsell, they can add a polish. The marketing of this is key, having a poster with a pricelist or homemade business cards will help professionalize this business. Add a bowtie or an uniform to the presentation and the customers won’t be able to resist.
Pet owners have a tough time finding the hours in the day to get out before dark to give their pets their daily exercise. This is a nice business, as it can scale quickly with a few friends and some willing pet owners. To keep animals from getting out of control, make sure kids are equipped with a good lead, poop-scoop, plastic bag and a water bottle. Map out a route beforehand and let the owners have a copy.
Set a weekly schedule and stick to it to help manage the owner’s expectations and have an one-pager contract that protects each party, should anything go wrong. Dog-walkers we have seen have charged in the area of R10.00 per pet per day and is suitable for kids older than the age of 10 years of age.
Creative and fun, this business can take many forms and it’s perfect for the upcoming Valentine’s season and thereafter, celebrations like Mother’s Day. One of our entrepreneurs put together kits that kids could buy and assemble themselves to add that personal touch.
These can be in the form of necklaces, earrings and hair clips or bracelets or combined into matching sets of all of the above. Supplies can be found at local haberdasheries or created from left over aluminium waste. Creativity and the ability to personalize these items are always the key to increasing customer attention.
Similar to the jewellery business, kids are looking for fun items of clothing that they can personalize. Caps or t-shirts are often a favourite, possibly with patches or trinkets added to make it an ‘one of kind’ item. A business that was started this year saw two sisters enlisting their gran to knit fingerless gloves in an array of candyfloss colours and some in the regulatory school colours to allow them to be worn at school.
There was a simple cost-plus model applied, whereby gran was paid a split of the revenue for each pair of gloves sold. The range then increased to matching scarves and beanies and were personalized with a label or pin at an additional cost. Gloves started for the simple pairs, at R20 per pair.
A messy job, but a time consuming one that adults generally don’t have time to do. Unbeknownst to most people, the recycling industry can be a lucrative source of income if kids are prepared to do the sorting. This again would work well in complexes where kids can collect, sort, make a worm farm and charge for these services as well as for the sale of the recyclable material.
A simple pricelist per kg of waste and a hessian sack with a luggage scale is sufficient to start but keep in mind you’ll need a disposal mechanism and a way of transporting the material to the local depot. A parent with a bakkie is a big asset for this business.
The success of this type of business depends on the skill level of the child and the support, be it a parent or mentor and the accessibility to internet connectivity, as well as tech. When those resources are in place, we have seen young entrepreneurs solve real-world problems with ease and the ability to scale geographically without needing too much capital.
Online marketplaces are always a hit and there have been some great ideas like peer to peer tutoring and second-hand Playstation game swopping and selling. There are many working parts in this model and starting light and testing is important whilst getting customer feedback before making adjustments to the application or getting it registered on a digital storefront.
If you live in one of those neighbourhoods where every kid has got a bike and rides around in the afternoon, inevitably they break or tyres get punctured and need repairs which requires a parent to step in and help and a delay in the cycling. A service-based business is often easier to start and requires less capital at the beginning with a regular, but limited cash flow.
Kids can setup a small workshop in a garage or under a carport, even on a driveway or patch of lawn and all they need is a few tools and a pump. The upsell we have seen in FutureProof is kids offering stickers and customizable spray-painted templates to personalize their bikes. Prices range from R10.00 for a puncture repair to R100.00 for a framed sprayed in unicorn colours or matte black. Total setup costs can be from R150.00 to R500.00 depending on the services offered.
1. Don’t be prescriptive and let the child make small mistakes when the risks are low. Help aid the process of reflecting and the changes that the child will have to make.
2. Don’t fund the losses of the business, if there aren’t enough customers to buy the cupcakes, don’t buy the rest unless they are the last batch and the child is moving onto the next idea. A business is not a business without a customer.
3. Their mistakes are not yours, let them own the mistakes in a safe environment where they are encouraged to try again.
4. Brag about their successes and the lessons learnt to everyone and let them know that you are proud of their journey, not the money that is made.