How to Raise an Entrepreneurial Kid
When billionaire Warren Buffett was 6 years old, he bought packs of gum from his grandfather’s grocery store during the day—and sold them door-to-door to neighbors at night. He made a two-cent profit per pack. And just like that, a mini mogul was born. Don’t get us wrong: It’s no easy feat to develop an entrepreneurial mindset—focused on innovation, initiative and customer service—while balancing school, family, friends and activities. But it can help your kid hone critical career skills long before they jump into the workforce. Not to mention the potential to make serious bank. Take inspo from these success stories of moms who supported their enterprising kids in minding their own business.
The Tied-And-True Fundraiser
Philanthropy is the driving force behind Emily Barr’s business, Ribbon Barrettes for Research. The 14-year-old donates proceeds from her handmade hair adornments to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (She was inspired by her best friend, who has the disease.)
Emily learned how to make the barrettes at an ’80s-themed party five years ago and started crafting and selling the woven satin ribbon designs in the Washington, DC, suburb where she lives. Her venture isn’t a year-round operation: Emily ramps up her business during pool time in the summer, selling through local craft sales, her website, Instagram and the Great Strides CF fundraising walk in DC every year.
Emily’s mom, Leticia, steps in when needed. “Last year Plae shoes approached me about a partnership when they found Emily and her cause,” says the digital strategist and education consultant. “I spoke with Emily before we accepted because this philanthropic venture is her brainchild . She researched the company and developed a list of questions that I emailed them. Then we discussed the pros and cons.” When they accepted, the company publicized Emily’s barrettes to their customers and donated a percentage of all orders to the foundation the week they were featured. “As parents, we need to empower our kids to make good decisions without taking over.”
FACTForty-one percent of students in grades 5 through 12 plan to start their own business; 4% are already running one. —2016 Gallup-HOPE Index
The Sneaker Sensation
While most college freshmen were spending their time adjusting to campus life, Rebecca Feldman, 19, was inking a licensing deal with her university to create custom kicks. The fine arts and entrepreneurship student at Temple University in Philadelphia says it all began last year during a road trip to Florida, when she drew on white canvas sneakers with Sharpies and gave them to some of her friends. Becca had spotted cool footwear designs on Instagram and thought she could do better. “Word started to spread, and the next thing I knew, I had an influx of orders,” says Becca.
As a freshman, she cultivated a strong relationship with an admissions office contact who, through a series of introductions, connected her with a licensing company. She signed a deal, got a crafter’s license (available to individuals making items at home to sell at fairs, farmers’ markets and online) and will be designing 20 Temple-themed shoes this academic year, using its colors and mascot. Beyond the agreement, she’s creating designs under Becca Drew It.
“Twenty pairs over the year is a wonderful stepping stone. It’s not going to be like, ‘I’m dying, I can’t get this done,’ ” says Becca’s mother, Beth, a publicist and marketer in New Rochelle, NY. “I think if you grow too fast or you put too much pressure on your child, they’ll burn out.”
Becca continues to focus on school while growing her business methodically so that she doesn’t take on more than she can handle. “The support of a parent can go a long way,” says Becca, who wants parents to believe in their innovative kids. “My mom’s been my rock and number one fan.”
The Dapper Dresser
When he was just 9, a stylish Moziah Bridges felt disappointed by the lack of fashionable, affordable bow ties available in stores. So he turned to his great-grandmother for inspiration. The seamstress of 50 years created a pattern, taught him to sew and dipped into her vintage fabric collection, sparking a brand-new business: Mo’s Bows.
Moziah wore the chic accessories to his Memphis school and soon began taking orders, charging $5 each and sewing 10 to 12 hours every week. “Mo always had a passion for fashion,” says Tramica Morris, his mother. “I tell other parents to pay attention to their kids’ talents and encourage them.”
As word caught on and Moziah appeared in mainstream media, Mo’s Bows grew to $600,000 in sales. They were featured on Shark Tank in 2014, and Moziah landed a mentor in millionaire businessman Daymond John. After hiring seamstresses to continue hand-making bow ties for youths and adults—and now pocket squares and neckties—Tramica left her full-time job in retirement services to run operations.
Moziah, who will be a high school junior this fall, aspires to pursue fashion design in college. He’s currently creative director of the company, working a few hours each week processing orders and writing handwritten thank-you notes to buyers. He’s learned that a personal touch goes a long way toward creating a connection with customers.
The Net From Gross Creator
Ask Mia Hartounian of Franklin, WI, about her side hustle and she’ll talk trends. “You have to keep up with what’s popular on Instagram,” explains the 14-year-old, who two years ago taught herself how to make slime by watching YouTube videos. Now she creates and sells colorful versions she calls Slimey Slush by mixing a “secret sauce” of glue, glitter, scent and more.
After setting up shop on mercari.com, a selling app, she earned $600 one three-dollar container at a time. She now sells product by word of mouth and by featuring it on her Instagram page. Mia isn’t pocketing all the earnings—she’s responsible for production costs. Her mother, Marianne Szymanski, herself an entrepreneur, notes, “You’re not doing any child a favor if you buy gallons of Elmer’s glue and slime containers while they keep all the money.”
Mia gets charged 25 cents every time she uses the family’s dining room table to create slime. Her mother reveals, “If she doesn’t clean up after herself, there’s a five-dollar cleaning fee. You try and get glue off glass! Mia quickly learned that manufacturing mistakes cost big money.”
One more tip: Make online privacy a priority. “If you create bracelets and your name is Milly, let your online shop be BraceletsbyM,” say Mia. “Don’t put your real name on your product.”
Supporting Your Kidpreneur
Expert tips for parents to help kids get down to work.
“Build a list of what they know, need to know and don’t know enough about,” suggests Connie Tang, author of Fearless Living: 8 Life-Changing Values for Breakthrough Success. “Then figure out who they can talk to or where they can get these questions answered.” She recommends introducing kids to professional organizations, entrepreneur networks and informational chat rooms like those on Kidzworld and Maverick while monitoring them for safety.
“Much like ‘helping’ your kid with their homework, you need to not have their project become your business too,” says Emily Blumenthal, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. You can support them while having clear objectives for what you expect them to do and when it needs to be done. ”Setting guidelines is always a good idea, both to empower your child and as a reminder to yourself of where to draw the line,” she says.
“Don’t be afraid that they’ll make mistakes,” explains Tang, who is also president and CEO of Princess House, a direct seller of cookware. “Give them permission and the courage to get things wrong. They are a whole lot more resilient than we think. Your job is to help them learn from those mistakes.”
Move On When Necessary
When kids concoct a business idea, they may abandon it if they feel overwhelmed with the process, effort and timing. “It’s OK that they lose interest,” says Blumenthal, who is also founder of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards. “It’s even OK if they can’t come up with an idea to begin with. Life lessons, even the abandoned ones, are always a good thing.”