Instead of taking a summer job, why not work for yourself? If you start your own business, you can earn some extra cash and be your own boss. You'll learn lessons that can last a lifetime. Just ask Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk.
These famous billionaires all started businesses before they were 18 years old. Cuban sold garbage bags to his neighbors, and Musk built and sold a space-themed video game called Blastar. They were both 12 years old.
As for Branson, he bred and sold parakeets to fellow classmates one summer when he was 11 years old. When he returned to school in the fall, his mother opened the cages and freed the birds. Coming up with a new plan for winter break, he tried selling Christmas trees, but they never grew because rabbits got to them.
"If it wasn't for those first few failures, the future successes would never have happened," Branson wrote of his early business attempts.
So if you--or any aspiring entrepreneurs you know---are looking to take your first dive into business, here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Social media marketing
If you're fluent in Instagram or TikTok, you can offer your expertise to local businesses that need help marketing, like your local pizzeria or frozen yogurt shop. In eighth grade, Temper Thompson started online marketing, and by age 17, he was earning $30,000 a month selling online marketing courses.
To help curb the spread of Covid-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still recommending wearing masks for the unvaccinated. Since these accessories aren't going anywhere anytime soon, consider sewing and selling masks with fun designs, local school or sport team logos, or personalized with customers' favorite colors. Sisters Marley and Zoe Macris of Snohomish, Washington, sell their facemasks for about $6 each.
3. YouTube reviews and unboxings
If you have strong opinions and are on top of the latest trends in toys and tech, start a YouTube channel that streams unboxing and product reviews. Think that isn't lucrative? Just ask Ryan Kaji, who at age 8 made $26 million in one year.
4. Writing fiction or creating comics
Your imagination is one-of-a-kind--and so are the stories you can tell. You can write and illustrate comics, picture books, or short chapter books and sell them to friends and family--or submit them to established publishers. The late, great Marvel comic-book writer Stan Lee, who created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men, got his start writing as a teenager.
5. Tie-dye fashion
Tie-dying took off on social media this year. It's a fun do-it-yourself project that can bring in cash. Customers can bring you clothes to tie-dye, or you can find hoodies and T-shirts at a thrift store and make them look like new. One young entrepreneur who began selling tie-dyed clothes during quarantine is charging $35 for dyed sweatshirts and $18 for shorts at Tied By Len. Don't forget to make a TikTok video to show off your technique.
6. Mowing lawns
Get paid for the household chore that you've mastered by creating a lawn-mowing service. Bonus: Branson has five tips for young lawn-mowing entrepreneurs.
Babysitting is a great way to learn about time management, responsibility, and leadership, and the pay isn't bad either. While rates depend on where you live, the U.S. average hourly babysitting rate is $16.75 for one child and $19.26 for two children. Show parents you're serious by taking a babysitting class. The American Red Cross offers certificate training on basic safety and child care skills to students 11 years old or older.
8. Lemonade stand
A lemonade stand is a classic for a reason. Few passersby can resist an ice-cold drink on a hot day sold by an enterprising neighborhood kid. An organization called Lemonade Day offers to teach kids the basics and plans an annual national Lemonade Day--this year it's Friday, August 20. But you don't have to wait to get started. Because of the pandemic, you might offer a sanitizing wipe or sell canned or bottled drinks.
9. Academic tutor
If you're particularly good at math or can write rings around your peers, tutoring younger students may be a good fit for you. This is also a great opportunity to develop your communication skills and learn how to motivate others.
10. Dog walking
If you're comfortable with animals and don't mind cleaning up after them, walking dogs or taking care of pets at home while their owners are away can be a great moneymaker. Before walking, be sure to assess how friendly a pet is and how much it can tug on a leash--or if they're known to bolt after squirrels. Many dog walkers charge around $20 to $30 for a half-hour walk.
If you're known for your eye-catching Instagram feed, consider charging for portrait sessions or touch-up editing. Professionals suggest that beginner photographers should charge $100 per session and offer discounts for first-time clients.
12. Music tutor
If you're skilled at playing an instrument, you can offer to teach other kids. Or you might offer to practice with kids younger than you who need a partner to play along with and keep them engaged. Not only will you get in your practice time, but you can help inspire someone else to develop their talent.
13. Hair accessories
Scrunchies and bandanas are relatively easy sewing projects and can be made with fun patterns or colors of a local sports team. Teen entrepreneur Cody-Rae Fowler sells scrunchies for about $6.36 online with her Ontario, Canada-based business Scrunchie and Go.
To learn more about the world of entrepreneurship, look into local school, volunteer, or summer-camp programs. Here are a few that may be offered in your area:
- Camp BizSmart, a youth entrepreneurship program that was advised by executives from Apple, Google, and Cisco that's now offering virtual camps this summer
- Treps, a project-based curriculum for kids in grades four through eight taught by teachers and volunteers that teaches how to start a business
- Moonshot Junior, an online educational program designed for children aged 10 to 17 that teaches innovation and entrepreneurship through product-based curriculums
- Junior Achievement, which offers afterschool entrepreneurship programs and virtual curriculums across the country for kids in elementary school all the way through high school