Great Business Ideas: Hire Teenagers

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Hire Teenagers

In response to the shifting economy, seven out of ten high school students want to start a business, according to a Gallup Poll. The primary motivation is to be their own boss, not to earn a lot of money.

Although there are no firm statistics on how many of America’s 27 million teens run small businesses, the numbers are well into the thousands and growing, according to those involved in training young entrepreneurs. Teens are selling handmade crafts, moving furniture, detailing cars, and designing clothes, among other ventures. But not all teenagers have a natural entrepreneurial bent.

Despite this strong interest, 86 percent of the teens surveyed said they lacked the skills needed to start even the simplest business. The study, commissioned by the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, also found that most of the students were taught little or nothing about running a small business.

This thirst for practical information has fueled the growth of several organizations aimed at training young entrepreneurs. Independent Means is an educational organization devoted to teaching teenage girls about business, with offices in New York and Santa Barbara. It operates summer camps, sponsors seminars, and organizes a national business plan competition for girls. “We have to train kids not just how to get a job, but how to make a job,” said Joline Godfrey, founder of Independent Means.

Other groups are serving low-income youth or business owners’ children with a variety of training programs. Steve Mariotti, founder of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship in Manhattan, said his group reaches out to economically disadvantaged teenagers in fourteen cities.

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The program boasts 12,000 graduates, a $5 million budget, and 200 corporate sponsors. “Economic illiteracy is an intellectual handicap in a capitalist society,” Mariotti said. “It’s life-threatening for the poor.”

Mariotti, coauthor of The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business (Times Books; 2000), said teens who participate in the foundation’s classes are taught the practical marketing and financial skills needed to make it in the business world.

Many teens get into business because their parents are entrepreneurs. Katy Meyer of Carlisle, Massachusetts, launched her silk scarf business after she won a national business plan competition sponsored by Independent Means. She learned silk painting at an art camp and has been perfecting her technique ever since. The tenth-grader has sold scores of scarves, ranging in price from $100 to $500. She also created ten wall hangings for a Massachusetts medical center as part of design project managed by her mother, an interior designer.

What better way to support aspiring teen business owners than to hire one as an intern or part-time worker? This can serve to fill a labor void in your business and also add a new, younger perspective to your team. Are you thinking of aiming your products at the teen market? Why not get your teen employee involved in the initiative?