As a new parent, I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to educate our little hustler about business, entrepreneurship, and money.
And while he’s a few years away from the proverbial lemonade stand on the sidewalk, let me use that as inspiration for this post.
I had a number of entrepreneurial ventures as a kid — some successful and some less so — but for every package of Skittles I sold and every baby I sat (OK, that sounds super weird), I was learning on small scale the basic elements of business.
I asked for some help to come up with this list, so thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas!
I think you’ll find something for every age level below. After all, Warren Buffett says (paraphrasing) that the age you start your first business was found to be a strong predictor of your business success later in life.
1. Flipping Sneakers
Fifteen year old Ned is a sneaker mogul. Starting with a $50 purchase of a pair of Air Jordan 3s, he’s multiplied his money by buying and selling shoes locally and in different “sneakerhead” Facebook groups.
He sold that pair for $100, and is on track to net $5000 in this business by the time he graduates high school.
She’s got a Udemy course on how you can help get your kids into the industry and avoid all the predatory scams.
3. Selling Soda
Reed Floren from Business Success Systems was a businessman from an early age. He sent me this story:
The easiest business that I ran as a kid was selling Mountain Dew, Smarties candy, and pickle slices from my cheeseburgers. (???)
From 1999-2005 (13-19) I was making $10-$20 a day easily selling snacks to my friends over our lunch break.
The startup costs were small because I’d get a 6 pack of Mountain Dew for a couple dollars and then sell each one for $1 a piece or the price of a lunch ticket ($1.75 at the time) then use the profits from that to fund buying candy, buying my own lunch and selling the pickle slices for $0.50 each to other students.
It always allowed me to have plenty of spending money on me when we went on field trips. If other students needed a loan when we were out and about I could give them a few bucks and most of them paid me back the very next day with interest.
4. Selling Candy
Selling candy is a popular business for kids namely because they’re so close to the target market for candy: other kids!
This was definitely one I made money with at Scout camp as a kid. Mom took me to Costco before camp and I loaded with Skittles and Caramel Apple Pops to sell to the other campers. It wasn’t hard to undercut the “Trading Post” and still make a nice little profit.
A friend of mine in middle school was “the gum guy.” He had a great hustle going selling sticks of gum for $0.25 each.
“My 13 year-old buys candy from BJ’s and sells it,” Priest Willis, founder of Affiliate Mission, said. “We’ve ‘invested’ in her first products but she pays us back and learns how to invest and save for future products.”
5. Vending Machines
One way to “scale up” your candy sales empire is to bring in other salespeople, and even more profitable when those salespeople are actually machines.
“After hearing your episode on vending machines, my son and I bought two cheap candy vending machines,” Preston Lee told me. They’ve already found a location for one and are earning passive income from it each week.
You’ve got a little more investment required in buying the equipment, and some time spent finding a place for it, but after that, vending can make money without your direct time input.
6. Online Surveys
In fact, Swagbucks will even give you a free $5 bonus.
The payouts are relatively low, but if you’re a teenager with nothing better to do, these platforms can be a great way to earn some extra spending money.
7. Lawn Mowing
Of course you could get lawn mowing customers the old fashioned way, by wheeling your lawn mower up and down the neighborhood and knocking on doors, but that’s old school.
Enter GreenPal, which is best described as Uber for lawn care.
GreenPal has over 5500 vendor partners (lawn mowers and other yard care providers) in seven states throughout the county.
CEO Bryan Clayton explained, “Many of our lawn care vendors are high school kids and college kids that use our app in the summer to make extra money. Many younger vendors work afternoons and weekends using our app, and it is the perfect way for them to make extra money.”
On top of that, Bryan said the average GreenPal vendor makes around $55 per hour mowing lawns on its system.
Kids can set their own hours and pick the clients they want to work for.
8. Shoveling Snow
Of course this one will depend on your geography and seasonality, but shoveling snow and clearing driveways and walkways is a definite need that kids can help with.
Thanks to Julie Morgenlender of Nest Egg Chick for the tip!
9. Delivering Newspapers
Jeff Neal was a paper boy from age 8 to 16. He sent me this story:
I only had to work for about 30 minutes every day after school. It wasn’t much, but it taught me to be disciplined, and responsible.
Then I had to go door to door at the end of each month, and collect the money. This wasn’t too big of a problem.
The biggest pain was the Thanksgiving newspaper, because that newspaper was the size of a dictionary with all those retail inserts promoting Christmas sales.
But I vividly remember this one moment when I was in 4th grade. A book market had shown up, and you could buy neat books.
All my classmates, and the other grades, went bonkers over it.
And as a 10 year old, I was excited too. So I pulled out this fat wad of $1 and $5 dollar bills (probably totaling about $30), ready to spend like a baller. And I remember the other kids, staring at the cash, wide-eyed, and whispering about how much money it was.
And that’s when I knew I was a hustler.
10. Raking and Bagging Leaves
“If it’s the fall, bagging leaves is a great business for kids,” Jim Wang of WalletHacks explained. “You can walk around your neighborhood and knock on doors, offering to bag leaves for $1-2 a bag.”
He added, “Kids will learn how to negotiate their rates as they go because they may charge too much or too little at first — eventually they’ll figure it out. Also, it doesn’t require a lot of startup capital. You just need a rake and bags!”
11. Sell Seashells
Matt Burgess of British Columbia said his 4 year old daughter collected and painted seashells and then sold them at a local market for $1 apiece.
12. Pet Sitting
When 12-year old Tony Guertin launched Tony’s Pet Sitting, he knew some customers might be apprehensive about handing over their best friend to a preteen. So what did he do?
He went out and got insurance to give customers peace of mind. And then the insurance company thought it was awesome so they made a video about it.
13. Selling on Ebay
“The primary product that he has sold is his favorite team (Alabama) license plates. We found a distributor and buy 25 – 50 license plates at a time. He is making about $5 profit per license plate.”
Entrepreneurship runs in the family: Michael has an online business (an ecommerce store) and encourages Noah to sell online as well.
As a “responsible” kid, this was one of my go-to ways of making money in my youth. I had a few regular clients and thankfully no disasters that required driving anywhere.
Word of mouth and flyers in the neighborhood worked to get gigs back then, and sitters as young as 14 can join Care.com today. Get CPR and emergency preparedness training to give parents (and yourself) peace of mind.
Doug Nordman’s daughter had a very positive life experience with Kumon (math & reading tutoring). She started their math program at age 7 and loved it.
“The minute she turned 14, she applied for her state work permit and went part-time at the same franchise, learning about tutoring and what it takes to run a business,” Doug said.
Of course kids can freelance tutor as well, especially if they’re well-versed in the subject and can find some clients a few years younger in need of a little extra help.
16. Dog Poop Clean Up
In Jacksonville, Florida, 13 year-old Kyle Graham is the founder of Call of Doodie Pet Waste Removal. According to his site, Kyle takes it as his “sworn duty to help you win the war against your backyard doodie.”
He’s been in the poop-scooping business for two years now, and said he rakes in about $250 a week. One thing he’s done that’s super smart is to set customers up on a recurring payment plan; for $40 a month, he’ll come and clean up your yard once a week.
Of course, prices vary depending on the number of dogs and how frequently you want him to stop by.
That is one happy dog!
Thanks to Claudia Pennington for the tip!
17. Content Creation
“We try to encourage our two teenage daughters to spend as much time creating their own stuff rather than consuming other people’s,” Lee Hills, founder of MrExplainer.com, explained. In practice, that means imposing limits on “device time.”
So what are they up to on the creative front? “My eldest daughter has her own Instagram account focused on posting her daily drawings, and my youngest makes YouTube videos.”
He added that they don’t have any money to show for their efforts just yet, but that he’s “trying to encourage them to be creative and make for their own enjoyment.”
18. Washing Cars
Amber Hinds runs the digital marketing agency, Road Warrior Creative, and volunteers teaching entrepreneurship at a local Montessori school. The school’s Entrepreneur Club includes students in 1st through 5th grades.
Last year, the kids successfully started and ran two businesses through Entrepreneur Club, a greeting card/craft sales business, and a car wash.
For each business concept, the children wrote full business plans including an executive overview, budget, competitor analysis, and marketing plan.
19. Building Websites for Local Businesses
This one requires a little more tech savvy than many of the others, but could be a fantastic foray into the world of entrepreneurship. Tom Woods from HappyEarner.com has his 13-year old daughter Regina helping him with this business.
I was around that same age when I first started building basic sites, and the tools have only gotten easier since then.
20. Live Streaming Video Games
Entertaining video gamers are earning serious money broadcasting their games live on Twitch.tv. Twitch streamers make money with a share of the site’s subscription fees, advertising on their channels, donations, and selling merchandise to their fans.
According to The Hustle, “Twitch has created a new career track for casual video gamers, helping thousands make a living by playing video games. There are two paths this can take. Twitch streamers are either crazy good— the nerd equivalent of pro-footballers — or they’re entertainers, their broadcasts a hybrid radio show, comedy hour and video-game commentary.”
21. Selling Trading Cards
Baseball cards were a big deal when I was growing up, and naturally so was trading and selling them among friends.
I’m sure I still have a box filled with Ken Griffey Jr. cards somewhere in the closet :)
Of course this works with other collectible cards and sports too.
22. Picking up Pinecones?
OK, I’m not from the South. Is this a thing?
Jessi Fearon and her brother picked up pinecones in our neighbors’ yard every summer and fall for a nickel a pinecone.
“I swear you never saw two kids more eager to get out of the house and sweat to death in the Georgia heat!” she said. “It was a wonderful experience and is still considered by us as the first job we ever had.”
23. Sell Baked Goods
Kim Anderson from ThriftyLittleMom.com told me this story:
“A mentor I had in my youth gave me one dollar and challenged me to make it grow into more money. So I went to grocery store and got a $1 bag of brownie mix, made them up and sold them to my friends. I’d take the profit and go back to store and buy a $1 bag of cookies. By the end of about 3 months I had made close to $150.”
Nick True began his entrepreneurial adventure with baking as well. “At 6 years old, I started helping my mom bake homemade whole wheat bread and banana chocolate chip bread,” he said. “Pretty soon I realized I that our neighbors and extended family always liked the bread when they came over. So I started baking bread and selling it.”
Nick explained how his mom helped him understand how to pay for the ingredients with the revenue, but was kind enough to let him keep all of the profit.
And how about the bottom line? “I was able to make a couple hundred dollars over the course of a year as a first grader,” Nick told me. “It taught me that not all the money I make is profit and how to account for expenses.”
“I also learned the valuable skill of baking,” he added.
24. YouTube Star
At press time, this ONE video of Ryan’s has over 600 million views. That’s nuts!
If your little one has a funny personality, it might make sense to point the camera at them at let them turn on the charm while they play with toys or video games.
25. Mini Barista
Julie Dye of Oklahoma City shared this story in the Side Hustle Nation Facebook group.
We had coffeeshop! My 10 year old daughter makes the coffee, provides cream, and sells free pastries from a community food reclamation project. Everything is $1. We invite a bunch of people over to our house on Facebook, and she serves everyone on the porch.
She has a tip jar and Kids Club with free fruit (like Whole Foods). She and her 6 year old friend run the whole thing, including cleanup. Her helper gets $7 per session (for about 3 hours).
She keeps a ledger of expenses and has to pay us back for the coffee. I require her to put a certain percentage in her savings account, a certain amount goes toward the coffee and cream, and the rest she is free to spend as she wishes.
26. Selling Your Masterpieces
“Recently my daughter has been creating original artwork to sell,” Ryan Guina of CashMoneyLife.com said. “I’m her biggest buyer so far, but she also tries to sell to other family members. (We won’t let her expand beyond that at this point.)”
She enjoys drawing and making art, so this is a very low-entry way for her to get involved with entrepreneurship. She has expressed interest in other ways to make money, such as having a yard sale or selling her old toys or clothes she has outgrown.
At this stage, she is a little young to fully understand the concept of startup capital, or needing money to make money. So in many ways this has been a fun learning experience for her and for me. I am doing my best to encourage this line of thinking and I hope she continues looking for creative ways to earn money. It’s a great life skill to have.
27. Puppet Shows and other Performing Arts
In addition to the classic lemonade stand, Rachel Hernandez put on puppet shows for the neighborhood.
“Food and entertainment, whether it be for adults or kids, will always draw a crowd and serve the community,” she said, adding, “Most people want to support local businesses.”
What made the puppet shows a success? “People bought from me because they knew me and I knew their kids,” Rachel explained. “Plus, I made the extra effort to talk to people. If you can get to know others and they get to know you, you’ll have a steady stream of customers to last a lifetime.”
28. Teaching Music Lessons
As a teen, Pauline Paquin’s my music teacher would let her borrow the piano room at lunch break. “I gave a one hour lesson to primary school kids for about $20 an hour,” she explained. “I’d make $400-ish a month and still be out of school with my peers in the afternoon.”
Teresa Mears of LivingontheCheap.com taught piano from ages 13 to 16, adding that it paid double the minimum wage at the time.
29. Selling Donuts
Erin Lowry, founder of BrokeMillennial.com, learned a couple important entrepreneurial lessons early on.
During her mom’s garage sale, she and her sister set out a tiny Fisher-Price table with 2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. She charged $0.50 apiece and it wasn’t long before they were completely sold out.
That was lesson #1: Set up shop where your target customers already are.
Clutching her $12 in coins in her teal fanny pack, and imagining all the awesome toys she was going to buy at Toys ‘R Us, her dad had some bad news for her. He claimed $3 as reimbursement for supplying the donut inventory, and $2 for Erin’s sister’s “help” that morning, leaving her with a profit of $7.
That was lesson #2: Revenue does not equal profit.
30. Helping with Horses
This story comes from Tiffany over at EarnLikeAGirl.com.
For any horse loving kid, working at a barn is a great way to teach them responsibility. When I was 10, my mother bought me a horse but told me I had to work to earn her boarding costs.
Every weekend I was dropped off at the barn at 7am to muck stalls, clean water buckets, feed, turn out, blanket, etc.
Not only did I develop amazing biceps from all that stall mucking, it really taught me the value of hard work and that you CAN have what you want, but in order to keep it you must work hard and be accountable. Greatest lesson ever!
Barns are always looking for help and usually can be very flexible on offering discounted lessons or board in exchange for barn help.
31. Niche Websites
If technology is second nature to your little one, building a website around their favorite show or hobby could actually be a lucrative endeavor.
This was another suggestion from Priest over at AffiliateMission. He indicated his daughter would do this for popular movies like The Hunger Games and earn money promoting merchandise as an affiliate.
Kids have the advantage of being closer to the trends and fads going around their school, and could use that “inside” information to build a profitable website.
33. Collecting Cans and Bottles
Does your state have a “bottle bill”? Here in California and in 9 other states across the country, empty aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles are worth $0.05-0.10 apiece.
There are a couple ways to tackle this one. The first is to “scavenge” for empties at parks or even alongside the road. (My brother and I did this as kids, and you’d be surprised how many cans you’ll find.)
The second option is a little cleaner, and involves asking your neighbors to separate their recyclable bottles and cans each week so you can go pick them up and cash in. We used to do this for our neighbors and it was an easy way to support their entrepreneurial spirit.
34. T-Shirt Designer
These services handle all the printing and shipping; all you have to do is come up with a design that will sell.
35. Bike Advertising
In Duluth, Minnesota, 12-year old Milo Amundsen sold advertising on the back of his bike. Since the two-wheeler is his main form of transportation around town, he figured it would be great exposure for local businesses.
He sold several spots for $10 apiece to a dance studio, a Montessori school, a design firm, and others.
36. Selling Jewelry
Head on over to Etsy.com to get some inspiration for what kinds of homemade designs are hot right now and you’ll be in business. LeiLei Secor, a teenager in upstate New York earned $100,000 selling jewelry on the site in just 3 years.
I met one Etsy seller (an adult) who’s turned her penchant for wine-themed wedding decor into a growing ecommerce empire.
37. Sports Coaching
Standout student athletes can turn their off-season weekends into profitable practice sessions. All you need is a park (or a pool or a court) to run your drills or scrimmages.
As I kid, I attended several different sports camps so this one has the advantage of being something you know parents are already spending money on.
38. Selling Outside Sporting Events and Concerts
Every time I walk across the overpass from the train to the Oakland Coliseum, there are dozens of enterprising people waiting to sell me hats, shirts, bottles of water, and other merchandise.
I think there’s an opportunity to do the same, or maybe even make bracelets in the team’s colors and sell those.
If your child has a green thumb, a bumper crop from a backyard garden could be a great first business venture. You could set up a little mini “farmer’s market” in the driveway and sell to your neighbors.
I mean, you’re not really going to eat all that zucchini, right?
40. Selling Used Books
You can start by looking around the house for books you probably won’t read again (and if you want to, there’s always the library). After that source is exhausted, turn to local garage sales, yard sales, estate sales, the library bookstore, and thrift stores to find more inventory.
You can use apps like Bookscouter to see which titles are worth something and then sell them on Amazon or eBay.
41. Sell Popsicles or Ice Cream
This was another one of my childhood business ventures. We’d raid the freezer and set up shop with a card table and a cooler at the end of the driveway.
How did you make money as a kid?
What are the best business ideas your kids have come up with? Let me know in the comments below!
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Stock photos by paulaphoto and Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock.