What are the best business ideas for kids?
As a parent, I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to educate our little hustlers about business, entrepreneurship, and money.
And while they may still be 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 the basic elements of business on small, low-risk scale.
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.
Start early, start often!
1. Flipping Sneakers
Fifteen year old Ned Cornfield 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.
Aja McClanahan’s daughters earn up to $1000 per hour for television and voiceover acting.
To get started down this path, it might make sense to educate yourself on the industry to 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 candy. I’d buy my own lunch and sell the pickle slices for $0.50 each to other students.
It always allowed me to have plenty of spending money 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.
There you go, a prepubescent pickle mogul and loan shark :)
4. Selling Candy and Gum
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 up 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, Sr. said. “We’ve ‘invested’ in her first products but she pays us back and learns how to invest and save for future products.”
5. Online Surveys
For more: On the Side Hustle Nation blog, we recently explored a bunch of other apps that pay you.
6. 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.
CEO Bryan Clayton explained, “Many of our lawn care vendors are high school kids and college students 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.
7. 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.
This is one of many manual labor businesses that are great for kids to get some exercise and get paid at the same time.
8. 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.
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 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.
9. 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!”
“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.”
10. Trash Can Cleanup
Dustin Riechmann’s 15- and 9-year old ended up making almost $850 combined — or roughly $25 an hour! — cleaning out garbage and recycling bins around their neighborhood.
The business started with some strategically placed flyers and a post in the local Facebook group. With limited startup costs, the duo charged $15 for one can, or $25 for two, and ended up with a couple dozen customers.
One interesting thing they found was that several customers also gave them tips and other odd jobs along the way. Dustin created this short video sharing how it all worked:
11. Selling Used Books
You can start by looking around the house for books you probably won’t read again. 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.
And this one isn’t just for kids; I spoke to one entrepreneur who was earning up to $4000 a month flipping books!
12. 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.
13. Curb Painting
Do the house numbers on the curbs in your neighborhood need an update? With just a few number stencils, some spray paint, and a little door-to-door advertising, I think you could knock a bunch of these out in one afternoon.
Charge $20 apiece and work your way through the neighborhood, like this 15-year old in El Paso.
14. 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. You may be able to help your kids get started by creating a profile and listing on Rover.
15. Selling on eBay
“For the past several years, my 12-year-old Noah has sold on eBay,” Michael from Work at Home Inspiration told me.
“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 makes 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.
My friends Rob and Melissa have been teaching their kids the fine art of buying low and selling high, and put together this class to help the next generation of flippers.
Here’s their daughter taking a picture for one of her eBay listings:
If this is something your little one could get excited about, check out the course for more information!
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.
“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.
18. 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.
19. Dog Poop Clean Up
In Jacksonville, Florida, 13 year-old Kyle Graham founded Call of Doodie Pet Waste Removal.
A couple years into the poop-scooping business, he was raking in about $250 a week. One thing he did that was super smart was set customers up on a recurring payment plan; for $40 a month, he’d come and clean up your yard once a week.
That is one happy dog!
20. Content Creation
“We encourage our teenage daughters to create their own stuff rather than consuming other people’s,” Lee Hills explained. “My eldest daughter has her own Instagram account focused on posting her daily drawings, and my youngest makes YouTube videos.”
While they don’t have any money to show for their efforts just yet, he’s “trying to encourage them to be creative and make for their own enjoyment.”
There’s even a podcast called The Show About Science, hosted by Nate, who started it as a curious 6-year old.
21. 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.
Amber indicated the startup costs for the ideas the kids have vary, but are usually under $100. “Both the greeting card business and car wash business executed last year were profitable,” she added.
22. 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.
23. Live Streaming Video Games
Entertaining video gamers are earning serious money broadcasting their games live on Twitch.tv. Twitch streamers must be 13 or older, and make money in a variety of ways, including:
- a share of the site’s subscription fees
- advertising on their channels
- 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.”
24. 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.”
Related: How to Start a Cookie Business
25. YouTube Star
At press time, this ONE video of Ryan’s has over a billion 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.
26. Teaching Music Lessons
As a teen, Pauline Paquin’s 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.
27. Children’s Author
Check out the self-publishing resources here on Side Hustle Nation to learn more.
28. Collecting Cans and Bottles
Does your state have a “bottle bill”? In California and 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.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. 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.
33. Gardening or Plant Sitting
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?
Or you could offer to “plant sit” for neighbors while they’re out of town.
34. Thrifting for Profit
Another opportunity to buy low and sell high is with gently-used clothes. The popular Poshmark app is a great outlet to resell these products for a profit.
Hannah Oh started her Poshmark side hustle in high school, and reported earning over $25k flipping items from local stores.
35. Scary Pet Parties
Sixteen year-old Andrew Pugliese turned his love of creepy critters into cold-hard cash. He reported earning up to $250 a day in tips letting other people hold one of his pet tarantulas!
Since then, he’s branched out into birthday parties and private events. He educates participants on spiders, scorpions, and other bugs — helping people overcome their fears at the same time.
How to Raise Innovative and Entrepreneurial Kids
Can innovation be taught? (And if you can teach it to kids, can you teach it to grownups?)
To find out, I sat down with Don Wettrick, an award-winning middle school and high school teacher and the CEO and co-founder of StartEdUp. Don’s been on a decade-long mission to empower students and teachers to apply innovation and entrepreneurship in the classroom.
Business Ideas for Kids: Your Turn
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!
Looking for More Side Hustle Help?
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Stock photos by paulaphoto and Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good business ideas for teenagers?
Teens don’t need to rely on a part-time job. Instead they can start their own business, with lawn care, babysitting, and tutoring being popular options. Working online, teenagers could also begin freelancing or creating content for YouTube.
How can I help my kid start a business?
Great job encouraging entrepreneurship! After they’ve come up with an idea, start with a basic business plan and help them work through startup costs, marketing, pricing their product or service, and how to manage the new business alongside their other responsibilities.
What skills will kids kids learn by starting a business?
Starting a business at an early age is an excellent educational experience. Kids will learn (depending on their age) how to manage money, how to market their product or service, and how to work with customers.