Beyond the Lemonade Stand: How to Help Your Kids Start a Summer Business

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With hot weather and months without school just around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about how to help your kids start a summer business.

Why should you encourage summer businesses? What are some good businesses for kids? What can you do to get them started? Read on.

Why should my kids have a summer business?

Running a summer business has many advantages for you and your children. A summer business does all of the following:

  • Promotes the value of hard work
  • Encourages responsibility in managing time, resources, and money
  • Allows you to teach your children about business and nurture their entrepreneurial spirits
  • Gives you quality time with your kids and a way to show your support as you bond over the business venture
  • Creates an opportunity for your kids to earn spending money
  • Keeps your children busy, engaged, and learning even when they're not in school every day
  • Allows your kids the autonomy to set their own hours and work on their own schedules
  • Provides valuable experience and inspiration for future jobs and entrepreneurial ventures

What kind of business can my kids start?

When thinking about which summer businesses your children could pursue, the most important thing is your kids' interests; you want them to enjoy the creation and running of the enterprise and not lose interest in late June.

You should also consider your own willingness and ability to help. How much time and money do you have to invest in your child's business? Some summer businesses will require more parental help and guidance than others. You want to enjoy the time you spend working on the business with your kids, not feel burdened by it.

Aside from the age-old lemonade stand (which can still be a solid business venture), here are a few more summer business ideas:

1. Lawn Mowing

A great summer business for teens is lawn mowing, especially if your kids enjoy being outside and don't mind physical work. Offered services could also include weeding and gardening. Decide ahead of time whether your child will use your lawn mower and equipment or the client's and set prices accordingly, keeping in mind maintenance and replacement costs for any equipment that you or your child is providing.

A lawn mowing service can be popular with elderly people, families with young kids, or people who just don't have the time or inclination for lawn care. About twenty lawns a week will usually turn a nice profit—just be sure that you or your child has inspected the lawn and priced the job appropriately before you offer an estimate.

2. Babysitting

As age-old as the summer lemonade stand is the summer babysitting job. Babysitting is a great business choice for teens who enjoy spending time with children. Before getting started, help your child figure out how much time he or she would like to spend babysitting and what age group to target. Also decide whether the babysitting will happen at your home or the client's and if your child has a driver's license, whether there will be transportation costs involved.

Another thing you should do before your child starts a babysitting business is make sure he or she is trained in first-aid, especially CPR.

Even one reliable client can make a babysitting business successful, but too many kids can quickly become more than your child can handle. And it could be breaking the law. Check your local regulations; if your child's business can be viewed as a daycare center, it may run afoul of licensing laws.

3. Dog Walking

If your child loves spending time with animals, dog walking could be the perfect summer business for him or her. Decide with your child how much time he or she would like to spend walking the neighborhood dogs and whether to charge by the hour or on a per-walk basis. A dog's size and behavior can also figure into the pricing structure; dogs that are especially large or difficult may warrant a higher rate.

Make sure your child is aware of all local ordinances regarding dogs, including leash laws and proper dog waste removal. A handful of clients may be plenty for your child to make some extra money during those dog days of summer.

4. Baking

If your child enjoys being in the kitchen, a summer baking business offering cookies and muffins for parties, fairs, meetings, and other events can be great summer business. As you probably already have some of the major supplies at home (oven, baking sheets, mixing bowls, spoons), the start-up costs should be minimal and buying ingredients in bulk can help save money as well.

Do keep in mind that if your child aims to set up stands selling baked goods, there may be special licensing laws applicable.

5. Anything!

Put your kids' imaginations to work. Almost anything they excel at and enjoy can become a business.

How do we get started?

No matter what summer business you and your child decide to pursue, there are some basic things you can do to help get things started:

1. Draw up a business plan.

It doesn't have to be complicated and include charts, graphs, and spreadsheets, but do get some sort of business plan down on paper; you should consider upfront costs (supplies needed to get started), ongoing costs (marketing, supply upkeep, transportation), income potential, and a short analysis of the competition.

Don't go off in a room and do this yourself, though! Your kids should be involved every step of the way. You're preparing them for an entrepreneurial future and entrepreneurship involves planning.

2. Know the law.

If there are any special laws, regulations, or ordinances particularly related to the planned business, make sure you know about them.

Your best bet is to contact the Secretary of State's Office for your state so you are aware of any legal and tax requirements that might go along with starting a summer business. Involve your kids in this process as well to get them used to the idea that starting a business also has legal and tax considerations.

3. Get supplies and equipment together.

Be an investor in your kids' business by helping set them up with supplies and equipment needed for the business; the success of a business relies heavily on its starting capital, and this principle holds true for summer businesses as well.

Of course it's up to you as to whether you'd like to collect "dividends" at the end of the summer.

4. Help with marketing.

A business can't be successful if no one knows about it, so help your child get the word out by lending a hand with marketing.

Some easy ways to market your child's summer business include talking to friends and neighbors about the budding business and helping your kids make flyers to be distributed around the neighborhood.

5. Lay off.

While your child will likely need some help starting up a summer business, don't end up doing all the work, even in the planning stages. One of your goals is probably to introduce your kids to the business world, and the only way to do that is to let them learn through trial and error.