Have you stumbled upon a business idea that could change the world (or at least your high school)? What now? If you are under the age of 18, it is possible to bring that idea to life and start your own small business. But there is a catch. Young entrepreneurs will often need parental support or assistance to complete many of the steps leading to a startup.
The good news is that with the blessing of a parent or guardian, children and teens can manage most of the day-to-day operations of a thriving business. Becoming an entrepreneur at a young age can open doors later in life, teach skills outside the classroom, and generate extra money for hobbies or college.
Hear from some former child entrepreneurs as they share their advice on how to start a business before you turn 18, and why you should do it now.
Why start a business as a young entrepreneur?
It’s easier to make mistakes when you’re young
Starting a business at any age involves risk. When you’re young and living under your parents’ roof, the consequences of failure are much lower. Making mistakes early on means you have a lot more time to get it right.
“There’s a lot you don’t know when starting any business, and the only way to speed up your learning curve is to try a lot of things,” says Nick Mares, who started a bone broth company with his brother, Justin, when he was. just a teenager. “Trying and failing is not something to avoid. Fail fast and learn faster.”
You will never have this much free time again
Between school, sports, activities, and an active social life, it can seem like your time is tight. But once you reach adulthood, your schedule can get even busier. With fewer responsibilities and bills, now is the time to act on that idea.
“I was 16 when I started. When I was in high school, it was pretty easy to balance everything,” says LeiLei Secor, who has turned her jewelry hobby into a small business. “When I got to college, I treated it like any other part-time job or work study. I spend a few hours every week to fulfill the orders.”
You have a built-in audience for your idea
Classmates become the best springboard for testing a product idea, and the school’s built-in network of potential customers facilitates powerful word-of-mouth marketing. Use your experience as a child or teenager to solve a problem or create a product for your peers.
Carson Kropfl was 11 years old when he came up with the idea for his Locker Board product, a short skateboard that fit in his locker. “At first I started selling them at my school for $20 a piece,” he says. “I created an Instagram account and posted a video of me taking it to school and putting it in my locker. I woke up the next morning and went from zero to 300 followers. My mother and I quickly made a website and started selling them.
Parents, sign up to help your teen start a business on Shopify today
There are many free resources and support available to you
After high school, your education will cost you, and so will everything else. You have to pay more for almost everything from bus tickets to entertainment. Many schools are beginning to address the need for practical business skills for young entrepreneurs by offering electives as part of the curriculum.
Also consider taking advantage of this school’s resources.
- Laboratories and technological equipment
- Computers and software
- Art studio and shop class tools
- Knowledge and feedback from teachers, guidance counselors, and fellow students
The skills you learn now will help you later
Small business owners learn a lot in their first year of business. That’s because they typically wear many hats, from sales to product development to customer service management. The same goes for entrepreneurs of any age. Starting a business will build skills that can help you submit winning college applications.
“Being able to prove that you’ve been through the ups and downs of building a business and making money on your own is incredibly valuable and in some cases more important than a piece of college paper that says you went to school with four. years,” says serial entrepreneur and Combo CEO Tucker Schreiber, who started his first business as a child.
Earn extra money for fun or college
Hobbies are ideal business ideas for young people. Turn a love of animals into a local dog walking business or a passion for sewing into a clothing brand to sell online. Earn extra spending money doing something you already enjoy. Save for a gaming system or switch it up for college. owning your own business gives you financial independence.
How to start a business before the age of 18
Young entrepreneurs usually get their start by hosting a backyard lemonade stand or running a neighborhood babysitting empire. These startup ideas don’t have high barriers to entry, but if you want to take the business to the next level, it’s time to get parents or guardians involved.
With the help of an adult, follow these five steps to start your business before you turn 18.
1. Ask for permission
Before writing a business plan or designing a logo, make sure you have a parent or guardian who supports your idea. They will ultimately be responsible for co-signing anything related to the contract (legal documents, financial products, your online store account). Your adult sponsor may also need to register and monitor social accounts if you are under the minimum age for certain platforms.
2. Find and validate your idea
Think big! Ideas can come from anywhere: a desire to solve a problem affecting you and your peers, a fresh take on an existing product, or something completely new.
“Start an idea book or journal where you can write down all your ideas for your business,” says 22-year-old Maya Penn, who started her business Maya’s Ideas at the age of eight. “Whether it’s a small thought that crosses your mind or the next big idea, it’s important to write it down. Even if it doesn’t seem important, it can be very useful in the future.”
There are many business ideas for kids, from starting a lawn care service to selling products through an online business or building a non-profit organization around a cause. When coming up with an idea for your small business, be sure to keep in mind your target market (the people you want to sell to). Involving this group in your idea will help you gather feedback and confirm that it is a viable idea.
3. Decide how you will finance your business
Young people can easily start a business with the support of their parents. But some business ideas will require seed money. You have your own savings from benefits or nanny work. Will your parents lend you the funds?
Once you have the money you need to get started, you’ll also need the help of an adult to handle other financial aspects of the business. Talk to your parents about whether you need a business bank account (with them as an authorized signatory). When starting out, you and your parents should also discuss your respective roles in financing the business, including paying taxes.
4. Work with a parent or guardian to make arrangements
To reiterate, the involvement of a parent or guardian is critical to starting a business while you are still 18 years old. In most cases, you are not old enough to enter into a legally binding agreement or have a credit card in your name. In Canada and the United States, minors under the age of 18 cannot enter into contracts. But your parents can on your behalf.
Country and state regulations vary, but most financial, e-commerce, and social media products have minimum age restrictions. Local authorities may provide guidance on these rules. The US Small Business Administration recommends that parents seek the advice of an accountant and attorney.
You should also get a parent’s help with other issues such as:
- Determination of prices. Look around at your competitors. What do they charge for the same product or service? If what you’re offering is of comparable value, price it accordingly. Have a parent or guardian help you with pricing or consult online resources.
- Creating an online store. You need to use a parent or guardian account to access a tool like Shopify, but the rest is up to you. Choose a theme and customize your design.
- Creating social media accounts. A parent may need to sign up for an account and monitor activity, but when it comes to social media, you’re the content expert.
5. Market and sell your products or services
It’s time to make money by selling to your audience. Launch your website or online store, start marketing, and wait for the cha-ching notification on your phone. You can also explore other avenues to sell, such as local craft fairs or events at your school.
Shopify Kids Business Starter Kit
We’ve created a free 44-page activity book with fun activities and exercises designed to guide kids through the journey of imagining and developing a business idea.
Parents, get your free pack!
Once you get a parent to help handle the legal aspects, you’ll be ready to manage the day-to-day business operations. Have fun, earn extra money, and learn new skills that you can take to college and beyond.
Your business idea can’t wait!
Child and adolescent entrepreneurs are in the best position to build the next generation of consumers for their peers. Don’t wait until you’re 18. Talk to a parent and bring your ideas to life today. The lessons you learn starting your own successful business will carry you through adulthood.
“There will be some obstacles that will try to stop you, people will doubt you,” says Esma Ilyas, the young founder of social enterprise brand Ivory Ella. “As long as you keep doing what you started and love, it’s all worth it in the end.”
Character: Anna Shvetsi
Photos courtesy of Pexels
Start a Business Under 18 FAQ
Can you start a business as a teenager?
As a high school student, you can start your own business with the help of a parent or guardian. Some great business ideas for teens include neighborhood services, selling handmade goods online, and starting a tutoring business for young children. Make sure you talk to your parents and research the legal requirements for starting a teen business.
At what age can a child have a business?
Any young person can start a small business. Ollie Fequiere was just six years old when he started his own bath business. The amount of help children need from their parents will depend on their age. For Ollie, his mother handled the business aspects, while Ollie was the face of the brand and helped with simple tasks like choosing scents and designs. Older kids and teens will have more autonomy, but still need a parent to sign up for Shopify.