No, that’s not my retirement savings in the photo on the left. You’re looking at the proud earnings of my children after a day’s worth of being young entrepreneurs. That’s right – my kids got the bright idea that they would accelerate their earnings by trying to make their own money.
It doesn’t matter if you’re if you’re a child or an adult. There will be times you want to say goodbye to your job because it seems like it would so much easier to make money on your own. But like my kids found out, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Nonetheless, I was really happy that they gave it a shot and got a little bit of a laugh out of the experience. Here’s how things went …
To Be Young Employees or Young Entrepreneurs?
This story starts with our 7 year old son. He hates his chores! (What little boy doesn’t?) And because he doesn’t do them (until Mom and Dad threaten his life), he rarely gets paid his allowance. This in sharp contrast to our 9 year old daughter who religiously does her chores without question and gets paid her full allowance every two weeks.
It’s tough to make a living as a kid. Your income options are limited. You can:
• Be an employee = Do your chores and you’re guaranteed to earn your full allowance every other week.
• Be an entrepreneur = Find another way to make money and excel beyond your allowance, but risk making none at all if you’re not successful.
The Idea to be an Entrepreneur:
My son has had his heart set on a Lego set for a little while now, but has made almost no money from allowance. So being resourceful, his wheels were turning looking for another way to make some quick cash.
His “great idea” after walking around our small neighborhood garage sale one weekend. How easy is this! You just sit in your garage, sell stuff, and make money! Forget about doing chores!
At first, even though his ambitions were in overdrive, my wife and I tried to dissuade him for a number of reasons:
1) He wanted to hold it on Sunday. Who has a garage sale on Sunday?
2) All the things he had for sale were toys around his room that probably no one would want to buy.
3) Marketing was going to be pretty slim. We live at the end of a subdivision where there’s no traffic and pretty much no chance that anyone was going to drive by. Plus, all my son had for advertising was one single sign.
4) And finally the greatest lesson of all:
The Greatest Lesson of All:
Just like an adult that gets discouraged with their job and tries to make it on their own, my son had already concluded at age 7 that there must be a better way. But also like many adults trying to be young entrepreneurs making it for the first time, he was also thinking that this idea was going to be a cakewalk; a sure-thing.
As his father, I really want the best for him. And as badly as I want him to do well, I felt this was an important life lesson that was better learned as a child than as an adult – that sometimes the grass ISN’T always greener on the other side. He would need to have this garage sale and decide for himself if it truly was better being a young entrepreneur or an employee.
The Big Day:
Sunday morning came and up went the garage sale. I’m using the term garage sale lightly because it consisted of a single fold-up table with about 15 small toys and some juice boxes. It was about what you would expect from a 7 year old.
I think it was about 15 minutes into it that our son came back in the house pouting that no one had shown up yet. “Get back out there!” we said, “You wanted to have this sale! You can’t quit now!”
Another 15 minutes went by with no activity. But then my son got the blessing that all young entrepreneurs need: His first customer.
Our wonderful neighbor who had been working on his house decided to take a break and stop by the sale with his small daughter. Sure he didn’t need anything, but he knew that it would really make his day to have a sale. During this time, our daughter noticed the small amount of success that her brother was about to have and IMMEDIATELY got out there with her own 10 items for sale. All-in-all, each of them made a few dollars by selling a few toys and couple of those juice boxes. It was very kind of our neighbor, and I think I see repaying the favor in the future by buying a few boxes of Girl-Scout cookies!
Unfortunately, the rest of the day was not nearly as fruitful. Hours and hours went by, and there were no further sales made. From time to time, they’d march up and down the perimeter of the lawn and wave the garage sale sign around. Sometimes they’d wave and yell to the occasional passing car. But it wasn’t enough to attract any further customers, except for one very usual stopper-by …
What Do You Call A Guy Who Drives His Limo to a Garage Sale?
Yes, the only other customer my young entrepreneurs had at their sale was some random middle-aged guy driving (himself in) a 1980’s limousine. I had been keeping my eye on them the whole day, and immediately made my parental presence known when he walked up so I could avoid any future Amber alerts. He quickly glanced over their lack of selection, politely said thank you, and drove away.
As strange as it was, my kids were very excited that someone in a limousine had come to their garage sale. “He must be very rich” they thought.
Live Another Day:
So all in all, I believe each of my young entrepreneurs made about $4. Sure, that’s almost as much as the $5 allowance they could be paid every two weeks. But then again, when you compare hours invested, it took them most of the day (7-8 hours) to earn that $4 before they called it quits. How long does it really take to make your bed, feed the pets, and clean up your dishes after you’re done eating?
As I mentioned earlier, the reason I let my kids do this is because I wanted to simply see what it was like. This wasn’t so I could crush their spirits of becoming young entrepreneurs. They needed to find out that it’s not just as easy as “set up shop and let the cash roll in”. Whether you work for yourself or work for someone else, work is work! Most importantly, I’m glad they were able to try this experiment in the safety of our home rather than when they’re 25!
What’s funny is that I don’t think this will be last time for either of them. Nor do I want it to be. When they get a little older and are able to understand things, I will teach them about things like investing or passive income. But perhaps the next time they get adventurous, they’ll think back to this experience and use it to make better and more carefully laid out plans for success.
Readers – What do you remember about being young entrepreneurs or young employees? Did you have a paper route, lawn business, baby-sitting service, etc? Did your parents help encourage you? What lessons did you take away from these experiences?
Image Credits: MMD, Google Maps