“Just a minute,” he said. “Let me make a call. This is the first time I’ve had a minor ask to open a business account.”
I winked at my daughter. The bank was our second stop for the day. We had just come from the county courthouse to file her DBA license.
Quite inquisitive, the young man behind the desk continued, “Most teenagers are not out starting a business.” Explaining why we are not like most, I proceeded to give the famous “we homeschool” speech. Seemingly satisfied, he finished the paperwork. As we walked out the door, my daughter and I exchanged a smile. “Come on,” I said. “Let me treat you to lunch.”
This was not the first conversation we’ve had about my daughter’s business, nor will it be the last. People are fascinated by young entrepreneurs. When you throw homeschooling into the mix their curiosity is piqued even more.
Just before her sixteenth birthday, our daughter came to her father and me to ask about getting a part-time job. She insisted that she had extra time each day after her studies were complete. Plus, she wanted to be productive, save for the future, and have extra spending money. She had adequate reasons, but we were hesitant. It’s hard to see the benefits of a part-time minimum-wage job with few hours. In addition, we had to take into consideration that certain environments could expose her to issues we did not want her to face at that age. So we talked about it. We discussed pros and cons and began to pray, firmly believing that when we acknowledge God, He will direct our path (Proverbs 3:6).
Not long after, my husband and I approached our daughter about starting a home-based business as an alternative to working for someone else. Entrepreneurship is nothing new to our family. We looked at several options and suggested a small investment in a computer and vinyl-making equipment. She took some time to pray about it, and in the spring of 2015 her business was born. Within three months she was up and running and had already completed several commercial jobs.
We viewed her new business venture as a teaching opportunity. One beauty of home education is tailored learning that allows freedom to pursue interests and talents. Our plan involved our daughter investing a portion of her junior and senior year working on her business. In addition to core subjects, the goal is for her to learn marketing, art design, business mathematics, office and organizational proficiency, public speaking, customer service, and a host of other valuable skills. Having a business allows a young person to develop problem-solving skills with real life situations.
There are instances where the business world can offer a much richer learning environment than the classroom. For example, I took a speech class in high school. The lessons I learned came from a textbook. My audience was a classroom of peers. The incentive to do well was a good grade. On the other hand, my daughter’s speech “class” looks different. She had a dozen opportunities to present her business this past year. She is learning the art of public speaking through direct experiences. Her audience is business owners and paying customers. The incentive to succeed is professional connections, work orders, and business expansion.
Advantage of Youth
One of the greatest benefits to starting a home-based business as a young person is that there is far less pressure to succeed. There are many adults who would love the opportunity to start their own business, but they have too many other responsibilities. They do not have the finances or the time to invest, and a failed business is too big a risk.
My daughter does not have to worry about making a mortgage payment. She does not worry if her business will make enough money to pay for utilities or buy food for the family. She does not have the pressure that many adults face; therefore, she can take her time and learn the business at a slower pace if needed. And she can focus on developing a strategy for success without added stress.
Another advantage of being young is that others are inspired by youth. I love to hear success stories. But even more, I love to hear success stories of young people. When people order from my daughter, they get a great product and the opportunity to support local small business. In the process they encourage a young homeschooled entrepreneur. This really is a win-win for everyone.
There is educational value to starting a business, and there is value to starting when one is young. But the learning potential when it comes to life lessons in general is even greater. As I partner with my daughter by teaching and training her to be a small business owner, I am given occasion to pass on moral and ethical business principles at home. She learns from the knowledge of her father and I through this endeavor. Then we teach her how to apply her heart to wisdom through God’s Word. In addition, we are teaching her the advantages of hard work and diligence on a professional level.
In all of this learning, she is being prepared for life. Maybe she will be a business owner her whole life, or maybe there will be a season where she steps into the corporate world. Did you know that many corporations are now leading toward an “intrapreneur” mindset? They are beginning to recognize the benefits of having employees with an “entrepreneur spirit.” Intrapreneurs are like inside entrepreneurs who follow the goals of the organization and focus on innovation and creativity to transform ideas into profitable ventures for their employers. The life lessons she learns now can put her way ahead in the future.
Words of Wisdom
If your child has a knack for entrepreneurship and wants to pursue opening a small business, let me offer some advice. First, finding a niche is the best way to start out. Is your son passionate about working with his hands? Perhaps he could find worn-out antiques, transform them, and resell for a profit. Does your daughter enjoy working with animals? There are many profitable opportunities, from pet boarding to pet waste removal. Does your teenager enjoy being online? Some companies will pay young people to help them manage their social media accounts. Opportunities are as vast as your creativity.
Second, do not go into debt. Please hear this truth found in Scripture: “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). This is perhaps one of the most missed and/or overlooked business and financial principles in God’s Word. When you go into debt, you become enslaved. Your hands are tied, and you are forced to make decisions based on your debt. However, running a business debt-free brings freedom. For example, my daughter is looking to expand into vinyl for T-shirts. The decision to move forward was simple. When she has saved up the money to invest in a heat press, she will purchase it. This keeps her debt-free and stress-free, and it gives her T-shirt sales a much larger profit margin.
Third, start small but dream big. Starting small allows you to gain a sure foothold with your business. Once you’ve established a solid foundation and become confident in your dealings, it is easier to move forward. This is where dreaming big comes in. American architect and designer Daniel Burnham once said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized.”
One Final Thought
Owning a business is not for everyone. Just like college is not for everyone; physical labor is not for everyone; trade school is not for everyone. God creates each of us with different gifts, abilities, and talents. He has a plan for each of our children.
Our daughter has already told us that she is unsure if she will continue her business after high school. We are fine should she decide to go in a different direction. The reason for our attitude is that this business venture is simply a learning opportunity. The knowledge and skills she learns from starting a business can be applied and used for the rest of her life regardless of the path she chooses.
One day she might decide to get married and become a stay-at-home mom. If that is the case, she will be well on her way. For there is no greater example of a home-based entrepreneur than the Proverbs 31 woman: “She worketh willingly . . . She considereth a field, and buyeth it . . . She perceiveth that her merchandise is good . . . She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant . . . Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”
Kimberly Williams is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mother, author, and most importantly, disciple of Jesus Christ. Her heart is for the Christian family and encouraging the discipleship of the next generation. She writes about this in her newest book, Home Discipleship: Much More than ABC’s and 123’s. She would love to hear from you at www.homediscipleship.net or on her blog at www.untilthedaydawn.wordpress.com.