When my daughter was 9, she and her best friend decided to start a business. They didn’t want a lemonade stand, as I had suggested. They wanted to have a “real” business they told me. They spent an afternoon on the patio trying to decide what kind of business they could start. Finally, they came up with their idea. They wanted to make their own version of snow globes and sell them. My daughter’s friend remembered having done this at a birthday party once, and knew how easy they were to make. I wasn’t so sure. But, never one to dampen little spirits, we did a bit of investigating, and, sure enough, it seemed pretty simple.
It seemed to me at the time that the age of 9 was as good a time as any to begin to practice some self-confidence building by running a business. So, I stepped in and helped them write a brief business plan. I was also the investor, coughing up the money for supplies and providing production space. The rest was up to them – collaborating to make some samples that they could show as they made their way around the neighborhood, taking orders for customized snow globes. They expanded by going to flea markets and craft shows, where they could increase their customer base. The details aren’t that important other than to say they the business was a pretty good success, they paid back their startup loan, and turned a profit.
Today this child of mine is 12 and she has three businesses going. She’s putting some money away for college and is donating 50 cents from each sale to the ASPCA – her favorite charity. I’m pretty sure she will have at least one business going through high school and even while in college. It’s now in her blood. But the best part is that this kid exudes self-confidence – confidence that has come from some serious skill development.
Self-Confidence – It’s Never Too Late to Start
If you have a high schooler or college student who has not had the chance to have a little business on the side, then I encourage you to see what you can do to foster this. It doesn’t matter what the business is – any product or service will do – and it is especially important for that teen or young adult who may be lacking in self-confidence. Because in addition to earning some extra money (which is always a good thing), starting and running a business, from lawn care, to pet sitting, to fixing computers, to re-selling, etc., develops a self-confidence that will last a lifetime. That self-confidence comes from building soft skills and successfully using them. Here are just some of the soft skills that will lead to self-confidence.
5 Skills Your Teen Can Build By Starting a Business
- Persistence: Being able to stick with something and see it through, even when there are challenges is a huge skill. Some kids get this from school and other activities, especially sports, but to know that the need for persistence carries over into all facets of life is critical to adult success.
- Communication Skills: Especially if a business involves customers, when a kid has to approach others, make a sales pitch, listen to the needs and wants of others, and then do the follow-up if there is an issue or a complaint, s/he has mastered a skill that will be forever appreciated by any employer or future customers/clients. Learning communication skills in the contrived environment of the classroom is nothing compared to the real-life learning of dealing with customers.
- Time Management: Having your own business means meeting deadlines and sticking to a schedule of production or of delivery a service. This is a huge benefit for any kid entering college life, with no parent or teacher reminding him/her of what needs to be done and when.
- Assertiveness: There are so many facets to assertiveness, but having a business develops them all. Kids learn how to start, change, and end conversations; they learn to make requests and to refuse requests in appropriate ways; they learn to be firm in addressing others; and they learn to advocate for themselves. Success in assertiveness is probably the best self-confidence builder there is. And in life, it means that they will not be “bulldozed” or controlled by others.
- Negotiation: Whether it is negotiating a price or a time to fulfill a service, each time a kid has to negotiate with someone else is time spent mastering this critical life skill. The more this is practiced, the more your kid will be able to understand the motivations of others and work with them to come to a good compromise.
These five skills, when mastered, will result in a self-confident student in high school and college, and an adult who will be able to manage challenges and difficult situations independently. While soft-skill development is a rather permanent journey (there are always new circumstances and situations to manage), running a business puts a kid way out in front on that journey.
Julie Ellis is an entrepreneur, marketing and social media expert and proud mom from Miami, FL. Follow Julie’s LinkedIn and Twitter to get more about millennials, social media and modern business trends.