The normal challenges of finding a summer job are amplified this year - many teenagers are finding themselves out of work as the summer begins due to increased competition and fewer job openings. And while there are still plenty of employers looking for the affordable and enthusiastic help that teenagers provide, the current job market has many teenagers looking for other ways to earn money and stay busy this summer.
One especially appealing option for teens is entrepreneurship. Whether mowing lawns or starting the hottest new social networking site, teens are constantly creating businesses where they see places they can make a difference.
Celeste Lavin is one of the many teenagers who started her own business. After years of babysitting and doing odd jobs around the house, Celeste decided that she was ready to start earning a regular paycheck. But as she began her job search, she realized that she didn't know how to apply for jobs, or even how to begin the process. Celeste soon started asking friends and siblings (including me, her older brother) and realized that most of her friends did not know how to find jobs either so she decided to do something about it and created myfirstpaycheck.com.
Celeste and I partnered up to create a job-posting site for teenagers that provides advice and resources, including an interactive resume builder, to help young people have a more successful job application process. It is just an example of what teenagers can do when they see a problem and go out to solve it.
Our site is intended to help teenagers find jobs, but we wanted to pass on the following tips we've learned from our experiences to help you start your own business.
Find a problem and fix it
To start your own business, if you are 16 or 60, you need to figure out how you can do something better than everybody else. Can you solve a problem, improve upon a service, or bring something to your community that isn't there yet? There is probably a market for your company if you can.
Think small to get started
A company can be you, a lawnmower, and flyers around the neighborhood. Even the biggest companies started somewhere. What can you do? And what resources do you have access to?
Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the obstacles
The trick, and the hardest part, is actually starting. It is easy to find things that you and your friends can do to solve a problem (like helping teenagers find jobs) or do something more effectively than others (mowing lawns more affordably than local landscaping companies) but you need to get going. Celeste and I didn't let ourselves get bogged down by the challenges of creating a job board, we took small steps and kept building. We started myfirstpaycheck.com as a blog that only took a few minutes to set up and by writing about our own experiences. As we have learned and developed skills we have been able to add new features.
Keep it up
It's great to work for yourself and to make your own hours, but starting and running a company is hard. It takes time to succeed and you will experience setbacks along the way. The trick is to be persistent.
Spread the word
Once you have a great product or service, you will have to spread the word about your services. Where are your customers? And how can you reach them? Fliers are often an affective way of spreading the word, but teenagers are often tech savvy and should explore web-based promotion methods, as well.
Mowing lawns, babysitting, and helping neighbors are all great examples of easy-to-start businesses for teens. But with these, and all other businesses, safety is key. Don't take any job where you don't feel comfortable.
It's easy to spend money, it's a little harder to earn it. Make you sure you have a good system set up to accept money and make sure your price covers your costs. I know it sounds obvious, but one of the reasons teenagers start a company is to earn money and you have to keep your eye on the bottom line in order to do so.
The point of starting your own business is to make money, but it's not worth it if you don't enjoy yourself and learn something from it.
Like many teens Celeste struggled to find a summer job until she realized that she could help her friends, make a difference, and work for herself at the same time. She started small on scale that she could handle. Celeste focused on helping her local peers through a blog that she could set up on her own. Celeste faced many difficulties, but she kept it up and worked on spreading the word about her product. It has been hard, but she managed to grow her site and earn a little bit of money.
Celeste is a smart and ambitious teenager, but is no different from any other teen. Her company, myfirstpaycheck.com, is an example of what teens can do this summer with some hard work and a little luck.