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Teens create their own summer jobs

Entrepreneurial young people aren't letting a tough job market keep them from earning. They're starting their own businesses.

By Teresa Mears Jul 12, 2010 1:40PM

Miami teen Jorge Carrera couldn’t find a summer job. So he created one.


As the president and CEO (and also the muscle) of Son for Rent, the 17-year-old does odd jobs around the house and yard for friends and neighbors. Last summer he earned about $4,000 and he's on track this year to make "way more," he told Kathleen McGrory of The Miami Herald.


Jorge is one of a number of enterprising teenagers who are creating their own businesses, some doing typical teenage jobs and others using special talents to get an early start in the business world.


While teens may aspire to the success of Cameron Johnson, who was worth more than $1 million before he graduated from high school, not everyone will do that well. (Forbes has the stories of five young people who were millionaires before age 20.)


But, a well-planned service business doing the sort of jobs teens have historically done -- baby-sitting, pet-sitting, lawn care, snow removal, tutoring, giving music lessons -- can easily earn teens as much or more than they would garner in a minimum-wage fast-food job. Tech-savvy teens can consider hiring out their computer or Web design skills.

Jorge charges $12 an hour, cheap for a handyman but more than 50% above minimum wage. Of course, not all his hours are billable since he spends some time marketing and running the business, but he's earning more than he would have working full time at minimum wage.


"I'm busy pretty much every day of the week,'' Jorge, who will be a senior in high school this fall, told the Herald. "It takes a lot of patience and hard work. You have to be on your feet. You have to be respectful and on time.''

Courtney Paaverud, who lives in Minnesota and also will be a senior this fall, is using her musical talent to earn $50 to $100 per gig for singing at weddings, parties and other events, Tory Johnson of ABC's "Good Morning America" Job Club blog reported in a column advising parents how to encourage teen entrepreneurship. She suggests:

Sit down at the dining room table and map out a plan, playing with the numbers to see what kind of scenario will not only make money right now, but will also plant the seeds of valuable lessons in business.

Johnson's own children make money selling brownies. They gave up selling cookies after they calculated that cookies were less profitable. It may not sound like much of a business, but the two children made $1,000 one summer.


Some teen businesses are more formal than others. Unlike many handymen, Jorge Carrera made up a business plan. Courtney Paaverud promotes her singing business with Facebook and Twitter.


At 16, Mik Bushinski of Minneapolis took out a loan from an uncle and invested $6,000 in startup costs to open an ice cream truck business. He uses his earnings to finance his hockey play and tuition at an elite hockey school -- which he hopes will yield him a college scholarship.


His whole family helps with Mik Mart, which he expects will turn a profit this summer, his second year of business, Kara McGuire reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


Randall S. Hansen has advice for teen entrepreneurs and a list of businesses that can be started by children under 16 at Quintessential Careers. The U.S. Small Business Administration also has a page with advice for young entrepreneurs.


In addition to earning money, young people can gain valuable experience running their own enterprises. As a bonus, entrepreneurship looks good on a college application.


It could even lead to a lifelong career. Mowing lawns may not sound that lucrative, but Tom Heath of The Washington Post tells us the story of John Hughes, who started out mowing lawns in his teens and built Hughes Landscaping and other enterprises into a collection of multimillion-dollar businesses in Maryland.


I taught piano lessons as a young teen, making $4 an hour when the minimum wage was less than $1.50. What did you do to earn money as a teen, and what are your children and grandchildren doing? Do you think today's young people are more or less entrepreneurial than previous generations?


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