My name's Ed, and I started YourTeenBusiness a few years back to help other teenagers starting their own businesses. Since then, I've 'grown up' a little and moved onto a new project to help entrepreneurs, job seekers and people creating new, exciting things.
It's called jobfoundry.
jobfoundry is a tool to help you learn. It organises learning by tasks, like your to do list. On each task, you'll find the most useful tools, tutorials, examples and guides to help you, so you can stop searching around and start doing.
You'll find a tonne of useful resources and projects there to help you get going.
In the meantime, I'll keep YourTeenBusiness and this list of teen business ideas up for posterity and the thousands of folks who visit every month.
I've curated some teen business ideas I've tried or know of other teenagers who have had success with some of these business ideas. Be sure to take a look at the teen business strategy guideto get help with your idea and business.
Read our premier guide to starting an eBay businesswhere we'll show you how to source products to sell, work around the 18+ age limit and introduce you to communities to get help running your business, even though you're young.
(In time, most of our guides will be of this quality)
School Tuck Shop
My first businessy-thing really started at school. We were allowed to setup an enterprise within school, and so we went were the money was. Food. In particular, breaktime snacks.
A queue shows a shortage of something - where their is excessive demand. The good-bad thing about schools is there are queues everywhere, especially for lunch times. The big win you can make is a better (closer) location with a better quality product.
Ask people what they’d like. Stay away from easily replacably items like crisps and chocolates (they’re frowned upon for being unhealthy anyway) and think of long-shelf life snacks with substance - flapjacks, cookies, brownies etc.
Remember with foods, its better to start off by under-ordering and testing the market rather than having a load of rotting food in your bedroom... or you could just eat all the waste, but don’t let that tempt you. ;-)
An embellishment on the traditional lemonade stand business...
A great summer job if you live somewhere busy and people are out a lot. You’ll probably have to contact your local council and get a permit or food vending licence of some kind (often a legal requirement!) but there’s plenty of potentially selling hot dogs.
Also, because they’re more expensive than lemonade, there’s more opportunity to make more profit per item. Provided you’ve got a busy spot, you win!
A popular variation to the idea above. Everybody likes ice cream. Sell this outside of schools, on the beach or in a park somewhere hot in the somewhere and you can easily make a killing. You can buy or rent a ice cream machine, and although you’ll probably need to figure out how to keep ice cream cool
Sure, their are probably some seasoned ice cream van veterans, but an all-summer turf war will make this even more exciting (not that the prospect of selling sugary ice cream for fun and profit doesn’t put a smile on your face?!)
Vending machines are like employees who work with no complaints and no interuptions 24/7 save for the occasional maintenence check and updating stock once or twice a day, but even this kind of work can be outsourced.
Remember, the key to a successful vending machine business is location, location, location! Besides that the big problems with vending machines are the initial purchase and vandalism. You can work around this by leasing the machines or buying cheaper ‘used’ machines (although make sure they’re in good working order).
First piece of advice...
Don’t Sell Consumer Electronics: At least brand new branded-ones. iPhones, Xbox’s, branded goods... Not only are they incredibly difficult to source, but there’s actually not that much money in them - an estimated 8% gross margin according to some sources, and that excludes advertising and even the 2-4% credit card costs.
There’s some huge players selling consumer electronics (Amazon, Best Buy, really serious eBay sellers dealing with 1000s of goods at a time...) and there’s also dozens of scams particularly involving consumer electronics. Somehow people seem drawn to it like its the holy grail. Don’t. It’ll just make you poor and miserable!
Problem is, you need to reach lots of buyers. That’s why eBay works because it can connect you with millions of buyers worldwide. You’ll also run out of stock quickly unless you source goods elsewhere.
eBay is a great platform to learn to sell since it solves one of the biggest problems of finding and attracting buyers. You can tap into one of the worlds largest buying communities in a matter of minutes.
eBay and PayPal are in cahoots, and they don’t like under-18s running accounts. Even with sneaky tactics and misleading information, they catch you in the end when PayPal freezes your account (with your money in it) and asks for things like photo ID and utility bills and an appearance on a tv show etc etc. Then you’re screwed...
Please, from the outset, use a parent or trusted friend’s account (ideally setup a new one with a shared email address). Trade under their name with their permissions and it’s all good.
Using a mix of midnight eBay auctions, expert bargain and deal hunting as well as buying and refurbishing damaged or ‘graded’ stock, you can actually make money from selling used goods quite easily.
This incidentally is the only way I’d suggest doing something like consumer electronics. Never try brand new items, but a year old MacBook on eBay which is ending in the middle of the night can easily be flipped back on eBay at a peak time (Saturday evening) with a quality listing for a much higher price.
If you find a bundle - say some guy if selling their PS3 with all their games - buy it, and sell all the goods individually to make more money. Always research approximate prices that the used goods are selling for so you know how much you can buy goods for whilst still making a decent profit after shipping, PayPal and eBay fees.
TOP TIP: Use auction sniping software to find auctions that close at ungodly hours rather than staying up ridiculously late.
Selling at your local flea markets can be a great way to reach lots of people very quickly with little competition. Curiosity buyers will be attracted to crafts, funky t-shirts and other quirky, interesting stuff. Find out what’s going on your neighbourhood and what might sell well. Experiment with a small sale to start with and sell the best, most popular stuff!
Make your own arts and crafts to sell on Etsy and eBay (as well as flea markets and an online shop). You can make your own stuff with services like Ponoko, from design to 3D-printing and laser-cutting, even shipping straight to your customer. From customized knives and forks to a full set of sofa furniture, you can make it today.
Everybody likes T-Shirts. The people who founded Threadless realized this and created an awesome community website. You, the designer, can submit a design which then gets thumbed up or down by the rest of the community. The most popular designs get made up and printed by Threadless to sell online and in their Chicago shop. The designer then gets paid $2,000 (!) with the chance to go on and various other community awards.
Not only are their excellent tutorials on Threadless to help you get started and prosper, but companion sites like Emptees.com will show you how to make drop-dead amazing t-shirts.
Consulting is an industry where knowledge is power. You trade your time for money and results. Anything you *know* about inside out is a possible consulting route, but in case you’re looking for some ideas.
Consulting is a really great business idea for teens because:
It leverages spare time
It develops people skills
It often leads to new business ideas
It makes you really think
And this often leads well to other business ideas...
Okay, that sounds a bit poncy... but I think there is a HUGE opportunity here for teenagers. We know Facebook. We know YouTube. And we know how people interact with all these kind of platforms. The great thing is there are businesses and organizations crazing your knowledge of how social media works, and how they can leverage Facebook and YouTube and all this stuff to help their businesses prosper.
They’re willing to pay handsomely for it as well. Marketing is the single most mis-understood, poorly executed part of most small businesses. Of course, you need some background knowledge into the marketing side of social media, but that’s no biggie - this is familiar territory which you use more or less every day.
Computer problems are the bane of many people. A good people person, with knowledge of how a computer works and how to diagnose and solve any problems, whether that involves taking a machine apart or simply plugging the thing in, goes a long way. Think of what the ‘Geek Squad’ does for Best Buy if you want to see ‘handyman guru’ taken to the extreme.
Whilst this may not be as prosperous as web marketing consulting, its a great possible earner. Not everyone can use computers and loads of people really struggle with their computers. Helping them on a per-hour basis is a great potential earner, and then offering to buy and replace any parts or software which you can then markup.
Become a matchmaker! If you know lots of smart teens looking for jobs or work or any kind of extra income, then why not become a recruitment consultant and help them land their jobs at a local design firm, or as a web programmer or maybe even delivering pizzas.
Whatever - there’s probably small firms who’d love an extra pair of hands in the summer. Get on good terms with them, and match them up with someone you know craving a job. Win.
Sporty types might feel that becoming a personal trainer could be an easy way to earn extra money whilst improving your fitness at the same time; perfect if you’re an aspiring sportman. Consider partnering with someone you know who’s also sporty or getting together with a bunch of friends to work with a client.
This is one of the ideas I’ve used lots. Create a website about a hobby you’re involved with, about your local town and community, something to do with a rising trend (I did a site on mini laptops in 2008 and sold it.) or something which you can consult in (see above). I’ve even wondered about doing something like a “How-to” parenting site by teens - a bit tongue-in-cheek but hey!
Photography is an art that anyone can get their foot in the door with. With a little teaching, an awesome (though not necessarily expensive) camera and some post-production ninja skills you can create and sell incredible photos.
Just like the cost and complexity of photography has plummeted, so has making films. If you aren’t already, you probably know someone who is posting videos on YouTube. And its not like some of this stuff is incredibly hard. Using video cameras like The Flip and simple (often free) video editing software you can create film to make money out of.
Dozens of businesses, organizations and people have demands for websites. Even if they can get a basic version up, people pay good money for an awesome site design. Hundreds, even thousands, although you’ll need to know how to design and code incredible websites yourself if you want the really big bucks.
Just like their’s huge demand for web design and development services, hosting - the storage and serving of the websites files - is also growing. Despite it being one of the most competitive markets on the web, there’s lots of money to be made, especially in your local market and especially if you marry web hosting with web design or other related services.
If you can write to sell really effectively, you can do what 99% of other people can’t. Writing sales copy is the best-paying form of writing (unless you’re the next J. K. Rowling...) since you can create such profitable results for businesses.
Becoming a graphic designer is more than just creating logos, brochure designs and banners. Think of creative business cards, t-shirt designs, book covers, slideshow templates, caricatures and tonnes of other stuff. With some simple graphic design software, you can make stunning graphics, and even get goods printed affordably according to what you or your client wants with online services.
You know those voice overs in TV shows, radio ads, audio books and sat navs? Imagine if you were the guy recording them! Besides being good fun, voice over talents get paid lots of dollar and with services like Voices.com, you can connect with companies like Microsoft and the Discovery Channel to sell your voice. Yes, you’ll need some recording kit and editing software, but this needn’t cost a bomb.
Always wanted to become a singer? Or take your garage band to iTunes and beyond? Its all possible now via the web. Checkout this ultimate guide to performing, producing and promoting your music
Naff Business Ideas
The reason why I call these naff ideas is because anyone can do them and everyone keeps splurting them out when suggesting possible teen business ideas. Whilst that’s great, you can get in and out easily, they’re not going to make you rich in the long run because rates are low, and your income (as well as profit) is tied down to how many hours you spend scrubbing, mowing, cleaning or teaching.
If you could figure out a way to get other people to do these tasks, and take the role of managing and marketing them, then you’d be onto a winner, but until then these ideas are naff - no better than working for a wage at McDonald’s.
Incidentally, the simplicity of getting started also results in lots of ‘business opportunity’ websites and products relating to them. Whilst they’re not necessarily scams (although its not a million-dollar-week business), typically the only people who make money from these ‘business opportunity’ products are the people selling them. Don’t fall for the yellow highlighter...
The Big Benefit of Naff Business Ideas
These ideas FORCE you to think. How can I make less work for myself? How can I make more money per sale? How can I get more people to sign-up to have their lawn mowed?
You’ll learn how to sell, how to negotiate, how to make an irrefusable offer and so many other skills. Just one afternoon of ‘running a lawn care business’ will teach you so much.
With that money, you can either spend it on cool stuff, or invest it in a different
Borrow your parents lawn mower and gardening tools, post flyers and posters, go door-to-door asking people when they’d like their lawn mowed. Charge an hourly rate for any work involved, and consider offering a tailored plan for each client, and take care of their lawns for a monthly retainer - since recurring revenue is a smart method of
Again, borrow your parents equipment and use it to clean peoples houses, cars, flats, offices, garages and wherever. Charge an hourly rate, borrow cleaning equipment and products from your parents (or buy some in bulk at your local supermarket).
You could also try starting a car washing businesswhich you can probably make more money by doing more jobs per hour. It also tends to be outside, and it can be a vaguely fun way to make money with friends.
When parents are out working, away on holiday or otherwise engaged the opportunity opens up for their beloved pets to be walked and taken care of. I find it amazing how people can walk more than three dogs at once (the leads start plaiting!) but even so, a confident walker earning $10/hour with three dogs is earning a good profit!
Use your network to find families with young children. Introduce yourself and let them know you can offer babysitting. Make sure to leave your number. Take a DVD or something for them to watch. Use it as a negotiating tactic for putting kids to bed. That’s what our family babysitter did for years and it worked wonders... :D
Even with the best will in the world and 40 hour days, I can’t offer the best first-hand experience you deserve and need to get off the ground really well. So I’ve created some basic guides to get some ideas started (including the ones I’ve first hand experience in)...
I need you help.
Take a look over some of these ideas, and even some of the guides and then I’d love it if you could vote for which guides you most want to see here on YourTeenBusiness.com. And if you can suggest anyone who’d you like to interview, or any awesome books, YouTube videos then please suggest them with this form below so we can get cracking :-]
If you've got an incredible teen business idea, you
Include a brief summary:
* Explain the idea
* How You Make Money
* What's Involved
* Your Words of Wisdom
If you know of any resources which you'd recommend, please share them as well. Perhaps you know someone who we could interview, or might be interested in getting involved? Maybe you could recommend a book, blog or incredible YouTube video? Just add a link in the text and I'll add it in later.
Keep in mind that these ideas are for teenagers. We don't have infinite budgets and unlimited amounts of time. Global airlines are a headache to manage whilst studying... ;-)
Write as much or as little as you like, but remember, only the best ideas will get published.
What these teen business ideas are not:
So no mowing lawns or clipping your grandma’s toe nails or anything like that. I wouldn’t do it, so you wouldn’t do it. You’re smarter than that, right? These ideas are: