Young Entrepreneurs: Encouraging Children With Kid-Sized Businesses

Last weekend I explored Portland’s beautiful Eastmoreland neighborhood during its annual 140-family garage sale. In the past, I’ve come away with major bargains, but this year I had to be content with enjoying the first day of summer with a couple of friends. We admired the homes, gardens, and assorted cast-offs of the well-to-do.

Many of the adult garage-salers were raising funds for charities. Sidewalks and curbs were also strewn with young entrepreneurs selling their wares: homemade cookies (still warm from the oven), beaded jewelry, rice-krispie treats, iced bottled water, and grilled hotdogs.

Over the past two years, J.D. and I have had fun meeting one pair of entrepreneurial sisters who rise above the run-of-the-mill baked goods and soda. I was pleased to see them once again. In 2006 they were selling jokes:


Last year they were selling stock tips:


My friends and I each bought a cup of lemonade, which we downed while questioning these young businesswomen about this year’s products. The elder girl was selling bottle-cap magnets — each individually created and carefully crafted — at two price points. She told to us some of her inspirations, and compared the relative strengths of the magnets. (The one dollar bottle caps had stronger magnets than the seventy-five cent magnets.) She was proud of her creations, but, like any good salesperson, she didn’t oversell. I selected one with a cancelled 26-pence Queen Elizabeth stamp and moved on to see what her younger sister was selling.

The younger girl had created two issues of a neighborhood newspaper: The Lofty Times. Typed on an actual typewriter (without correction tape!), the publications bear phonetic misspellings and creative punctuation, but are brimming with enthusiasm and real journalistic gusto. We purchased a copy of each issue, did some negotiating to arrange limited re-print rights for Get Rich Slowly, and exchanged email addresses. Here’s a sample story from The Lofty Times, reprinted by permission of 8-year-old author Grace:


the Eastmorland goroge sail

Thouthins of peaple look forwerd to this moment in Eastmorland it is the garage sale! A man named Jared Seger is selling different parts of a house, such as windows, doors, and other things.

In th past years my family has allways gone big on the garagesale. one year DAD beleave it or not bot a hool stack of inapropryite gossap maggaseens, it was hollywood gossap and lemenaid, every year it was a tradishon to have lemenaid.

Other years were forchentelling, jocks, stack priceed, and so many more things that even if I tried, I probly could not name them all! this year is going in a todaly different path. AT ages of 8 and 10, my sister and I have lerned so many things, I, as you can see am making my newspaper. Madeline is making bottlecap prodex.

I have many, many good thouts about the garagesale, I hope you do to.

The girls and their mother gave us a crash course in their annual entrepreneurial endeavors. Their parents loan them seed money for the projects, which the girls must pay back from their profits. Any profit is theirs to spend. With parental support and guidance, these sisters are well on their way to understanding the value of money and the joy of making and selling their own goods — as well as knowing how to stand out in a crowd!

I’m sure that it would be easier for these parents to just give their daughters spending money, but they know that the lessons learned here are priceless and the extra efforts worthwhile.

My friend Rhonda and I later discussed the merits of each girl’s choice:

  • The magnets clearly had higher start-up costs, but broader customer appeal.
  • Yet the newspapers were well-worth the cover price for entertainment value.
  • Both projects showcase the imagination of the creators.

I wish I could eavesdrop on these girls as they consider, reject, and perfect ideas for each year’s merchandise. And I hope that by the end of the weekend, Grace and Madeline were both sold-out! May they return next year with their contagious entrepreneurial spirit, and Bravo, parents!

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There are 36 comments to "Young Entrepreneurs: Encouraging Children With Kid-Sized Businesses".

  1. Katybeth says 29 June 2008 at 12:08

    I have always loved supporting kid run lemonade stands. Last year, I stopped at one run by a tow headed 6 year old, he greeted me with a toothless smile, and happily poured me a glass of lemonade. I paid my 50 cents and included a 25 cent tip and was on my way…as I walked away with my lemonade, the young entrepreneur called to me “Excuse, me lady…could you return the cup its the only one I have. I laughed for weeks afterwards!

  2. Shanel Yang says 29 June 2008 at 12:20

    Loved this post! Thanks for sharing the story. That’s news story is a total crack-up!

  3. J.D. says 29 June 2008 at 12:22

    Katybeth, I have a similar funny story:

    Last Thursday I went for a four mile run. When I got back to the house, there were two girls just setting up their lemonade stand a few doors down. I huffed and puffed to buy some of what they had to offer.

    I paid fifty cents for a mug of limeade. Zowie that stuff was sweet — like drinking raw sugar. And they didn’t have change for my one dollar bill. So I bought a mug of lemonade, too. Yikes. Just as sweet. I tried to smile as I drank the stuff, but as soon as I could, I handed back the mug (they had three of them) and went into my own house for several tall glasses of water.

  4. COD says 29 June 2008 at 12:34

    My 12 year old daughter just contributed $1000 towards the purchase of her new saddle, the money came partly via her business.

  5. Alisa says 29 June 2008 at 12:59

    If this is just not the cutest!

    I hope the girls continue and do well.

  6. anna says 29 June 2008 at 14:18

    Hi, I’m a big fan of the blog, but wanted to suggest that you at least remove the names of the girls on the post.

    You’ve got the children’s city, state and neighborhood identified, along with their full first and last names (an uncommon surname), ages, full-face photos and interests.

    That’s a lot of information to put on the internet, especially when little kids are concerned (I wouldn’t want that much information listed for me, and I’m an adult.) Unfortunately, there are a lot of sick people out there, so you can’t be too careful.

  7. Brett McKay says 29 June 2008 at 14:22

    Man, this is too cute! I don’t think we have to worry about these girls making it in life. They’re well on their way to an early retirement. We need to get them a blog so they can recount their entrepreneurial adventures. They could even share tips with fellow kids. I’m sure they could be huge!

  8. J.D. says 29 June 2008 at 14:40

    Good suggestion, Anna. I’ll anonymize the information a little.

  9. Anne Keckler says 29 June 2008 at 14:43

    In many places, the lemonade stand is illegal. In the state of Florida, for example, we are prohibited from selling any food we have prepared ourselves unless it has been prepared in a “code kitchen.” The state will not inspect a home kitchen, but you might be able to use a church, school, or community kitchen, as long as it is inspected by the government. There may be labelling requirements, however.

    Some areas have even applied this law to bake sales for charity. The way the law is written, it does apply to charity bake sales. Many officials look the other way when it is done for charity, though.

    My children used to sell homemade lemonade, cookies, and carrot cake at the flea market, but that is prohibited now.

  10. Matt says 29 June 2008 at 14:51

    I wish my parents would have helped me like that when I was a kid. Just having that fiscal sense ingrained at such a young age would be a fantastic life-long advantage.

  11. DB says 29 June 2008 at 14:59


    That just makes me sad. We are beauracracizing all the joyous experiences out of life.

    Thanks for the article. This really lifted my mood for the day.

  12. Brandt Smith says 29 June 2008 at 15:00

    We’ve been doing similar things with our children. Their spending money comes from their “business endeavors.” We work with them to create actual businesses, not just under the table jobs.

    Our goal is to teach our kids the value of money and how to be entrepreneurs. We found years ago that they treat their things better when it was purchased with their hard earned money. They also have a stronger understanding of money, credit, debt, and business.

  13. leigh says 29 June 2008 at 15:35

    i think it’s very important to teach children the value of money. they don’t usually get to see how hard their parent(s) work to buy the things they need- they just get them. giving them a taste of what it takes to earn a dollar, and letting them choose how to spend those dollars makes perfect sense. they get to see how hard it is to earn the things they want.

    that carries across a lifetime too, and can end up making a huge difference in their lives. case in point: my car (we bought and paid for) vs a colleague’s car (her parents gifted to her, like everything else she owns). guess which one of those 2 cars is taken care of? which one will require replacement sooner? you know the answer.

  14. Sandy Naidu says 29 June 2008 at 19:18

    Clever sisters….They obviously are very innovative with the ideas they come up with…And lets not forget the parents here…They are quite clever too – for instilling such values in their kids at a young age

  15. Cameron Reilly says 29 June 2008 at 21:41

    A friend on Twitter just pointed me to this article after I mentioned that I’d spent a couple of hours this morning with my 7 year old twin boys, helping them to write a business plan for making and selling beeswax candles. They are looking for a way to leverage their pocket money ($7 a week) into a $1500 iMac. They’ve been talking about starting a business since they were 6 and I think this time they are ready to commit to it. The thing that’s held them back in the past has been my insistence that they use their saved-up pocket money as risk capital.

    This was more of a concern for the last year as they were both saving their pocket money (and asking family to contribute cash for birthdays and xmas in lieu of presents) to buy their own laptops – which they each did earlier in the year.

    With that milestone out of the way, I think they feel ready to embark on the new project.

    After spending an hour researching variables for the business plan this morning, one of them said to me “This is even more exciting than playing Halo!”.

    Indeed it is. 🙂

  16. Kin says 30 June 2008 at 06:15

    Wow, what enterprising young ladies. Makes me think of all the things I could do with my girls as they get older….

  17. Mar says 30 June 2008 at 06:20

    Forgive me for being the wet blanket here, but I think the 8 year old might want to spend a little less time on entrepreneurship and a bit more time with a dictionary/spelling book. As a parent, I would be proud of my daughter for her efforts but embarrassed as all get out at her spelling and grammar.

  18. Kate says 30 June 2008 at 08:30

    As a parent of a school-ager, I really appreciated this article. My kid is always coming up with things to sell, but then she always tries to sell them to me, and me alone! I also tend to micromanage the crafts she creates with the idea of selling; I would have edited the newspaper, which would have taken a lot of the charm out of it! After having read this article, I think I will back off trying to advise DD about her crafts (but I still need to help her find a wider range of potential customers).

  19. bethh says 30 June 2008 at 11:19

    Thanks for the update on the girls, JD, I remember your post from last year!

  20. Michelle says 30 June 2008 at 11:33

    @ 17 — don’t forget that many crafty entrepreneurs in the world have had to struggle with various learning impediments such as dyslexia. It seems that her creativity (and w/ an old typewriter, the inability to change existing errors that she *does* catch) really shines through!

  21. Richie says 30 June 2008 at 11:49

    Forgive me for being the wet blanket here, but I think the 8 year old might want to spend a little less time on entrepreneurship and a bit more time with a dictionary/spelling book. As a parent, I would be proud of my daughter for her efforts but embarrassed as all get out at her spelling and grammar.

    I was thinking the same thing.

    Unfortunately, I think this world is slowly moving to a point where spelling doesn’t count any more.

  22. Richie says 30 June 2008 at 11:55

    JD, I did a search but didn’t find anything. Have you done any articles about money in regards to teenagers.

    I have a 15-year-old stepson, and I’m looking for tips on things such as allowances, providing him with a car, giving him money for going to movies, buying video games, etc.

    Also, I’d be interested in tips on helping him to avoid the nightmare of debt that some kids get into (like I did) when those credit card offers start rolling in soon.

  23. Mar says 30 June 2008 at 12:04

    Michelle, comment 20:

    I understand what you are saying, but from my admittedly VERY limited knowledge of dyslexia and some of the other learning disabilities, I don’t think this girl has a problem in this area. Her sentences were coherent, the words were in the correct order, and the words as used “phonetically” were correct; it’s just that the spelling was atrocious. I do think it’s wonderful that she used a typewriter (not sure why, but still wonderful) and it does make it difficult to correct mistakes unless you start over. However, I personally would rather see a paper with fewer errors that showed at least some attention to academic subjects such as spelling and grammar. She may end up making a monetary fortune, but she’ll still need to write a coherent business plan at some point. Proper English writing skills will probably be necessary for that effort.

  24. J.D. says 30 June 2008 at 12:39

    Are you folks kidding me RE: spelling?

    This girl probably just finished the second grade! Her spelling and grammar seem fantastic. Especially her grammar. I don’t know any second-graders who write this well. I certainly couldn’t.

  25. MB says 30 June 2008 at 12:54

    A while ago I met a girl with a lemonade stand while I was on a walk. She was selling lemonade made from organic lemon juice that was sweetened with stevia (this actually worked). She was also selling pet rocks on the side. Very cute.

  26. Melissa says 30 June 2008 at 14:15

    That is so adorable! In high school after the state track meet there were always tons of kids out with lemonade stands in the neighborhood where we parked. It was a tradition to always buy a cup before leaving.

  27. TJ says 30 June 2008 at 15:36

    How clever! I for one would gladly buy some “jocks.”

    And the spelling isn’t bad for the age, and grammar looks good too. I think some people have forgotten what it’s like to be a child.

  28. Joshua says 30 June 2008 at 17:05

    As a child I had the opportunity to sell our chicken’s eggs to people. My parents paid for the feed and the chicks and I was responsible to care for the chicks (which turned into chickens). I also had to keep records of how many eggs were gathered daily, and records on the dozens of eggs I sold. Looking back, it was a great opportunity as a child to handle money and see the workings of a “micro-business”. I even learned a little economics when I had to raise the price of eggs several time. Wow, I remember selling them for $0.50 a dozen! My younger sister still caries on the “business”. Only I think she sells the eggs for $1.75, which is still very good for fresh free-range farm eggs!

  29. Writer's Coin says 30 June 2008 at 19:17

    I love this! It reminds me of a stand I set up with my sister when we were young to sell our old toys. I never really feel like a person who has the “entrepreneurial bent,” but that memory reminds me that yes, maybe I did. And my parents supported us all the way.

  30. DB says 30 June 2008 at 21:37

    Actually, part of the charm is the booboos in the letter.

    Some of them seem like they might even be deliberate. Who knows?

    In any event, if it were a homework assignment it would need correcting, but it’s a labor of love and I think it’s charming.

  31. AJC @ 7million7years says 01 July 2008 at 12:11

    I believe that encouraging entrepreneurial aspirations in the children who have them (but, not forcing those who don’t) will be a Key Success Factor for ‘future millionaires’. These girls obviously have it … so does my son, who is a 13 y.o. eBay Magnate.

  32. Michael says 01 July 2008 at 12:14

    Let’s remember that Samuel Johnson, who wrote a dictionary, said “it’s a…poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”

  33. J.D. says 01 July 2008 at 12:21

    I exchanged e-mail with Gracie yesterday, and I asked her about her writing. Here’s her response:

    Dear J.D, I am going into the 3rd grade this fall. I LOVE to write and to add up on the brains department, I corectly lerned to spell my first and last name as well as Mom and dad in pre K, ( my teachers wrote them on cards for me to copy). To answer your question I practice writing almost every day! You don’t know what an honor it is to be in contact with a REAL writer . I hope that some day I will be a real writer like you. Yours truely,

    I’m telling you folks: this is Good Stuff. I think she’s off to a great start.

  34. Frugal Vet Tech says 01 July 2008 at 17:28

    How neat! I love seeing the different ways parents teach their children about money (I then file the ideas away for when I have children). When I was little (ten or eleven?), I wrote a newspaper. I had a desk set up in my room, took phone calls (I think they were from my cousins and aunts) for classified ads, and wrote a few articles. I believe I the papers for ten cents a copy and sold quite a few. I’m sure the neighbors bought copies and I remember taking them to my dad’s work and selling them there. It was quite fun!

  35. granata says 08 July 2008 at 19:32

    wicked cute. Reminds me of when I was a kid hawking junk from the Olympia sales club. I’d also like to mention a lady named Bonnie Drew who wrote a book years ago called Fast Cash For Kids. It was an inspiring read for me as a young person. More info about her work is at

  36. Nick says 11 September 2010 at 11:06

    Very cool post. I, too, never pass by a kid’s lemonade stand. I recently asked my nephew if he wanted to start a business with me. He was super-psyched. We’re in the planning stage, but he’s the boss.

    I always had a business or two growing up. I did lemonade, brownies, and other food items. But my best two were renting a table at a flea market to sell baseball cards and when I went door to door selling “stuff” out of a magazine to earn enough to go to DC on my 8th grade class trip for free!

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