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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