After studying some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, we discovered that founder types tend to fall into one of five personality types. Which one are you? Start with our quiz.
Welcome, stargazers! This month, we’re opening up our Zodiac community to some (really) fresh founder faces. In a world that’s constantly changing, the future is even more uncertain for today’s youth. Seriously, 2020, give us a break! What will the job market look like for the classes of 2021 and beyond? School can only teach you so much, and many young people are supplementing book learning by building valuable real-world skills through their side interests. Some are even making money doing it.
In our Homework series, we interviewed several kids and teens who, between soccer practice, schoolwork, and driving lessons, also run successful businesses. They’re saving up for Nerf blasters. And for college tuition. And some are even using their superpowers to do good. Whatever their motivations, these young people are—sometimes unwittingly—also building foundations for their successful futures.
Here, we guide youth, parents, and teachers through the benefits of youth-run businesses and how to get started. We’ll also dig in to each Founder Sign to suggest compatible business ideas for teens, based on personality type.
🌟 Bonus: Take our quiz to find out which character from The Baby-Sitters Club you are—and what it says about your own entrepreneur personality.
Why start a youth-run business
Many successful entrepreneurs didn’t take traditional paths, eschewing the educational route and opting to learn by doing. Whatever your current plans for after you graduate—college, gap year, jumping straight into a job—remember that you’re young and can always change course. You have the most valuable resource: time. At this stage of your life, it’s important (and possible) to try on a few futures to see which fits best.
Starting your own business while you’re still in school lets you shorten the distance between theory (school books) and practice (hands-on skill building). It might also help guide your post-graduation decision—maybe your small business is worth pursuing full time, or maybe you discover that entrepreneurship really isn’t for you after all.
A small business under your belt showcases leadership skills and initiative in a way a report card can’t.
If you are applying to college, your desired school may factor in your extra-curricular activities in addition to your grades. A small business under your belt showcases leadership skills and initiative in a way a report card can’t. Colleges are looking for well-rounded applicants with success potential. And it doesn’t hurt to save a few extra bucks now for tuition and living expenses.
Lastly, starting a business can help to build your professional network. Even if you decide not to pursue entrepreneurship after you graduate, the contacts you make could be useful sources for professional references or job offers.
To recap, the benefits of starting a business before you graduate:
How to start a business if you’re under 18
If you’re in high school, you may have enough autonomy to successfully run a business almost entirely on your own. There are a few legal and financial considerations, however. If you’re under 18, you likely need parental sign-off to get started. Dependent on national and regional law, in most places, minors cannot legally start a business on their own, nor can they sign legally binding contracts.
Parental help likely will also be required to open a business bank account. Again, this depends on the laws where you live. Many services like Shopify and PayPal require you to be at least 18 to sign up, as well. As such, parents are legally liable for the actions of teens through these various accounts.
Youth and parents should discuss how much involvement each will have, how roles will be divided, and what safeguards are in place to protect both parties. This information is not a substitute for legal and financial advice, and parents are encouraged to contact their lawyer and accountant.
🤔 Questions for young entrepreneurs and their parents to ask before starting a small business:
- How much time does each have to dedicate to the business each week?
- How much autonomy will the teen have?
- Who will manage the finances?
- What are the ground rules and consequences for breaking them?
- What’s the exit strategy?
6 small business ideas for kids and young people
Since younger kids will need more help or supervision when starting a new business, these six business ideas are simple and close to home:
- Lawn care, snow removal, and other tasks for neighbors. Make fliers and find clients by visiting neighbors. Or, with parental help, set up a simple Shopify store to sell time slots using an app like Sesami: Appointment Booking.
- Dog walking and pet/plant sitting. As above, this business can prosper thanks to neighborhood word-of-mouth but could benefit from a website, too.
- Lemonade stand. The quintessential small business idea for kids! This is a great first foray into the world of business because it requires no long-term commitment.
- Selling handmade goods. Simple handmade items like beaded jewelry, soaps, bath bombs, or sweets can be sold online or via local delivery and markets with the help of parents.
- YouTube reviews and unboxings. Performative kids with a strong interest in a certain hobby (say, gaming), can build a following by uploading video reviews, demos, or unboxings to YouTube—and eventually monetize the channel.
- Inventions. With parental help, a kid-invented product can be mass-manufactured or made by hand and sold online.
6 small business ideas for teens
Teens have more autonomy and flexibility and can easily run their own business without much parental intervention (after the initial set-up).
- Babysitting. The lemonade stand of teen businesses! Up your game by creating a professional website with your credentials, testimonials, rates, and availability. (Psst! Jump to our quiz to get your Baby-Sitters Club persona.)
- Tutoring or art/music lessons for younger kids. Through an online store, sell in-person or virtual time slots, study notes, and other resources.
- Selling handmade goods. Jewelry, clothing, accessories, pet supplies, and edible goods are just a few things teens can make and sell online, at markets, or to local retailers. The possibilities really are endless.
- Service-based business. Teens have more flexibility and freedom than younger kids—and maybe access to a car—and can level up a neighborhood helping service to include personal shopping or delivery. For creative teens, try a design or decor consulting business. This is a low-risk and quick-start option because you don’t need to buy or make inventory up front.
- Social media influencer. Build an online community through social media apps like Instagram or TikTok by finding your niche. Maybe it’s beauty tutorials, gaming tips, or DIYs. You may eventually be able to monetize your account by selling promoted posts to brands that fit with your aesthetic.
- Print-on-demand designs. With a little upfront setup, tech- and business-savvy teens can run a simple side hustle with a Shopify store and a print-on-demand app, which can help you customize white-label products with your own designs.
QUIZ: What Baby-Sitters Club character are you?
Are you a Claudia or a Kristy? The Baby-Sitters Club, a classic YA book series that has undergone a recent Netflix reimagining, follows a group of enterprising young girls who band together to dominate the temporary child care market in their town. Take our quiz to see which Baby-Sitters Club character is most like you—and what it says about your small biz persona.
The Founder’s Zodiac: Business tips and ideas for teens, picked just for your sign
What business you should start depends a lot on your interests and the amount of time you have to dedicate to it. However, your personality type might also point you in the right direction. Based on your sign, here are some ideal small business ideas to consider while you’re still in school.
If you don’t yet know your Founder Sign, start with our quiz.
👟 Jump to your sign:
Feature sign: The Trailblazer
You’re our featured sign this month, Trailblazer. That’s because you’re just the type to excel at schoolwork while still balancing an active social life and a side business. You have the energy to juggle it all and the smarts to problem-solve when everything inevitably collides at exam time!
Your creative side opens plenty of possibilities to run a handmade goods business. Can you make clothes from your own patterns, design jewelry, craft truffles, or bake dog treats? These are just a few things you can create from home and sell online or locally. Be sure to pick something you’re passionate about—passion is what drives you.
Go for your wildest dream. Do whatever you want to, even if it’s the craziest thing.Kamaria Warren, founder, Brown Girls Stationery
If time is short, Trailblazer, there are other ways to make a few bucks toward your college fund. Try a service-based business—you’re great with people, after all—where you make your own hours and take on only as much work as you can handle.
Business ideas for teen Trailblazers
- Handmade goods
- Creative consultations or services
- Pet, plant, house, and babysitting
💡 Tip: “Go for your wildest dream. Do whatever you want to, even if it’s the craziest thing. Just listen to what your heart says, and make sure you’re having fun. It doesn’t matter what your business is, as long as you’re happy doing it.” —Kamaria Warren, young founder of Brown Girls Stationery. 📚 Read more about Kamaria.
If we know you Cartographer (we do), you have your nose in a book, studying hard and vying for valedictorian. As with everything you strive to accomplish, you’re doing it with care and dedication. This is what makes you a shoe-in for bossdom. You’re organized enough to balance a full course load with a profitable side business. You tend to be more of an introvert, so you don’t mind too much if it cuts into your social life.
If you’re creative, making and selling products online is a good option for you. Otherwise, what about teaching some of those skills to others? Cartographers like you are natural teachers, because you’re patient and excel at detail. You can sell kits, templates, or virtual classes through an online store and grow your audience on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube with free DIY demos.
Business ideas for teen Cartographers
- Online classes and demos
- DIY templates, kits, and supplies
💡 Tip: “Seize the moment. There’s a 50% chance that they’re going to say yes, which is a pretty big number. Never give up, try your hardest, and believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.” —Carson Kropfl, teen founder of Locker Board. 📚 Read more about Carson.
Start a business before you graduate—free trial
Firestarter, you’re likely already an entrepreneur—you just don’t know it. Kids like you have had side hustles since the beginning. You’re a natural charmer and salesperson, and you’ve used your assets for everything from getting book report extensions to winning class elections. Why not use those skills to make a little extra spending money?
Firestarters like you can spot emerging trends and pounce on them. Setting up a quick online store and cashing in on a craze is right up your alley. Try dropshipping or print-on-demand models to spin up your ideas quickly. These are fairly hands-off ideas that free up time so you can keep working all the angles.
Business ideas for teen Firestarters
- Dropshipping business
- Print-on-demand t-shirt and merch store
- Collectibles and trending products
💡 Tip: “Come up with something that no one else has thought of before. Come up with something that is new so that you can surround the market on your own. You could make a ton of money selling something that’s kind of new and trendy.” —Charlie Kobdish, young founder of Charlie’s Treats. 📚 Read more about Charlie.
Mountaineers like you are goal oriented and determined to reach those big milestones. That’s why, if you set your mind to it, you’re likely to succeed at a side hustle. You can be a bit single minded, though, Mountaineer—excitement for a new project might cut into your school work. Try setting boundaries and establishing priorities from the get-go.
You have to hold yourself accountable. I’m only 19 years old, so I don’t have the best time management. I’m not a superstar organizer or anything.Simone Hufana, founder, Color HerStory
You thrive in the spotlight, so you may want to pursue a business that puts you there. Monetize your YouTube channel, start a podcast, or make video and audio content for brands. Otherwise pick a business that’s fairly hands-off, like a print-on-demand store, that doesn’t interfere with your busy social life.
Business ideas for teen Mountaineers
- Influencer/product reviewer
- Personal shopper or personal assistant
- Print-on-demand online store
💡 Tip: “You have to hold yourself accountable. I’m only 19 years old, so I don’t have the best time management. I’m not a superstar organizer or anything. It’s easy to just slip up and be like, ‘Oh, shoot, I totally forgot I had that goal. Ah, whatever. I’ll see about it next week.’” —Simone Hufana, teen founder of Color HerStory. 📚 Read more about Simone.
You’re great at what you do, Outsider, whether that’s fixing bikes, mastering video games, or designing your own websites. Your solo nature gives you plenty of free time to dive into those hobbies and maybe even turn them into a business. Taking that leap will involve stepping a little outside your bubble, but there are plenty of introvert-friendly ways to launch your business.
Sell handcrafted or digitally designed items through an online store or set up a service-based business to offer skilled help to your neighbors’ unfinished projects.
Business ideas for teen Outsiders
- Handmade goods, sold online
- Digital products (typefaces, design presets)
- Handyperson work (fixing, painting)
💡 Tip: “I definitely think you have to have a strong mindset. You can’t be afraid. You have to be a person who’s willing to take a risk.” —Mateo Galvez, teen founder of LOTTA WORLDWIDE. 📚 Read more about Mateo.
If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type.
Illustrations by by Alice Mollon