Helping a Child Who Wants to Start a Business

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Last week, I offered tips in honor of National Business Plan Month, which is observed in December. It’s a great reminder for those of us who’ve been in business for awhile to update our business plan and refocus on our mission to get the new year off to a strong start.

It’s also a gentle nudge toward a first step for all those people who’ve wanted to launch their dream but haven’t yet turned thought into action. Laying out a business plan is a good way to get yourself off the couch and into the game.

Today, we continue the theme with a special article that Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, volunteered to write exclusively for PR Insiders and their kids.

Mark, a hugely successful businessman by any measure, got his start at just 9 years old. He earned enough money to buy his own clothes, his bicycles and, eventually, to pay his way through college. He says that kind of success is available to any creative, industrious child today.

And, wow, kids need that sort of experience now more than ever. With a rapidly changing world economy that is no longer rewarding traditional paths to success, young people will need to become innovative, resourceful and resilient adults. There’s no better time to start honing those qualities than now.

If they can put themselves through college – or at least pay for their own movie and popcorn – that wouldn’t hurt either, would it?

How kids can become entrepreneurs

by Mark Victor Hansen

 So, you’d like to launch your own business. Maybe you’ve heard of Fraser Doherty, the 14-year-old who started making jams in his grandmother’s kitchen in 2002 and hit sales of $1.2 million by 2011.

Or Ashley Qualls, the teen who borrowed $8 from her mom to start a website,, in 2004. By 17, she’d earned her first $1 million.

Starting a business is a lot like the story of Johnny Appleseed, the man who roamed the country in the early 1800s planting apple trees using seeds he salvaged from places like cider mills. Eventually, he had apple orchards and nurseries throughout the East and Midwest.

Business ideas are very much like apple trees. They begin with a small idea, a seed, that you plant and nurture. The seed grows into a small plant and then a big tree, and before you know it, it’s a thriving business — much like an apple orchard.

I intend to help you harness that business idea.

Here are a few tips to help you make the best of your idea:

  • Take a look at some of the videos on my website They offer concrete tips for getting started.
  • Write down what you love doing and what your idea is. Find a mentor – an adult you admire or, better yet, one who has started their own business – to help you polish your idea.
  • Research your idea. What other products or services are already available that are similar or identical? (Hint: Even if you discover your idea is not brand new, that’s no reason to give up. You may be able to make it better, deliver it better, or find some other reason people will prefer to buy from you.)
  • You may need financial assistance (a loan) to get started. Put together a well-researched, persuasive presentation about your idea to get your investors on board. (Include a plan for how they’ll get paid back — or make money! — by investing in you.)
  • Think about how you’ll get the word out about your business. Who will want it and what’s the best way to reach those people? If you plan to shovel snow for neighbors, a flyer on their door might work. If your customers will be computer users, consider how you’ll reach them through social media.

These steps are the start of turning your business idea into a business that touches lives. Not only will you earn money and learn “on the job” about running a business, you will help the world become a better place.


Whether you’re a child or an adult, starting a business can be daunting. But, as Mark reminds us, it all begins with an idea. If you have that much, you have a start.

I’d like to add that there are many, many young people who’ve also successfully launched their own charitable organizations, or raised large amounts of money for causes they’re passionate about. These young philanthropists learn the same sorts of valuable skills as their entrepreneurial counterparts and reap wonderful rewards from knowing they’ve saved a tree, helped a homeless child, comforted a disaster victim – whatever problem their heart calls them to solve.


Mark’s suggestions are equally applicable for the kid who just wants to help.

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