Carly and her sister, Hannah, had a goal to buy an iPod. They planned to earn money by knitting scarves and selling them to friends and neighbors. When they brought samples of their wares to our homeschool co-op, the parents were pleased with the scarves and impressed by the girls’ initiative. I had no doubt that they would reach their goal, especially when parents started requesting custom designs! Little did Carly and Hannah realize that they had just started a micro business.

Do you want to encourage your teenager to earn some cash by starting a business? Micro businesses are a great option, because a teenager can make money and learn a lot yet still manage schoolwork and a social life.

A micro business . . .

• Is simple and fast to start up.

• Has no employees. There is only one worker, the owner.

• Needs little start-up money. Most use what is already on hand.

• Is usually home-based.

• Is low-risk. A teenager wants to make money, not lose it!

• Offers flexibility. A teenager can still have a social life, participate in sports, attend youth group meetings, and finish his homework while maintaining a micro business.

• Finally, a micro business lets a teenager learn life skills while earning money.

Micro businesses start with an idea that meets a need. Brainstorm a few ideas with your teenager and see what strikes his or her fancy. Look for unmet needs among your friends and neighbors. Usually, the best micro business ideas come from personal talents or skills, such as playing an instrument or fixing a computer. Other micro businesses offer a new twist on an old idea, such as an innovative babysitting service. Just remember that a micro business is not a major commitment. It is an opportunity to try out something new to make some money. Even by having only one customer, a teenager can discover a new interest and a source of income.

My daughter Sarah decided to try her hand at web design and created a site for our hair stylist. She was paid $70 for designing a very simple website, using free software. So far, Sarah has had only one website customer. Her interests have shifted to something new, photography, but she enjoyed trying web design as a micro business.

Top 10 Great Micro Business Ideas

1. Child Care

The time-honored profession of teenagers is babysitting, but a micro business can offer something new or different. A unique twist to a typical babysitting job might be to add extra services, such as doing laundry, pet walking, or light housecleaning for an extra fee. Or a teenager could offer to babysit regularly. One teenager made her babysitting micro business unique by advertising to neighbors that she was hosting a regular babysitting service every Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. in her home. Her customers could plan ahead knowing they had childcare available that evening.

Karen (Spunky Homeschool) Braun’s daughter, Kristin, combined her love of reading and childcare. She assembled a small group of children and, during a two-hour block of time, read them a story, planned a craft, and fed them a snack. She charged $5 per child per week, offered a sibling discount, and averaged earnings of $45 per family during a six-week summer mini-camp.

2. Lawn Care

Lawn mowing, mulch spreading. and snow shoveling are great micro business ideas. A teenager may already have the equipment he needs to get started. If not, he or she should purchase only what is needed initially.

Using savings from a paper route, Lucas Rice bought his first riding lawn mower at a garage sale when he was 12. As his business grew, he was able to buy more equipment. “Allow your business to grow, and then grow your equipment into your business,” he advises.

3. Cleaning