9. Photography and Videotaping

We live in a visual age, where kids take photographs and videos all the time. YouTube has made amateur videos commonplace, and Facebook is now the world’s largest photo-sharing site. A teenager could build a micro business by taking pictures or videos of parties and special events for neighbors. This frees up the hostess to enjoy herself (and actually be in some of the pictures).

Additionally, a student could offer to film an important occasion such as a birthday, music recital, or sporting event and then create a DVD of the special event. I hired someone to assemble forty photographs of my family for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. He added background music, and we played the DVD during their anniversary party. His micro business DVD service added a nice touch for a special event.

10. Baking and Cooking

Dream Dinners is a popular franchise that lets customers prepare frozen meals. An ingenious teenager could modify that idea and offer to prepare frozen meals for neighbors. Or a teen could go to a neighbor’s house and have a meal ready for a busy working mom when she arrives home. Homemade cookies, cakes, and pies are always popular too.

However, it is vital to follow your local ordinances on food safety. Some local food-safety laws require you to use a commercial kitchen or limit home-cooked foods to only baked goods and candy. Your local county extension office or 4-H office will have information on food safety guidelines associated with a micro business. As a variation, a teenager could bake dog treats, since there are fewer restrictions on pet foods than on food meant for human consumption.

After the Idea: The Next Steps

After your teenager has come up with an idea for a micro business, a few more steps are necessary in order to launch a successful enterprise.

Conduct a market survey. Encourage your teenager to ask a few potential customers if they would hire him and what they would be willing to pay for the service he plans to offer.

Decide on a price. A great way for teenagers to get customers is by undercutting the competition. My daughter ended up with more piano students than she could handle because she charged only half the going rate for a half-hour lesson. She was happy because she was still paid better for her time than she would have been paid working at a fast food restaurant or at the mall.

Become a volunteer. I recommend that a teenager offer to do a free service for one or two clients to start out and see how it goes. It will teach your teenager a lot about the business, and he’ll also gather some references for use in advertising.

My daughter Sarah is interested in photography and took senior pictures of her friend Kelsey. Sarah loved it, and Kelsey’s parents were thrilled to receive a CD of more than a hundred photographs. Now Sarah can use their comments and Kelsey’s pictures to help launch a micro business doing senior portraits for friends.

Launch an initial advertising campaign. Word of mouth is the best means of advertising, and in this digital age that means using email and Facebook. Parents can help spread the word about their teenagers’ micro businesses by posting on homeschool forums. My daughter found her first piano students through our homeschool network. Also, consider setting up a Facebook fan page to advertise to friends and neighbors.

Pick a name and register it. Usually a teenage micro business owner does not need a business name; most can simply use his or her own name. I recommend waiting a few months to see if the teenager is going to stick with the business before choosing a business name. Business names must be registered with your state or local government, and this may involve a fee, so I recommend putting off that expense until the business shows some longevity and a profit.