Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Andriod devices.

Most teenagers start a business because they want to make money. However, wouldn’t it be great if running a business also had other benefits? What if a student applied his academic knowledge in math and writing to running a micro business? What if a talented young lady discovered her future career? What would that be worth? Or what if a young man stretched himself to learn new skills on his own? Could running a business actually help change and improve the world? It’s wonderful to imagine. Starting a micro business can be a fantastic learning experience with many unexpected benefits. 

Apply Academic Knowledge

“When will I ever use this?” is a common complaint (disguised as a question) heard from teenagers. Students can apply many of the writing and math skills they have been learning for years by starting a micro business. For example, a student can apply writing skills by creating ads, articles, and flyers to explain and promote a business. Math skills are needed to calculate a profit, taxes owed, and product mark-up. 

Cathy Mayfield’s daughter started her own magazine when she was only 9 years old. It was a magazine filled with articles, stories, puzzles, and games for children aged 5 to 10. At first, Cathy was concerned that her homeschool evaluation would look as if her daughter wasn’t learning any language arts skills. Then Cathy realized she had all those magazines to demonstrate her daughter’s knowledge of the English language. Cathy’s daughter was certainly applying everything she was learning about writing! It was a marvelous experience that lasted for five years. 

Learn New Skills

Running a micro business can reinforce old skills, but new skills can be acquired as well. One teenager I know, Joel, has a talent for computer web design. He taught himself software programs such as InDesign and makes money by creating buttons and banners for websites. Joel’s web design micro business will help him determine if he wants to be a full-time graphic designer. Meanwhile, he is learning time management and customer service skills—while getting paid!

Eric, a teenager from Ohio, teaches drum lessons to eight students. In an interview in USA Today, he spoke of how he has learned to be organized and save his receipts for tax purposes. He admits: “This is just the foundation for learning how to be a businessman. I couldn’t learn this just working at a restaurant.”

I’ve met many teenagers who are self-taught in their knowledge of software programs, blog or web design, and social media marketing such as Facebook, where they advertise their businesses. These subjects are not learned from a textbook. They must be learned in an alternative way, usually by trial and error, with a mentor, or sometimes through the use of Internet tutorials. As they seek out the knowledge they need, today’s entrepreneurs are becoming self-taught experts. In the future, they will not be afraid of learning new things nor be dependent upon an institution to teach them.

Find a Future Career

A teenager might also discover a future career by operating a micro business. As a teenager, Meghan taught violin lessons to children. She loved playing violin and enjoyed teaching so much that she decided to study violin in college. Running her micro business helped her find her future career. She is now at the University of Memphis studying violin on a music scholarship.