It’s not as unusual a combination as you may think. What better way to teach your children valuable and relevant lessons than to encourage their entrepreneurial spirits? From a lemonade stand on the corner that loses money to a thriving Internet business, you and your kids can create business plans, models, and learn real lessons about math, economics, and social science by starting a family business.
The economy that we have faced here in the United States in the last few years has been pretty dismal. With record unemployment levels, lay offs, jobs being shipped overseas, high gas prices, and huge numbers of home foreclosures, many Americans have found themselves in desperate situations. Even people who have been able to ride out the economic turmoil without tragic losses have probably had to cut back on expenses.
Others have found themselves getting creative to deal with a lost job and income. More and more people are taking risks on starting businesses because they have nothing left to lose. Our economic landscape is changing and people are moving away from spending thirty years at one company. Many move from job to job or end up working on a contract basis. There is no reason why kids, teens, and homeschooling families can’t get in on this trend. The entrepreneurial spirit can strike anywhere, and there is no better time to delve into starting a business.
The Novocins of Delaware are just such a family. This homeschooling family has created a successful and thriving online business. The Novocins created their business fourteen years ago, but in the last two years, it has really taken off and provided them with a generous income. Their company is called Estate Auctions, Inc., and they use eBay to list and sell antiques and collectibles for their customers. From their home computer and storage shed, they generate a six-figure income.
The business is a family affair. Mr. Novocin goes to auctions and consigns items from customers, Mrs. Novocin delivers the products, and their teenage sons run the home office and photograph the antiques for their eBay listings. They accomplish all of this while homeschooling the boys. The flexibility of a homeschooling environment allows them to make a living at home and as a family while also giving their sons a great learning opportunity.
How to Get into the Business of Business
Starting a family business could be a small, low-cost venture, or you may have an idea that requires investment, funding, and employees. Either way, there are several things to keep in mind before you tackle this project. And remember, even if the business is not successful, your kids will still learn valuable lessons about what to do and what not to do.
- Education. The whole process of starting and running a business is a learning experience for your children. They get to learn about math, budgeting, working with others, business, failure, and success. You, however, should do some of the learning ahead of time. Starting a business is serious business, especially if you plan to invest significant funds in it. Do plenty of research on running a business. Find out if there is a need for your idea. Learn about taxes for businesses. Meet with a business mentor to learn more and to get all of your questions answered. You can contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) to find one. The SBA recruits retired CEOs and business owners to volunteer their time and expertise to people like you.
- Brainstorm. Involve your children in the process of coming up with a great idea. Hold family brainstorming sessions during which you explain to your kids the need to have a business idea that will be successful. You can discuss the idea of demand. If few people need your service or product, you will have no business. Talk about the benefits of low-cost businesses versus those that require significant start-up funds. Then, let the ideas fly. Be open to every suggestion, write them all down, and then discuss together the viability of each one.
- Think money. While you should entertain all ideas in your brainstorming sessions, you would be wise to move forward with one that costs you little to get going. Unless you have extra money to spend on a costly business venture, doing so can create extra stress in the family and put pressure on everyone. If you can start a business that requires very little money initially you can focus on making the business more of a learning opportunity. If it succeeds, you have a new source of income; if not, your kids have still learned a lot. To avoid high costs, stay away from a business that you can’t run from your home or one that requires expensive equipment.
- Plan. Once you have a business idea, it’s time to make a plan. Writing a business plan is a great way to get the kids to learn about practical writing. Academic writing has its place, but learning about communication in the world of the workplace is a valuable lesson. Your kids can also learn at this stage about the importance of planning in any venture. The more you plan, the greater your odds of success will be.
- Involve the kids. As a homeschooling parent, you are accustomed to the idea of involving your children in day to day activities. Although parts of starting and running a business may seem like they will be above their heads, don’t leave the kids out. The basics of running a business are really very simple, and you can increase the amount and complexity of tasks for your kids as they learn more and become more capable. Tasks can also be delegated according to age and ability. Maybe your five year old isn’t ready for advanced accounting, but your teenager might be.
- Stay organized. A successful business is an organized one, and organization is yet another lesson to teach your children. Running a business can be an awful lot of work, but if you maintain a tidy office and keep records of everything, your workload will be less than if you let things get out of hand. It is also important to stay organized for the sake of taxes. You need to keep track of everything you sell and buy for your business for filing and in the rare case of being audited.
- Customer service. You have no business without your customers, so remember to treat them well. Excellent customer service is a hallmark of all successful businesses. This represents another valuable lesson for your kids: treat people well, and they will return the favor. This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to let them walk all over you. There will be times when you need to turn a customer down, refuse service, or let someone go if they are being unreasonable. It is inevitable, so don’t feel bad about it. It will not ruin your business.
- Take time off. Especially if your new family business takes off and is successful right away, you may find it difficult to attend to other tasks. Don’t let your business take over your life, and don’t forget your main priority: educating your kids. If your business is generating income, and you are finding it difficult to get anything else done, consider hiring an employee.
When you get into a small family business, the opportunities are limitless. Besides giving your children a valuable education, you could be opening the door for a rewarding career, significant income, or just some extra disposable income. If the idea of running a business is a little scary for you, start small. There is nothing wrong with trying the traditional lemonade stand and, although it is small, it still affords you the chance to teach your children business lessons.
©2012 Off the Grid News