#940 Terrible businesses run by children

The ten cents barely covers their capital investment loan payback

When I was about fourteen years old, I signed up for something called Junior Achievement. It was a happy-go-lucky non-profit group that promoted business and entrepreneurship skills in children. Or basically, it was a bunch of kids in a room every Thursday night acting like middle managers with adult supervision.

My group ended up coming up with a business called Roc Creations. This was a clever play on our core product: cheap, homemade rock necklaces. We thought it was a brilliant, failsafe plan. After all, who likes necklaces? Everybody, of course. And how cheap are rocks? Pretty darn cheap, man. We just spent one Thursday at the beach, the next Thursday painting, and the Thursday after that drilling holes and tying string through them. We figured it was a solid plan, well executed.

Sadly, after a few weeks we realized we’d made a huge mistake. We’d bet all our chips on a losing hand. The necklaces failed to generate enough buzz and excitement at the flea markets, despite our screaming rhyming chants at terrified housewives, and we quickly tumbled into the red, piles of dead inventory and drill bit invoices mocking our poor judgment.

But then, like any good business, we evolved! We quickly changed our name to Roc-Cal Creations, and printed off a quickie run of cheapo laminated calendars. We tied them together with a dry erase marker, slapped some magnets on the back, and went door to door, neighbor to neighbor, selling these “reusable fridge calendars” for four bucks apiece.

Well, we managed to sell enough of them to get back in gear. We started to make money and established a strong business partnership with the lady in the markers aisle at Staples. Yes, it all ended well, but not without some late nights under a dim lamp with a dollar-store calculator, a stack of graph paper, and a pile of Laurentien pencil crayons, trying desperately to finish the numbers for our annual report, which was actually printed on the inside of one of our folded-up calendars.

It was a great experience and it really got my buzz going for running a business. That’s why I think it’s always fun when you see children running some sort of strange, hilarious, or terrible business. Because really, you’re just watching them learn stuff they don’t learn at school and have fun doing it.

How cute are the twins selling lemonade on the street corner? The gymnastics team running the barbecue outside the grocery store? Or the kid who takes your grocery cart back if he gets to keep the twenty-five cent deposit?

Those kids are all playing the game. So I say: go on, kids. Do it well. Next time you’re selling some rock-hard cookies or salty date squares at a Bake Sale, sign me up. Because we’re not just buying some mild indigestion, are we? No, we’re investing in the future.


Photos from: here and here

34 thoughts on “#940 Terrible businesses run by children

  1. I’ve heard some good things about this blog. Remember to balance the pics with the text tho. cheers!

  2. Fantastic. My first business was selling pumpkins by the side of the road… Jack-O-Lanterns, Inc. Factory Outlet. Hooray for elementary entrepreneurs!

  3. I had some little girls knocking on my door selling iced tea that was in a picture that they poured in a tiny dixie cup. They charged me .50. I bought 2!:)

  4. Interestingly enough, I too, have an early teenage entrepreneurial story. 6th grade, in Coach Sasser’s (that’s an awesome thing right there! Coaches that are given cushy teaching jobs so they can pretend they do more than teach jocks to punch people), economics class. Our state-wide project was to pick stocks out of the newspaper. I don’t have to tell you, but this was long, LONG before Google. Before the internet, to be honest. I recommended that my team just dump all our money into Motorola stock, as cell phones were in their infancy. And that shit shot up like a weed. By the end of the six weeks, we’d made over $300,000. 2nd in the state. The guys who beat us bought 1000 shares of Motorola (we bought 1100) and 100 shares of RJR Reynolds tobacco. Bastards!

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  6. I think those kids are adorable. Never did it myself, but I love seeing their little tables out on the street selling strawberries or iced tea!

  7. I was a young entrepreneur myself. I think we need to bring back the “paperboy”, which I truly believe teaches kids how to manage their finances and teaches them basic business and customer service skills. Trust me when I say I was more than willing to tuck that newspaper between someone’s screen and front door for the $1-1.50 dollar tip. Multiply that by 10, 15 customers add in the 7.5 cents I’d make per paper per day and I had quite a nice job for a 5th grader. What did I have to spend my money on? I love young entreprenuers.

  8. Personally,I sell macadamia’s door to door but most people just pay and don’t take the macadamia’s :|

  9. One of my favorites!!! A daughter and I were just discussing this the other day. She and a friend used to pick other peoples flowers, make bouquets and go door to door. There are more examples, but I dare not share, lest I embarrass someone. The girls are savvy, yet honest and sweet, like you!
    HOLLA, to all those who invested in the kids at Roc-cal creations~
    just look at what’s evolved… A whole new world, LOVE IT:D

  10. I remember those days; my cousin and I cut twigs off of an evergreen, strung beads onto thread and hung them on our mini “Christmas trees”. My neighbour, probably feeling sorry for the two five year old girls sitting on the front yard on a court where no one went, bought pretty much all of them for 25c apiece! Even though it was like, March or April. :) Good times!

  11. I met a kid in front of Canadian Tire the other day who was selling almond chocolates.
    When he gave his speel, I was so impressed by his public speaking ability, I nearly called the media, who should’ve been there anyway because the cause was for Mandella- kids futures and this 12 year old was one of the best I’ve ever met!

  12. Love this story. My daughter keeps asking when she can take over “her” party website. Well I think today she can become Junior Journalist in charge of Kids parties and picnics :)

  13. When I was a kid I sold my mom’s most precious toy from her childhood to our neighbor kid for a buck…mom made me go get it back. I also tried to have a yard sale on our front lawn. This didn’t work at all because we lived WAY out in the country. Not a single customer!

  14. We live in the country in the mountains and often see children with lemonade stands set up so well! Looking so professional and starry-eyed to fill their dreams…I reminisce of times like this myself!!!
    I LOVE your story. Thank you:)

  15. This past week there have been two, but I would never say terrible!
    We respond to a knock on the door at work. There stand 2 girls and 1 boy; bags of books in tote. They appear to be ages 3, 4 and 7. One would expect the “7” year old to be the manager, but no, the smallest of all starts a rather professional speel. “Hi. My friends and I are selling books today- 1 for $2.00 or 3 for $5.00. This parenting book is really good and near new condition, (she pulls out from under arm, “How to raise children with good self-esteem”), is $5.00. The older ones are just $1.00 each!” They start to show us our choices. My husband asked how old they were and if they planned to buy Christmas gifts with the money. We learned they were in kindergarten and were going to buy candy. While donations to the cause were being made, I round up many drink cans from the job site and offer them as well. Their response without pause, “No thank you. We’re going to keep our focus on book sales today.”
    The second business: A colourful, beautifully designed and ahnd painted sign read, candies and sweet nuts for sale, held by 2 children shouting and waving their arms around to gain customers off the mountain road. *Looks legitimate to me.* I make my husband turn the truck around to support.
    They are smiling and thrilled! We see the sales layed out in a snow bank. Their mother comes out on the deck, not smiling; tells us there is nothing to buy and shouts at the girls to put the sign away for good. I think it was for bad; they looked so sad:(
    *I wish I’d had the big book from the other business to give their mother.

  16. I thought it was really well written but, my friends and I are in a small lemonade type business with each-other and every week we go out to the corner of our street and sell cake-pops and cookies. Every week we make an average amount of $60, and a profit of about $40.

  17. This spring I had my 4 year old and my six year old run a lemonade stand along side our family yard sale. They had the time of their lives offering lemonade to anyone who came by and I had a blast watching them discover the “sales person” inside of them! They made a good enough profit that they now want to do it again and they want to sell everything in the house at another yard sale!!

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