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Launching a business gives teens new skills, extra cash

Summer is fast approaching and that means sunshine, warm weather and fun activities are just around the corner. A lot of those activities cost money and that may be money that teens have to provide.

Although finding baby-sitting positions and lawn mowing jobs are good options for earning some money, starting a small business could work as well.

There are a lot of great reasons to start a business, and making money is just one. Starting a business, and learning how to run one, will teach teens great lessons about entrepreneurship and business management.

This means teenagers will gain a new understanding of managing money and finances. Lessons like these include calculating both gross and net profits, products market cost, and material cost.

Teens who start a business will also learn communication skills and make great connections with other adult and teenage entrepreneurs. By selling at events, or even online, teens can meet other people with similar business interests who may be able to help them with their own company.

Starting a business also will teach teen entrepreneurs time-management skills. Because teens likely will have to work on a schedule, they will learn how to produce quality products in the necessary time.

Lastly, teens will get to do work they are passionate about.

Zandra Cunningham, a 16-year-old entrepreneur, knows exactly how it feels to be passionate about work. Zandra started her beauty business when she was just 9 years old and she starting making lip balm.

Zandra was successful and started selling her product locally.

She later expanded to more skin care products, determined to make products that won’t hurt sensitive skin. "I wanted to make a product that looked really good and smelled pretty but is also good for your skin," Zandra said.

Over the past few years Zandra, a junior at Nardin Academy, has been able to expand her business and has appeared in magazines such as Seventeen and on shows such as "The Today Show."

One part of Zandra’s success was due to the help she received from different programs that support young entrepreneurs. Teens in Buffalo, and across the country, have access to many programs that will help when starting a business.

One such program is at SUNY Buffalo State. The Buff State Small Business Development Center helps startups and small business owners with management and technical skills so they can grow a strong business.

Although this program is usually for adults, Zandra was able to find placement in the program surrounded by adults and was later able to receive help from other major programs.

These programs include Independent Youth, a social enterprise that finds teenage entrepreneurs and teaches them business skills through programs and resources that are unique to them.

Through these one-of-a-kind opportunities, Zandra has been able to travel across the country, and to other countries, meet large company CEOs and executives, and speak in front of large groups.

"The rewarding part of the business is all the exposure and the places I get to travel to," Zandra said.

Independent Youth and similar groups are open to all teens. They can teach young entrepreneurs how to run a business and also open many doors for the teenagers involved.

Before applying for any of these programs, however, teens need to start their business.

The first step is to decide what the business should be. Crafting is a popular business option for crafty teens, as is baking and making other products, like skin care.

It is also a good idea to identify the target market and customers. Based on the products and ideas, the target audience is likely already known, but it may help to research what those people are most likely to buy.

Next, starting to make models of products will allow the business to really take shape. Making some products may even give ideas for a company name.

Research is the next, very important step. It helps to know what the products cost to make and how much they will sell for. Research will also identify any companies that sell similar products and for what price, which may affect the new business, according to Business News Daily.

Once the basic aspects of the business are covered, the entrepreneur must consider the financial aspect of their business. Teens won’t always have money to start a business, this is where baby-sitting or lawn mowing may come in. When starting a business it is important to have at least a small amount of money to buy materials and cover other basic costs. Making a little money from another job can help cover these costs.

When these steps are completed, marketing the business is important to put that hard work to use. Today, social media is a great, free marketing tool. Identifying the target audience and using social media that those people are likely on will greatly expand any business. As people take notice, the business will take form and products will begin to sell.

There are further steps to be taken to expand the business further down the line. If it begins making a lot of money, registering the business name is very important, as is registering for state and local taxes, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA said having a business plan for the future is a key element to growth.

If the business becomes very successful, finding a location to make or sell products may become important. Zandra, for example, makes her products in the Pierce Arrow building in North Buffalo.

It will take time to grow a business to this size, but for the summer, starting a small business can fill some extra time and provide a little money.

Zandra gave some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "If you have an idea run with it," she said.

She also said it is important to have a support system. Find one trusted person, or more, to help with the business.

It is also helpful to find someone who is doing something similar to get tricks and tips from them.

Of course, the most important aspect of the business is hard work. Hard work will lead to the success of any business or company.

A business can provide life-changing and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It can open many doors for future projects, it looks great on an application or resume, and it can earn a little spending money, too.

Sarah Crawford is a freshman at Nardin Academy.


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