From innovative ideas to the twists and turns of real-life experiences, we seek to motivate all kids – from those who've already taken the leap to kids who don't yet have it on their radar.
When her family’s finances were facing a crisis, 10-year-old Shelby Grebenc turned a bad situation into a business. Now she’s teaching other kids how to juggle money management with middle school.
With all the angst about how kids’ post-school hours are so overscheduled—jamming everything from lacrosse to foreign languages into their day—it’s difficult to imagine a kid keeping up with homework, let alone a job. But, for Shelby Grebenc, a middle-school entrepreneur from Broomfield, Colorado, starting a business was a means of keeping her family afloat. And unlike other kids her age, when Grebenc says she’s hanging with her girls, she means she’s checking on her chickens. Yes, that’s chickens.
Grebenc was just 10-years-old when her mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and needed care in a nursing home. With medical bills mounting and her mom out of work, her family was struggling to make ends meet. That’s when Grebenc approached her grandmother for a $1,000 loan to build a chicken farm to produce and sell eggs. The end goal: make a profit to augment her family’s finances. Today, Grebenc’s business, Shelby’s Happy Chapped Chicken Butt Farm, grosses $15,000 per year.
Thankfully, Grebenc’s mom is healthier and back home, but Grebenc, now 14-years old, still works her chicken farm. She saves most net profits in a bank account for college and draws a small salary for fun stuff. Talk about an inspiration to kids (and adults), who want to boost their personal wealth or turn a tough situation into a financial opportunity.
Here are six tips from Grebenc’s story that might help your kids hatch their business:
1. Pick a Passion. Kids should find something that they are interested in and have a passion about, whether it’s chickens, art, music, skateboarding, or computers, says Daryl Bernstein, author of “Better Than a Lemonade Stand!: Small Business Ideas for Kids.” “These make the best businesses and your interest comes through when you are talking to potential customers.”
2. Think Through a Plan. “Get your business plan down, have enough money to get going, and do some advertising to get the word out there,” says Grebenc. Before she sold a single egg, Grebenc figured out what her costs would be—how much gain she’d have to buy to feed her first flock of chickens. With her dad’s help she also calculated what her revenue had to be to make a profit while adjusting for some loss to be cautious. Then she knew how to price her eggs.
3. Keep things basic. “Don’t over complicate it,” says Bernstein. “Kids have a whole lifetime ahead to improve and learn business. The important part is to pick something you love and go with it.”
Grebenc didn’t have any business experience, just a lot of get up and go. With her dad’s help, she created that rough plan and budget. From there, the business took off. “Don’t be afraid to dive in head first, get your hands dirty and get started,” says Bernstein.
4. Find a Mentor. Older kids, adults or organizations can guide kids and even handle some of the leg work that kids might find daunting.
In Grebenc’s case, she applied to Animal Welfare Approved, an influential North American non-profit that certifies farmers raising outdoor pasture or range animals with the highest welfare standards, for its prestigious stamp of approval. After visiting Grebenc in person, the auditor from Animal Welfare Approved wanted to certify the farm. There was one small glitch. Grebenc didn’t mention she was 10-years-old on the initial application and Animal Welfare Approved required its farmers to be 18 years or older. After a hasty board meeting to discuss Grebenc’s case, Animal Welfare Approved amended its minimum age requirement and awarded certification. Grebenc is the youngest Animal Welfare Approved farmer, a distinct honor.
Animal Welfare Approved also helped Grebenc get newspaper coverage, augmenting her existing marketing efforts: standing on the side of the road with signs. “It was a big deal to get approved and it helped with sales,” says Grebenc.
5. Pick a Cool Name. Kids are only young once, and can get away with fun, funny or funky business names. Names also help tell the company’s story.
For example, when Grebenc first started her business, people dropped off their unwanted, mangy chickens with chapped, sunburned butts. Grebenc found herself nurturing and healing these mistreated chickens, in addition to handling the daily duties of running the farm. “I had to put sunscreen and lotion on the chickens’ butts,” says Grebenc. “Now, it’s not an issue, but the feathers never grew back, so some of the chickens still have bare bottoms.”
In honor of these bare bottom chickens, Grebenc aptly named her farm, Shelby’s Happy Chapped Chicken Butt Farm. That’s not a business name you see everyday.
6. Stay Positive and Trust Your Instincts. “Don’t stop trying,” says Grebenc. “It’s going to be hard, but keep going.” Such a tough lesson, but this attitude pays off. Kids learn to believe in their instincts and take risks with every step forward.
“When you see what Shelby is doing, you are in awe that she is so poised and smart,” said Andrew Gunther, program director at Animal Welfare Approved. “There’s a trend going on to know where your food is coming from and Shelby captured that consumer interest.” Grebenc’s bold step to approach Animal Welfare Approved went beyond building her credibility. She’s also influenced and opened doors for other young farmers.
7. Have a Mission and End Game. Encourage your kids to make decisions about whether they’re raising money for a family member, special charity, college fund, or spending money for a new iPad. Re-evaluate your business every six months to adjust goals and set new ones when a milestone is achieved. Decide how long the business will last, so it remains fun and focused. Grebenc, an honors student, plans to keep working her farm until college. “I want to be a pharmacist, like my mom,” she says proudly.
Have a young entrepreneur in your house with start-up tips to share? Let us know on our Facebook page.