Add a Microbusiness to Your Teen’s Curriculum!

Consider a micro-business for your teen

Once your students hit the teen years, chances are that they are looking forward to relevant, real-world applications for what they are learning. Many of them will have a hobby that they can, with a little guidance and a few resources, turn into a thriving microbusiness. The best thing about business for teens is that they gain practical entrepreneurial experience on a small, reasonably risk-free scale. The next best thing is that they just might end up with a career they love!

What is a micro-business?

You may wonder what a microbusiness is, or what kind of things a teen can do as a small business. A microbusiness is usually a small, one-person business, often home-based, that is started and run without business loans, space rental, and other overhead. It is low risk, and many regular businesses can be started on a microbusiness scale. Let me give you a few examples from my own experiences. Perhaps it will help your teen develop a vision for the type of business he or she would like to try.

Selling a product that grows

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, so I started my first microbusiness when I was young enough not to be embarrassed to drag my little red wagon through the neighborhood. For several years, I’d wait for avocado season, then load my wagon and peddle avocados through several blocks of our neighborhood. Our tree was really large, so I averaged nearly $100 a year, selling them at .25-50 cents each. I also sold lemons and limes, but those trees were a bit smaller so I didn’t make nearly as much. I started a savings account and saved most of my income, and years later, used it to help pay wedding expenses.

Selling a handmade item

In intermediate school, I started a second microbusiness creating macramé bracelets with people’s names beaded in. I purchased the letter beads as I received orders, so I didn’t have to carry much inventory, and I made a very nice profit for as long as those were in style. My customers were mostly people at school who saw the bracelet I was wearing and ordered one.

If you make a handmade item now, you have the opportunity to seel it through Etsy, an online marketplace. At Etsy, thousands of people from all over the world offer handmade goods of all kinds—clothing, jewelry, pottery, woodcarving, metal craft, paper craft, patterns, doll furniture and accessories, and much more. Threshold Beyond is an example of the store our family is creating to sell hand-carved planner covers and signs, as well as metal crafted items. The Etsy blog offers articles and tips on selling, and displays featured stores.

Selling a service

Beginning in high school, I started doing calligraphy on certificates, diplomas, and other items, and that business lasted into adulthood. Eventually, I taught calligraphy at craft stores and the community college for several years before transitioning into writing and speaking. I love what I do now, and don’t have any retirement plans!

I enjoyed each of my businesses, and in each one, I learned something a little different. My parents were very wise — they were there to answer questions or provide support services, but they didn’t make decisions for me, and they let me start, run, and drop each business in an organic way. There was no pressure to keep working at a business when I was ready to move on. Daddy kept my wagon wheels oiled, and my mom took me to the craft store when I needed beads or pen nibs. I felt both responsible and supported.

Grant credit for a microbusiness

Micro Business for Teens by Carol Topp, CPA.A microbusiness can be an excellent addition to a teen’s high school curriculum and transcript. If your student is interested, he or she should begin by researching possibilities.The essential thing is to let the teen do the research, choose the business, and make the decisions, because that is how the best learning occurs.

It can be helpful to have a curriculum that supports the teen’s entrepreneurial journey with solid advice, and for that, I suggest Carol Topp’s excellent Micro Business for Teens curriculum. Carol is a CPA and graduated homeschool mom who has helped many young people start, run, and manage money and taxes in a microbusiness. The curriculum comes with three books and a workbook.

If a student reads the books and works through the workbook without starting a microbusiness, he or she may earn 1/4–1/2 unit of high school credit. Doing the curriculum and starting and running a microbusiness can result in a whole unit of credit or more, as there is potential for granting credit for not only Entrepreneurship, but also for learning the skills needed to create a product or service, and the bookkeeping skills necessary for keeping good records. There are many possibilities!

Microbusiness can be a step into the future

One of my sons taught himself programming and started making websites when he was very young. This provided him with experience, a bit of income, and a nice line on his resume. When he was 19, he graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and went directly into an excellent job.

Although I granted him credit on his transcript for what he learned, I didn’t teach him any of it — he found out what he needed to learn, and studied and practiced on his own. If he had waited for me to figure it out and create a “class,” we may never have gotten past the smattering of Basic programming commands I remembered from college in the early 1980’s. Not terribly useful!

Of all the high school electives your students can take, I believe that starting a microbusiness has some of the most interesting possibilities. Students learn real-world skills — communication, budgeting, small-scale manufacturing, customer service, and more — in a tangible way. They can not only earn credit for the learning, but also gain experience that will help them know what they want to do (or don’t want to do!) in the future. A microbusiness can help fund college, pay for lessons or hobbies, and just supply spending money, which is a pretty powerful motivator. Are you ready to try one?

You might also like 5 Reasons Microbusiness Should be Part of Every Education and other articles in the “Working” section of this site.

Other resources I’ve found helpful:

Small Business Administration

SCORE Counselors: Retired executives offer free business counseling through the Small Business Administration. They can provide wonderful, practical advice, and it costs nothing. Be sure to get acquainted with SCORE!


6 Responses

  1. Janice,
    As a homeschooling CPA I have a few small business clients that are teenagers. I just LOVE working with them. They are so eager to learn and sooo smart for consulting with an accountant! Ha, ha!

    I’m toying with the idea of writing an ebook for teenagers wanting to start a microbusiness. I got the idea when I attended a Kids in Business workshop that Amanda Bennett, the unit study queen, did at the Midwest HS Convention (in Cincinnati). It was packed with parents and students! Amanda doesn’t have a unit study on kids in business, so she was trying to talk me into writing something!

    At this time all I can offer is an article I wrote called Teens and Taxes. It’s on my website here:
    The webpage also has slides from a workshop I did for teen entrepreneurs. It’s on my To Do List to record that presentation and upload it.

    Thanks for the links. All good stuff to help a teenager get started.

    Carol Topp, CPA

  2. Great article! I too have found that the business has to be their inspiration, and they need to take the lead. My older kids learned a lot from their small businesses. Also, my dd17 started a business earlier this year that has done very well, and she’s learning a lot and having fun, too. She sells at the farmer’s market and craft fairs, as well as at, which is a great place for young people to sell their work:

    It doesn’t cost much to set up there. She has learned a lot about marketing from etsy’s webinars, too.

  3. Ed Nelson says:

    Please let me urge that you re-study your site with special attention to hyphens and dashes. These two marks are very widely misunderstood. (The Chicago Manual of Style, while commonly thought to be exclusively academe oriented, is good and thorough — maybe even more so than needed.)

    In any case, despite slips such as one a few years back by the NYTimes’ Bill Safire, thhe two marks have almost opposite intent. The hyphen joins typographic elements; the dash separates them.

    The most commonly accepted view ignores, to begin with, the en dash. So “dash” is commonly considered a reference to the em dash alone. In the old typewrite world, two hyphens were used to indicate an em dash. It’s used much like the comma (and commas are often over-used).

    The hyphen role easiest, perhaps, to misunderstand relates to its use in compound modifiers. When the two (or more) elements of a modifier are in an unclear construction, joining them with hyphens can be a great service to the reader. And the reader is, after all, the ultimate target.

    I hold the dash-hyphen distriction to be fully as important as the serial comma. Thus I hope you won’t object to [a] my rant on the subject and [b] my quite possibly have misplaced it based on my lack of familiarity with this service. I appreciate your patience. –Ed Nelson

  4. Dear Ed,

    Thank you for taking the time to visit the site and comment– I truly appreciate your interest.

    I have to admit that I’m thoroughly aware of the distinction in purpose and intent of hyphens and dashes, but have simply never figured out how, as I type into the WordPress interface, to create a proper en- or em-dash. Thus, the use of the hyphen as a substitute. I tend to use hyphens on compound modifiers only when it seems absolutely unclear without them.

    I do have the Chicago MoS at my elbow, and use it while writing formally. The blog functions as a completely informal way to communicate with readers, and posts are written quickly and casually without a great deal of editing. However, I’d love to know how you achieved those tidy looking dashes in your comment!

    Thanks again for your helpful input!

  5. Deb Maubach says:

    Hi Janice, I can’t believe I just discovered this, and at about the same time that Carol was thinking about writing an ebook on teens starting a business, I was just finishing one. I’m sure others could do a much better job, but I’m even more surprised there isn’t more information out there for homeschoolers on entrepreneurship.
    I have lots of free resources on our website,, and hope to update it soon.
    I would love to reprint your post on my blog-will email you soon.
    Thanks for encouraging teen entrepreneurship!

  1. August 19, 2008

    […] Add a Microbusiness to Your Teen’s Curriculum! […]

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