Why your artistic teen should start a business this summer 

This is a guest blog post written by Crystal Parker from





As a kid I was a class 1 entrepreneur.  In elementary school I traveled around the neighborhood earning quarters polishing shoes.  I shoveled out driveways with 4 feet of show for 20 bucks a pop in middle school.  Not joking. I grew up in moncton nb, Canada; look it up! Then I hit high school and went to work at McDonalds.  Downer eh?

What if I had started my own business instead? Invested that time into building my own brand of modern chainmaille jewelry (which was a hobby at the time), or started selling wedding pencil portraits? Or even started busking balloon animals at the city markets (something I already did for charity). Instead of investing in my creative abilities I spent 20hrs a week at Mcdonald’s smelling of old french fries and grease.

So why didn’t I start a business when I had creative ideas I could have ran with? The same reason most teens settle for McDonalds.  It’s easy guaranteed income. It’s safe. And it was expected; no one told me I could do otherwise.

Teens, you don’t need a guaranteed income! Parents, your teen doesn’t need a guaranteed income! There’s no other time in their life they’ll be so secure and safe to take risks with income. Teens do not have rent, food bills, power bills or bills of any sort.

Adults everywhere dream of breaking away from their day job to start their own businesses, but they don’t.  They can’t.  They’re just making ends meet as it is and they have families that depend on them.  So they work hard in their jobs and try to get promoted.

Businesses are more than numbers and finances they require creativity and energy.  Artistic teens are well equipped to find creative solutions. Their creative passion can carry them through tremulous early stages, and the desire for spending money will double their motivation.

Personally, I have just started my own creative business now at 28 with 3 kids.  If your teen wants to start a business they should do it now while they have less obstacles.

Parents encourage your teens to enjoy their youth and do something they have passion for instead of giving their most energetic years away for minimum wage. Better to make no income and have the memories and experiences of pursuing something they are passionate about.

And which looks better on a resume or college application? Worked four years at McDonalds part time or built my own business from scratch? Or even: built five businesses, one of which was successful? Entrepreneurs are cool and they stand out as more valuable.

I’m going to share some steps to help your teen find a business idea and get started:

Steps to find a creative teen business idea:

Find a specific problem to solve.

There are many problems around us that can be solved creatively.

Find problems to solve by talking to people (In your community, at meetups, on the internet.), or by checking out the services wanted section of kijiji.  

Some example problems:

Upper class working mom is looking for unique playhouse for her backyard so that her daughter will have the best playhouse in the neighborhood and the other children will want to play with her daughter.

A bride wants to make her reception unique and special for her guests.

A local business is hosting a community event and looking for entertainers that will make it a success.    

My business is helping homeschool moms who want to provide their artistic teens with high school level art curriculum that goes beyond copying the teacher, and can be done independently.  

Find a creative solution.

A creative solution is one that solves the problem in a way that makes the person with the problem excited to pay. Artistic teens can use their skills to solve problems doing things that they enjoy doing.

Here are a couple creative solutions for the examples:

Upper class working mom – I can design a unique princess castle for your little princess that will make her the belle of the neighborhood, and organize the construction using a local contractor.  

Bride – I can provide a personalized wedding photo booth with props and costumes and will deliver, setup and takedown. Additionally, I can stay with the booth, take the photos and create a memory book to enjoy for years to come.

Local business – I have a unique style of performance art where I quickly paint a large canvas with my fingertips to create a stunning landscape that does not appear until the last few seconds. In addition to entertaining your guests the paintings can be auctioned off for charity which will get a write up in the local newspaper and lots of positive press.   

In my business my solution is an online art curriculum that functions like a high school art course to teach techniques and principles in multiple mediums and provide challenging art projects that encourage creativity. In addition I’m building a community atmosphere by including free access to a private community group where students can get feedback and encouragement.

Be super specific and know your ideal customer.

Don’t try to solve everyone’s problem. Pick one type of person and one problem. Who do you think the mom I mentioned would be more willing to hire? The local carpenter who builds chairs, decks, kitchen cabinets and playhouses or the young woman who’s designed three princess themed playhouses?

Why is it that way? Ever hear the expression jack of all trades, master of none. If you focus on one specific area and skill set you quickly become very good at it and that makes you the superior choice.   

Find out if real people are willing to pay.

Just because you’ve got a cool idea to solve a real problem doesn’t make it a winner.  Talk to real people who have that problem and ask them if they’d be willing to pay.  If you can get at least a couple people agree to pay you, then you’ve got a working business.

Build a portfolio.

Once you’ve decided on the problem, the solution, the ideal customer and know they are willing to pay then you need to build a portfolio.

That means you need samples of your work solving that exact problem in a way that would appeal to your ideal customer. Your portfolio is what you show any prospective customers to persuade them you can solve their problem.

While I’m still building my course, I’m giving away a free ebook on my site called, “The minimum a homeschooler needs to start painting with acrylics” that allows parents to experience how learning through creativity can inspire their artistic teens. This functions as a sample of what I have to offer in my business.

Price for success.

Do quality work and change a quality price. People are willing to pay for quality, and if you undercut yourself and charge less than you are worth, it will not be long before you give up.  

Yes, there are brilliantly talented artists on etsy selling jewelry for low prices, but they’re not doing themselves or their customers any favors. They’ll burn out because they can barely pay for materials and then their jewelry will no longer be available to anyone.

If you’re offering a valuable service or product and you’re not making more than a burger flipper you need to either raise your prices or find another problem to solve.  

Some websites to help artistic teens get started:
An encouraging article by a homeschooled teen from Indiana about why teens should start a business.
Author Carol Topp teaches teens to start micro businesses. 60 minute free PBS video lecture on getting started.
Free guide to help adults make money on the side but excellent principles for teens as well.
A website that teaches how to sell art online. I haven’t used the content from this site, but it’s interesting enough that I might try it sometime in the future.

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