Monday, April 19, 2010

Boys & Business

What do your boys know about the world of business?

Most boys (mine included) are excellent consumers, thanks to the miracle of television ads. But what do they know about the other side of the transaction? Do your boys have any idea what it takes to develop a product, start a company or sell to other people? It's not a crazy question. As Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, points out, your son will never get rich working for other people.

I understand that "rich" may not be all you hope for your son. Most of us want our sons to be happy, healthy, well-rounded people, despite the size of their bank accounts. Understanding the basics of business, though, gives your son an edge in today's economy, no matter what. There's something to be said for understanding why your boss does what he does. There's even more to be said for knowing how to land on your own two feet when your job is yanked out from under you. Which brings us back to business.

Son #1 is blessed with an entrepreneurial bent. At the age of four, he picked a handful of dandelions and asked to sell them in front of our house. I almost said no. I mean, people pay people to get rid of dandelions! Moms and grandmoms have been oohing and aahing over dandelions for years, but that doesn't mean they'll pull over to buy some.

I didn't say no, though. I bit my tongue, helped him make a sign and carried a table out to the front lawn for him. Before I knew it, my boy was in business. People stopped! The newspaper came and splashed his picture across the front page. (Yes, we live in a small town.) One woman even sent him an anonymous card a week later, saying how much he reminded her of her sons at that age. She enclosed five dollars.

My son, to say the least, was thrilled. I was dumbfounded. My boy learned some important lessons about customer relations, and I learned to keep my mouth shut. My role isn't to squash my boys' dreams; my role is to support and facilitate.

Fast forward eight years. Son #1 is now 12 and known around town for his business sense. He's been selling produce at the local Green Market for six years; for the past two, he's purchased his own space. This weekend was his annual tulip sale, an event he started almost six years ago. (The 40-odd bulbs he originally purchased and planted in the garden have multiplied, bringing him $40-$50 each year. Not a bad return on investment, eh?)

Our boys have sold everything on the front lawn, from flowers to pumpkins to sweet corn and tomatoes. (It helps that we live on a safe, well-traveled street.) Son #3 purchased an MP3 player this weekend -- with money he made selling cookie bars out front.

But enough about my boys. Have your boys started a business? I'd love to hear about it!


  1. So funny you bring this up. I am married to Mr. Entrepreneur but we haven't passed this on to our kids, at least not intentionally. Just this weekend, though, in an attempt to raise a little more money for his goal of a new bike, SJ borrowed $20 from himself to buy a box of Skittles that cost $.49 per package. He sold them for $1 at our yard sale. He was thrilled when he did the math. Not so thrilled when he had to pay himself back his initial investment. But it was a start. I love the idea of a tulip sale. I had so many people ask about my irises this weekend, we could have sold dozens. Perhaps I will suggest it...

  2. my boys knows a little bit. We were friends with a guy that owned a hobby/gaming store. The boys' fav game was having some business troubles, making it hard to buy new stuff and the older things where on clearance. Our friend told he boys about the companies and how they work and the choices they made awhile ago that led to their current problems. They have done their own garage sales (where they planned, priced, did everything on their own, even customer haggling) Gavin hopes to be able to sell some tomatoes at the farmers market if he gets extras on his plants.

  3. I'm increasing my demands from yesterday. In addition to the nachos I now require cookie bars to be part of the deal!

  4. @Carrie -- What a great lesson the candy sale was! Now, your son knows all about "mark-up" and how stores make profits.

    @Kimberly -- Sounds like your boys got some great business lessons straight from the source. My boys would be jealous to hear about their garage sales. They totally want to do that, but I'm not crazy about having to clean out the garage. :P

    @Anonymous -- What's in it for us?