Teach ‘Em How to Hustle: 11 Ways Your Teen Can Become An Entrepreneur This Summer


Teen Unemployment = Opportunity

[Be sure to see the bonus 12th item on the list at the bottom of the page! Share the list with a teen and invite him or her to participate!]

It is a major concern for parents, communities, local businesses, schools and urban areas alike. The Brookings Institute issued a report on March 14, 2014 highlighting the staggering teen unemployment rates which hover at roughly 25%. The black teen unemployment rate tops 40%. (There are countless reports showing differing rates – I encourage you to do your own research.) Teens are perhaps the greatest casualty of our sluggish economy – they are also the future of our workforce and our economy. An article referencing the Brookings report makes this important point:

Unemployment is most severe among low-income teens—those who need jobs the most. Says the report: “So-called ‘disconnected youth’ or ‘opportunity youth’ are missing key education and employment experiences and are at increased risk for a host of negative outcomes: long spells of unemployment, poverty, criminal behavior, substance abuse, and incarceration.”

Unfortunate. And preventable. No one wants kids to sit and home and watch TV all day except for maybe kids. Summer is known for “summer slide” – that learning loss that occurs as students lose momentum during the hot days of summer. How do we combat this? The same way we can keep our kids active and our streets safe: by giving them something productive to do (saving them from shenanigans, binge eating junk food and too much television). The reason we need to be proactive and creative here is not just because of teen lethargy and lack of jobs, it is also because our kids are hungry for and deserve to live lives of meaning. So what can we do?

Teach ’em how to hustle.

“Hustling”  (doing whatever you can to make money is their language, not ours. But as I and any good educator will tell you, the way to reach kids is by “meeting them where they’re at” and using their language to connect. Poor grammar aside, supporting kids in getting out there and getting their hustle on is indeed how they know we are paying attention and making an effort to dial in. What do we want our kids to actually do this summer? Become entrepreneurial. Teens are so resourceful. I want them to find and create opportunities and things to do that stimulate their own drive to be active and do something that benefits them in some way. What is an entrepreneur ultimately? A hustler. I have taught hundreds of kids entrepreneurship and they instantly understood the larger connotation of an entrepreneurial attitude when they thought of starting a new business as being a hustler. In the process, my students and your teens develop valuable skills, including:

  • Creativity
  • How to pitch an idea
  • How to close a deal
  • Building connections with others
  • Developing a network
  • Finding a unique product or service idea they are excited about
  • Filling a need in their neighborhood or community
  • How to do market research and set prices
  • How to ask for money
  • How to connect with others and empathize with others’ needs and perspectives
  • Communication skills

11 Ways (+1) To Hustle.

Here is my list of 11 things your teen can do this summer to keep busy, productive, learn new skills, and maybe even get paid. I encourage you to talk to your children about these options. Let me know later this summer if there’s been any hustling happening around you and what skills you see your kids developing. NOTE: I wrote the list to a teen audience so it’s easier to share! I also put $$ next to the suggestions that could also be casual income. Parents, please use your own knowledge and judgment about safety, taxes, etc. Casual employment is so important for our teens – don’t count out a job that may require some research on your part.

  1. $$  Take a CPR and First Aid course. Get certified. Approach family friends about babysitting – this helps make you employable! In addition to inquiring about babysitting gigs, offer up your services for a family outing at the beach, a community event or even a weekend trip out of town. Every set of parents wants time away from the kids now and then.
  2. Learn how to write code and code an app: There are lots of community centers and organizations teaching coding to kids and teens. Interested? Learn now for free – those of us over the age of 18 have to pay to learn this SUPER valuable skill! I love places like the South End Technology Center (created by the esteemed 86 year old African American MIT professor emeritus, Mel King) in Boston for a community-friendly spot. MIT and countless others offer such summer programs – call and inquire. The website may say the course is full but you never know if someone has dropped out, opening a seat for you!
  3. $$  Help a neighbor run a yard sale: Negotiate for 20% of the total earnings. Better yet, canvas the neighborhood and find families interested in a block yard sale. Offer to do the signage, advertising (use your bang up social media skills) and set up for families needing extra help. Negotiate a percentage of the total income for all families involved.
  4. $$  Get a permit to sell water at outdoor community events: There are tons of events and festivals during the warm summer days. Stay hydrated yourself and take a friend and work together. Someone sells water – why not you?
  5. $$  Mow or rake lawns Or water and tend to your neighbors’ gardens and flowers. Grass grows fast in the summer months! Your service is always needed. Create a little business for yourself by having a team of friends do this work with you.
  6. $$  Clean and wash cars. Schedule times to visit people’s homes to vacuum and clean interior and hand wash the exteriors of your neighbor’s and parents’ friends’ cars. You will make an initial investment buying big sponges, buckets, rags and cleaning supplies. Ask your customers to provide the vacuum (with outdoor electricity) and the water source. And then do a really good job. If you are not a clean freak with your own car, skip this line of business. People like this job well done – that will pay big dividends in the form of repeat customers and word of mouth advertising.
  7. $$  Be the local social media maven: Approach local small businesses and offer to set up and manage (for an ongoing fee) social media pages. You can build a Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter account in your sleep but can the local family-owned dry cleaner? Maybe not. Remember to dress the part (wear dress pants and a polo in summer) when you go to make your pitch. And smile!
  8. Be a digital coach for an elderly person: Whether a neighbor or people at the local nursing home, offer to help an elderly person set up an email account and a Facebook page to stay connected with family. This work takes patience and might not pay but it sure will teach you important skills (resume worthy!) if you are interested in teaching, social service work, coaching, communications or training work. Advertise in your local library and grocery store. Make a cool flier with your phone number – use big lettering and pic of your beautiful self. And tell the reader/potential customer what 3 things he/she will gain from working with you.
  9. Be a volunteer dog walker: Love animals? Know how many of them need actual human touch and walking? Too many to count. Volunteer to walk dogs and clean cages at the local shelter. You might even take up a collection of old blankets for your shelter – all furry friends deserve a soft place to sleep at night.
  10. $$  Start a blog Share your voice with the world. Interview people and talk about things that matter to you. Start with your friends and neighbors. Everyone has something to say, it’s just that most people don’t have the opportunity to be heard. Be that opportunity. Create the audience. Change the world by looking at issues that matter to you in a new light. You never know, this could be the start of a budding writing career! (There are advertising options you might choose to incorporate that generate income – just don’t go overboard or people won’t visit your page).
  11. Be a language buddy: Bilingual? Check out online language tutoring sites. Help teach someone else English or Spanish or Swahili or Dutch. Make a friend in the process. Make a global connection. Become a contributing member of our global family. There are only 7 billion of us – you can help make the world just a little bit smaller.
  12. Be a voice for change! Help start a movement! Send your resume and a short essay writing sample to Amy Carrier  (Amy@EmpowermentThroughEducation.com) by July 31, 2013 telling her how YOU would like the education system to change for the better and how you think all students can be better prepared for the future. You could become a regular contributing voice on Empowerment Through Education‘s platform!Your piece should be no longer than 500 words and include your name, the grade you’re going into, the state where you live and an email address where you can be reached. Please discuss the following:
    • what you would change
    • why it needs to be changed
    • how it would improve all students’ futures
    • what you personally would like to do to make it happen