Maman really wanted one of the toys, which supposedly help students focus, after spotting them on Etsy, but wasn’t sure about the reliability of the products and didn’t want to wait several weeks for shipping. So he tested making them using his school’s 3-D printers, sold “a ton of them” at school and created an online business with Weiss, Maman said in an email.
Fidget360 now uses a factory in Brooklyn and distributors from China, Maman said. They have $300,000 in sales, but Maman plans to “cash out” of the business because he thinks the fidget spinner market is becoming saturated.
Establishing a side business may be a promising avenue for teens eager to gain work experience and potentially some extra cash this summer – especially as retail jobs continue to decline – but it’s no easy feat.
Parents and students can take advice in the following three areas from teen entrepreneurs to balance a side hustle with academics.
1. Feedback: The first step to starting a business is an idea. But while budding entrepreneurs should be passionate about their concept, they should be open to change too, says Jackie Molloy, a 17-year-old junior at Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois.
She created Skunk Aid in an entrepreneurship course with classmates Nicole Relias, a 17-year-old junior and 18-year-old recent graduate Shayna Reznikov. They make the product, which removes skunk odor, themselves and sell it online and locally.
Parents and teachers can help teens by providing honest feedback, Molloy says. Adults shouldn’t be harsh, but they also shouldn’t lead teens on by praising an idea that isn’t great – that’s not helpful.
2. Focus: Brennan Agranoff, 17, is the CEO and founder of Hoopswagg, a sock company he created in middle school. The company sold more than $1 million.
The junior at Sherwood High School in Oregon plans his day and focuses on the task at hand, though he says it’s not easy to manage school and work.
He’s also learned to delegate tasks to others as his business has grown – he now has 17 part-time employees.
Maman said teens can “always party and hang out with friends later” and encourages them to keep working if they have a good idea.
Parents can help by being as supportive as possible, he said. “When a kid is an entrepreneur and they are very busy, they tend to get extremely stressed out. If a parent is bugging their kid about doing their work or asking a bunch of questions about school, they will end up getting more upset.”
Maman also convinced his guidance counselor to allow him several free periods to work on the business on his laptop in the library.
3. Free resources: The internet has many resources, says Agranoff. He developed graphic design, social media marketing and coding skills on his own.
Teens should also build connections and find mentors, he says. He’s met many other young entrepreneurs who are great to talk with and can relate to him. Students can find peers by joining teen entrepreneur groups on Facebook, he says.
Support from family and friends helps, said 17-year-old recent graduate Mariah Faith Bourne, who started a women’s clothing boutique Shop Seventeen in her mother’s hair salon in Stanford, Kentucky, via email. She established the business during her senior year at Lincoln County High School.
Still, students have to believe in themselves.
Maman said many of his teachers thought he was a “deadbeat” because he got bad grades. “But when they realized the money we were making and the bigger moves, they tended to give a lot more respect.”
And even if a business isn’t successful, Agranoff reminds students that it’s still a valuable experience.