The joy, the pleasure, the inexplainable rapture of the lemonade stand. We all had one when we were a kid, or some venture that was close to one. Subsidized by the kindness, patience, and hard cash of our parents, most of us know the sheer bliss of making a few bucks selling glasses of lemonade for a nickel a pop. Then, as we grew up, selling lemonade transformed into mowing grass or washing cars. Every summer meant a bit more money for clothes or movies or, if you were more responsible, college.
The work ethic of millions has been built on experiences gained during summer employment. And I feel like it shouldn’t stop when we grow up. We become content – content with our jobs, our lives, our little ruts – and we forget about that entrepreneurial spirit that had us up at 6 AM to wake our parents and build a stand out of old plywood.
This summer, think about opening up a side business. A little space to get some extra cash and that you can make the hours for – something you’ve had a passion about but no real opportunity to pursue. Side businesses are great because they don’t require as much dedication, or money, and let you test out the waters. While you still have a bit of time left in spring, think about:
What kind of business you’d like to run
There is no shame in starting a business to make a little extra money, and there are plenty of entrepreneurial pursuits that will help you do just that. ‘Turnkey businesses,’ things like fast-food franchises and car washes, are always an option. But they require a bit more capital, and if you don’t have much passion for the project you will quickly jump back into your rut and be plenty happy for it.
But if you have a passion for something – business consulting, webpage design, tutoring, selling knives door-to-door…(maybe not that last one) – the best time to pursue it is right now. Most of these businesses can be run as a sole-venture, making you the one and only employee you have to worry about. Plus it is pretty cheap to start a business out of your own home and register it with the state. Heck, some states only require that you file a ‘doing business as’ name and file your taxes on time. So figure out what you’d like to do, and go from there.
How much time you can give to it
Businesses need a lot of time and dedication – that’s why it is so important you are passionate about what you’re doing. Remember that you’ll have to be an advertiser, designer and promoter along with a business owner. Treat this venture like you would a part-time job back in high school. Back when you had to clock in and work your full shift or your angry, slightly rotund manager would come looking to chew you out.
Budget ten or fifteen hours to start with, and then go from there. If you need more time, add more, but try your hardest not to shirk off hours. Even if you come home completely exhausted, give it at least one or two hours before you turn on the TV or head to bed.
When you can start ‘learning on the job’
Learning by doing is a great piece of conventional wisdom that is only half way to the truth. The first part will be researching everything other people in your field are doing so you can see what works and what doesn’t work.
Is there an online message board you can scroll through? Has Craigslist panned out for a lot of them? What common mistakes do you see people making?
However, in the midst of research, don’t forget about that whole ‘learning by doing’ bit. You can spend a lot of time preparing yourself and then never take any real action. Research is cozy and safe, actually acting out is scary and difficult. Just remember that you will make mistakes – even if you did spend countless hours reading about hiring a website designer, using Groupon, or cutting customers deals, you will slip up. Roll with it, remember what that lesson taught you, and keep at it.
Now, if you treated this venture like a part-time job, remained dedicated, and had a bit of luck on your side, you might have something quite astonishing by September. It may not be as tangible as couple thousand dollars towards a new car or a semester’s tuition, but it could be a lot more rewarding. Just don’t let another Summer pass by without knowing if you can make it. If it doesn’t work out, fine – you’re out a small bit of money and could have gotten a bit more sleep.
But if it does work, there isn’t a better feeling in the whole world than to watch the humble beginnings of your own business begin to grow.