Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Micro Business For Teens

Our family is certainly no stranger to business ventures! I mean, this IS America, the land of free enterprise, after all! This past year, my husband started an auto repair business, and our family, including the children, have always had "a little something" going on to earn some extra income, whether it's to fund 'wish list' items, pay off debt, support our homeschooling efforts, or just help with needs. Our children have all made commitments at church to support various missionaries for a small amount every week. This means that they have to come up with money to fund their promise - not "mom and dad" money, but money of their own.

The children have all come up with various creative ways to earn some extra cash, but they are always interested in earning more. They are all good savers, thrifty shoppers, and generous givers, so we encourage them in any way we can to keep on earning. We were recently given the wonderful opportunity to review a course called Micro Business For Teens that included three books for the girls to read and study. These books are:

  1. Starting A Micro Business
  2. Running A Micro Business
  3. Micro Business For Teens Workbook
What is Micro Business For Teens? This is a complete course that inspires young people to take their good ideas and turn them into profitable business ventures, at a level that they easily manage. The three books listed above work together to take teens through the entire process.

What age is this for? The intended age range is 10-18 years old. 

What is a Micro Business? A micro business is a small scale business endeavor that is typically sole proprietor led, has an owner-operator, has low risk because of little to no start up investments, is easy to begin or close, allows the owner plenty of flexibility, and is usually home-based. 

What are some Micro Business for Teens ideas? Examples are given in the books of young people who started and grew businesses doing pet sitting, babysitting, lawn mowing, landscaping, computer repairs, small engine repairs, car detailing, cleaning, and tutoring, among others. 

How are the lessons taught? The books are self-paced and easily read and worked through by young people in the recommended age range. They are designed to be used by a young person in conjunction with the advice of a parent or mentor to guide them in the planning and starting stages of their micro business. In fact, some business ideas might even require some initial parent investment to launch the business, which can then be paid back when the business starts generating an income. The website is also FULL of extra information and videos that can enhance the lessons in the books.

What types of concepts are taught? The books begin with a lot of motivational thoughts, which seem to be intended to build some confidence in a young person, as well as arrest their attention to what comes next. They get the idea that "Hey, I think I could do this too!" after reading some of the many real-life examples of other young people who have successfully launched a micro business. The author then takes the readers right into the next practical stage of devising and fine tuning a business plan. Along the journey, chapters are included on different types of businesses, tax liabilities, governmental requirements, insurance needs, health and safety laws (for food related businesses), record keeping, budgeting, advertising, marketing, customer service, and time management. The workbook is designed to give the reader a place to write down their plans as they are learning. 

How can I know the tax and financial information is correct? The author, Carol Topp, is a CPA with many years of experience. She worked for 10 years as a cost analyst for the US Navy. She has been a licensed CPA since 2000, with many speaking engagements and professional memberships on her resume. Of course, specific tax advice is not given, with the intention that specific situations call for a personal accountant, but overall, the tax and business information in the books is very sound. 

In "Starting A Micro Business"  a good foundation is laid to teach the students about money management. The emphasis is not so  much on "money making" but it's more about learning valuable life lessons while earning a profit, and not being a 'slave' to a job or to your money making venture. There are many things that are important in the life of a young person, and while money making is not the number one goal, it does provide some valuable lessons.

"Running A Micro Business" really delves into the nitty-gritty of what the student needs to know in order to get their business up and running. It includes so many aspects of business that the average inexperienced teen (or parent, for that matter!) would have no idea that they would need to consider! Some of the questions that are explored are whether the business has a higher risk factor that would need extra insurance, what kind of online presence is needed for marketing, how much business can a teen comfortably manage, is software necessary for bookkeeping, and many more legal factors, such as naming and reporting earnings. 

The "Micro Business For Teens Workbook" has all the worksheets and pages to write on, where the student can, after reading the material, actually write down ideas, work out their plans, and do some basic cost analysis. There is a valuable block page for working a schedule out.

So what do the teens in our family think of these books? Both of my teens that read them, 16 yr old Laura and 12 yr old Melissa, already are running small micro businesses (and they didn't even know it!). They do cleaning, bake cookies and sell them to their friends, and do babysitting regularly. After reading these books, they have learned so much about how to take their business to an organized new level. I think it has really changed their outlook on their money making efforts. No longer are they just doing 'odd jobs'. They have really seen the potential of allowing these jobs turn into a means of some serious wage earning just by being organized and having a plan.

Melissa mentioned that she really liked reading the examples of other teens who have successfully turned their ideas into profitable businesses. She found their stories inspiring, and it made her think that "if they could do it, then so could she". 

Laura enjoyed the fact that the really complicated subject matter was explained in a very easily understood way. She did not feel that the books were condescending in any way, like books written for young people often are. She felt that the writing was written in a mature way, which made her take it seriously. She really liked how the author explained legal and business terms. She understood everything, and did not have to ask what it meant. She felt the books instilled confidence by completely equipping her to actually start and carry out a small business plan. 

What Mom liked: There is so much to like about this course! I feel it gives a great foundation by including things like time management, budgeting, and solid money principles (don't start your business on credit). The author is a Christian, and includes Bible verses on finances sprinkled throughout the material where appropriate. I love how the emphasis is on allowing a business to enhance the student's life, not on pursuing money for the sake of being rich. I truly feel that my children are only children for such a short time, and while I want them learning how to earn their way, I don't want that to be the main emphasis of their life right now. I want them to be able to learn how to manage finances, and earning money as a teen is a great way to do that. But I don't want them to be so hard on chasing money that they neglect their schoolwork, church ministries, youth group, family, or even their own health. I think these books really emphasize that balance well. 

A really neat extra: On the website, besides the really helpful videos, I found a page for teachers that includes a syllabus for using this course in a classroom setting, as well as a free teacher's guide that a home school parent can use for guidance and discussion of the course. 

How much does this cost? "Starting A Micro Business" and "Running A Micro Business" are both available in an ebook format for $4.95 or a paperback book for $9.95. They are also available in a Kindle version. "Micro Business for Teens Workbook" is available in pdf format (handy for printing out the pages needed) for $9.95 or paperback for $14.95. Other products or sample pages including a guide to "Teens and Taxes" are also available on the website. 

Final thoughts: I am very grateful for the opportunity to review this course. I know it will come in handy as the girls expand their ideas for earning money. In fact, as they read through the books and discussed ways to enhance their current micro businesses, 9 yr old Kelly was trying to get in on the action by asking "What can I do? When can I start a business?" I am so glad the girls are receiving this training right from the start of their business ventures. It can only help them be a success later on down the road!

To see what other teens of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are doing with these books, click the banner below: 

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  1. Erica,
    Thank you for the review! I really appreciate it.

    I'm glad your daughters liked the books. It will be fun to see what they learn and do with their micro business.

    I tried very hard to be clear, practical and inspiring. Looks like it worked!
    I really appreciate what you said about maintaining the balance between learning about money, but not focusing too much on it.

    You might enjoy the public television program Starting a Micro Business, based on the first book. It features 6 students (all homeschooled!) and their parents discussing their micro businesses.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! We will check out that link.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!