My Youth Entrepreneurial Journey

My Youth Entrepreneurial Journey

How to encourage a child’s work ethic and financial goal-setting.

Thanks to my parents, I have been fortunate to have a diligent work ethic and entrepreneurial drive. They instilled a lesson in me at an early age: “If you want something, you have to earn it!” That empowering message has stayed with me throughout my work trajectory, from my start as a babysitter to my current position at the local Del Norte Credit Union.

As a teenager in Santa Fe in the late 1990s, I found ample ways to earn a modest income as a young entrepreneur. Thanks to friendly neighbors in the Yucca/Rodeo Road area and families at our local church, Santa Maria De La Paz, I got my first summer job at 13 years old as a babysitter. To me, earning $8 per hour was quite something! I wanted to save for the coolest mountain bike and gear, which cost $300. My parents proposed a strategic compromise: “We can pay for half, and you work throughout the summer to pay for the other half.” I signed up for a CPR certification at La Farge Library and completed that necessary skill set to babysit. I proudly made that $150, and my parents graciously held up their end of the bargain. That experience helped me learn about goal-setting, the value of money, budgeting, saving and earning a reward at the end: my mountain bike!

The following summer, at 14, I was asked by a neighbor who had an ice cream truck to be her trustworthy assistant. I eagerly accepted, now earning $10 an hour! What was I going to do as her assistant? While she drove the truck, I greeted the customers, got their ice cream orders and made cash transactions. I remember handling change was a challenge. My neighbor was very patient. I was in a local swim team and I wanted some new swim gear, totaling $500. My parents once again strategically compromised, offering to pay for half if I worked to pay the other half. I was able to purchase my new swim gear by setting a goal, budgeting, saving and learning not to spend what I earned on other things!

I happily worked as an ice cream truck assistant for another summer. To this day, when I hear that iconic ice cream truck song, it warms my heart and brings back fond memories of those two joyous summers. I learned about customer service, handling money and having a positive, can-do attitude. 

At 16, with some experience under my belt, I received a work permit, approved by my parents and authorized by the city of Santa Fe, which enabled me to work part-time. I had the privilege of working for three years on weekends and in the summers at the local Santa Fe eatery Delectables. It was a family-run restaurant where we made delicious sandwiches, soups, desserts and, of course, what Delectables was mostly known for: their tasty homemade ice cream! My boss was the main chef and his wife was the bookkeeper. They hired high school students and young adults, introducing them to the hospitality and restaurant industry including front- and back-of-house restaurant job duties. 

Again, I had a financial goal when I worked at Delectables. The income I would earn at $11 an hour would go towards my biggest aim yet: a chaperoned group trip through St. Michael’s High School to visit Europe the following summer. 

Yet again, my parents made a deal: I would work and with my earnings contribute $2,000, and my parents would provide $3,000 towards my flight and trip expenses. It was quite an endeavor for a 16-year-old to undertake, but with budgeting, saving and working at least eight hours a week, I met my goal! That magical and eye-opening trip to Ireland, England, France and Italy with my friends and adult chaperones was one I will never forget. I felt accomplished and empowered by becoming financially fit at the time. The following summer, I saved enough to fully fund my senior year trip, a chaperoned group trip to Costa Rica. I thank the Delectables family and my parents for allowing me to learn cashier work, cooking skills, hospitality service, restaurant hygiene techniques and customer service, while having fun doing it! 

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Now coming full circle, my partner and I are financially educating and empowering our 6-year-old daughter on her entrepreneurial journey, much as my parents did for me. Of course, this is a family affair, in that parents/guardians are encouraged to discuss and determine favorable opportunities for their kids and teens.

I’d like to share some tips and resources for you to consider to help your kids and teens be financially fit and have an entrepreneurial spirit, particularly during these summer months. 

For kids ages 5-12:

  • Encourage them to learn the value of the dollar by having a weekly or monthly allowance, whether it be for conducting a number of house chores, for good behavior or completing their school work, as agreed upon as a family. 
  • The Three-Jar Allowance activity can be a fun way for your children to learn how to budget and save for what they want. The three jars represent Current Expenses, Short-term Savings and Long-term Savings. This is a simple way to start introducing children to the concepts of spending (now), saving (for the near future) and investing (for the more distant future). Banzai Direct, a free financial literacy resource sponsored by the Del Norte LOV Foundation, has a good article detailing this exercise.
  • Having a lemonade stand or selling cookies might be great ways for your children to start earning some income, while learning about budgeting, expenses, IOUs and savings. Again, Banzai has an interactive online course to help you start as a family. 

For teens:

  • They can babysit for the children of your family, friends and neighbors,.
  • Shovel away snow from your elderly neighbors’ driveways during those cold, wintery months.
  • Help with some light yard work including, pulling weeds, watering plants or raking away fall leaves from either your own yard, or to lend a helping hand for other family members or neighbors.
  • Work for a relative, friend or neighbor, as I did as an ice cream truck assistant!
  • After obtaining a work permit approved by a parent/guardian, your teen can work part-time to learn lifelong skills at an entry-level job.
  • Start learning more advanced financial concepts through Banzai’s user-friendly, age-appropriate resources for educating teens about finances. These include a neat savings calculator, a practical 50/20/30 rule article on saving and an online course to help your teen make real-life decisions on either saving for a car, for college or both. 

Now that we see the hopeful light at the end of this dark pandemic tunnel, I encourage you to teach and empower your children and teens to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey to be financially fit this summer. I hope in sharing my youth entrepreneurship journey along with financial literacy resources that can help you along the way, you can implement the lifelong mantra my parents conveyed to me at an early age: “If you want something, you have to earn it!”


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