Starting a Business

I recently had someone reach out to me from another state who saw my YouTube video about starting a business. This got me thinking of ways that I can help other kids start a business.

Here are some useful tips I have come up with for kids interested in starting a business:

1. Keep costs low by starting small. A great way to do this is to launch a business from your home.

2. Consider a business that requires little to no overhead, such as a service-based business.

3. Use your creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to come up with a unique business idea that meets a need in your community. There are lots of businesses and markets that I like.

Some examples are:

  • trash can valet

  • picking up dog poop

  • dog walker

  • pet sitter

  • car wash

  • lawn care

  • baby sitting

  • lemonade seller

  • tutoring service provider

4. Don't be afraid to ask for help from adults, whether it's financial assistance (to print flyers), advice, or mentorship.

How did I get started?

I first became intrigued about starting a business when my grandfather told me about his paper route as a kid. This reminded me about a book I read called, "Way of the Warrior Kid" by Jocko Willink. In the book, the main character searches to find a job that no one wants to do. Later, I heard my Dad say that he hated taking out the trash every week. Aha! I thought, "I can do that!" Initially, I took out my family's and my next-door neighbor’s trash. Next, I started handing out flyers to nearby neighbors and got I got 1 new customer. I was a little frustrated that more people weren't signing up to use my business. So, I reached out to my local newspaper, the "La Jolla Light," and asked them if I could advertiste in the paper. To my surprise, they wanted to help me advertise by writing a half-page story about my experience as a young entrepreneur. My dad helped me create this website and a Gmail account so that interested customers could contact me via my website/email. My business really picked up once the article (and website) was published. Shortly after, I received a phone call from the local news station, CBS, to do a story about me on the 5pm news. This helped me find even more customers. It was such a cool experience!

I have tried to keep everything manageable. My mom helped me put together a binder of all of my customers. Each customer has his/her own page and includes contact info (name, address, phone, and email) as well as any notes associated to the account. For instance, I can write down gate codes or special instructions on where to place trash cans. I also have a place to write down the date and the number of trash cans I take out each week. Before I leave for my route, I check the San Diego Trash Collection Schedule to see which trash cans (black, recycle, or greens) that will be picked up that week.

Regarding how I get paid -- I tried to electronically create invoices for my clients but this depended too much on my parents' help. I now track my customers with paper invoices and then fill out a paper form at the end of the month. I write down how many trash cans I collected and on what date. I also write how much they owe. I charge $2/trash can. On the form it includes methods of payment (cash, check, or Venmo). If they pay by check, I include the address of where to send the check to. If they pay via Venmo, it goes to my Mom and then she gives me cash. It has been really cool to get real checks with my name on it from customers! I am able to sign the back of the check and deposit it into my own bank account.

The best part of my job is receiving thank you notes or hearing kind words from my customers! The one thing that I didn’t initially think of is that this service can be life changing for some of my customers, especially the sick and elderly. It has been really gratifying talking to them as I am picking up their trash as they really appreciate my business. Some tell me that they are using my service because they used to have a paper route as a kid and love seeing a young kid like me out there “hustling”. It is these interactions that keep me motivated to continue my business...especially on those late Sunday nights after a long weekend of sports.

The one thing that has been hard about this business is turning away customers that do not live nearby. At this point, it is just me (with the occasional help from my brother and sister) collecting the trash cans. My mom drives me to each customer. It is my hope to expand the business and have other kids in the neighborhood service different areas of La Jolla. There is definitely a need for this service.

The journey of starting this business has been fun and a great learning experience. I hope you found this helpful and interesting. Please reach out if you have any questions about starting your business.

Best regards,

Mark Stoneham

Owner, Curbside Cans Valet