In a fast-changing world, our youth face an uncertain future. School can only prepare them for so much, and today, young people are adding valuable real-world skills through their side interests. Some are even making money doing it.
Between soccer practice and driving lessons, many teens also run successful businesses. They’re saving up for sneakers and college tuition. Others are even using their superpowers to make an impact on the world. Whatever their motivations, these young people are—sometimes unwittingly—also building foundations for their futures.
This article guides young people, their parents, and their teachers through the benefits of youth entrepreneurship, ways to get started, and a range of ideal business ideas for teens.
Why start a youth-run business?
Whatever your current plans for after you graduate—college, gap year, jumping straight into a job—remember that you’re young and can always change course. You have the most valuable resource at this stage of your life: time. It’s important to try on a few futures to see which fits best.
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Starting your own small business while you’re still in school lets you shorten the distance between theory (school books) and practice (hands-on skill building). It might also help guide your post-graduation decision—maybe your small business is worth pursuing full-time, or you might discover that entrepreneurship really isn’t for you after all.
A small business under your belt showcases leadership skills and initiative in a way a report card can’t.
If you’re applying to college, your desired school may consider your extra-curricular activities in addition to your grades. A small business under your belt showcases leadership skills and initiative, and colleges are looking for well-rounded applicants with success potential. It also doesn’t hurt to save a few extra bucks now for tuition and living expenses.
Lastly, starting a business can help to build your professional network. Even if you decide not to pursue entrepreneurship after you graduate, the people you meet along the way could be useful contacts for professional references or job offers.
To recap, the benefits of starting a business before you graduate are:
🎒 A well-rounded college application
💰 Extra money for spending or saving
🤹 Valuable business and life skills
🤝 Professional network-building
💡 Tip: “Never give up, try your hardest, and believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.” —Carson Kropfl, teen founder of Locker Board
11 small business ideas for teens
- Offer babysitting services
- Tutor or give lessons to younger kids
- Design and sell print-on-demand products
- Start a neighborhood services business
- Become an online creator (and sell merch)
- Sell handmade goods
- Start a pet-care business
- Host a pop-up market for youth
- Record reviews and unboxings for YouTube
- Run a summer camp for younger kids
- Design websites and online stores
1. Offer babysitting services
The lemonade stand of teen businesses! Babysitting is a perfect first venture for young teens looking to build interpersonal skills or put first aid knowledge to the test. Up your babysitting game by creating a professional website with your credentials, rates, and availability.
A scheduling app and intake form on your website can help you more easily manage bookings and family needs. Promote your business by encouraging your best clients to provide a testimonial on your site.
2. Tutor or give lessons to younger kids
Gifted at math or music? How about teaching some of those skills to others? If you’re patient and focused on the details, you’re a natural-born teacher. You can opt to teach one-on-one in-person lessons, or you can sell DIY kits, templates, or virtual classes through an online store. You can even use your online store to sell appointments for in-person services.
3. Design and sell print-on-demand products
If you love to draw or create digital designs, selling your art online as reproductions is a great way to make money from home while you’re still in school.
Tech- and business-savvy teens can run a simple side hustle with a Shopify store and a print-on-demand app, which can help you customize white label products with your own designs. Your art can be printed onto a number of products including beanies, t-shirts, art prints, and water bottles.
Not an artist? Anything from slogans to memes can be printed on products to sell.
💬 Wise words: “Come up with something that no one else has thought of before. Come up with something that is new so that you can surround the market on your own. You could make a ton of money selling something that’s kind of new and trendy.” —Charlie Kobdish, young founder of Charlie’s Treats
4. Start a neighborhood services business
Love talking to and meeting people? Start a service business. It’s a great business idea for teens because it doesn’t have to conflict with busy school schedules. Make your own hours and take on only as much work as you can handle.
Typical neighborhood services include car washing, mowing and lawn care, house painting, and snow removal. If you have flexibility and access to a car, start a helping service like personal shopping or grocery delivery, or maybe try mobile bike repair or cleaning. For creative teens, how about a décor consulting business?
Service businesses are low-risk and quick-start because you don’t need to buy or make inventory upfront. Create fliers with a QR code that links to your website, and drop them in mailboxes or post them on community bulletin boards.
5. Become an online creator (and sell merch)
If you’re a natural charmer and salesperson who uses those assets for everything from getting book report extensions to winning class elections, why not monetize your skills?
Build an online community through blogging, livestreaming, or posting content on social media platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, or TikTok. You could try beauty tutorials, gaming tips, or DIY videos, and may eventually be able to monetize your account. Online creators (or social media influencers) can earn extra cash by selling promoted posts to brands you love. Once you’ve built a loyal audience, turn your personal brand into a business and sell merch.
Shopify Kids Business Starter Kit
We’ve created a free 44-page activity book of engaging activities and exercises designed to lead children between the ages of 9-12 through the journey of imagining and developing a business idea.
6. Sell handmade goods
Your creative side opens plenty of possibilities to run a handmade goods business. Can you sew clothes from your own patterns, design jewelry, bake truffles, or make dog treats? These are just a few business ideas for teens who love hands-on activities.
Other ideas for handmade goods to make and sell include:
- Beaded or textile jewelry
- Handmade soaps or bath bombs
- Pet supplies like treats or leashes
- Greeting cards
Try selling through your own ecommerce site, an online marketplace like Etsy, at local craft fairs, or via local retailers. Use social media platforms to share your creations, post DIY reels, and build an audience. Be sure to pick something you’re passionate about—passion is what drives you.
💬 Wise words: “Go for your wildest dream. Do whatever you want to, even if it’s the craziest thing. Just listen to what your heart says, and make sure you’re having fun.” —Kamaria Warren, young founder of Brown Girls Stationery
7. Start a pet care business
As a teen, you’re old enough to start a business taking care of pets. You can choose to start a dog-walking business, or offer your pet-sitting services to watch or visit pets at your clients’ homes.
As with babysitting and neighborhood services, this business idea can prosper through word of mouth. Consider building an ecommerce store to sell not only services but complementary pet products like treats, collars, or dog sweaters. Target the pet owners in your neighborhood by handing out your business card (made with Shopify’s business card maker) at a local dog park.
8. Host a pop-up market for youth
Creating a handmade product is one of the best business ideas for teens. To take it a step further, why not curate a show with other young makers either at a high school or local community center. Find craft fair vendors in your school’s art program, and promote your show through social media marketing and asking other makers to amplify.
Other types of curated markets could include resale items and collectibles like vinyl records or comic books, or a charity bake sale.
This is an ideal small business idea for teens looking to earn extra spending money without the long-term commitment. Run a local craft fair as a one-time event, or as a recurring seasonal business.
9. Record reviews and unboxings for YouTube
If you thrive in the spotlight, you may want to pursue a business that puts you there. Performative teens with a strong interest in a certain hobby (think gaming, photography, or hair styling) can build a following by uploading video reviews, demos, or unboxings to YouTube—and eventually monetize the channel.
Other business ideas for teen extroverts include hosting a podcast, becoming a videographer, or starting a photography business.
10. Run a summer camp for younger kids
If you love working with kids and being outside, help neighborhood parents with child care services on your summer break. When you’re not in school full time, you can invest more time in your small business. Run week-long camps around themes like drama, wilderness skills, STEM, or crafting.
Starting as a babysitter during the school year is a great way to build your client list and credentials.
11. Design websites and online stores
If you excel at digital art or coding you can start a graphic design business or a web design service from your bedroom. Tech-savvy teens can offer services to help design websites from scratch, create logos and fliers, or bring local businesses online by building ecommerce stores.*
Teens who enjoy playing video games may consider designing an app or online game as a small business idea. Tech support, data entry, technology tutoring, and transcribing services are other business ideas for teens who like working with computers.*
Do’s and don’ts: business tips for teens
If you’re the type to excel at school work while still balancing an active social life and extra-curriculars, you might also have what it takes to start a small business. But there are a few best practices to ensure you don’t burn out and you’re getting the most of your experience as a young entrepreneur:
✅ DO have fun. A small business is a valuable learning opportunity, but it should also be something you enjoy. Whether you’re running a pet cleanup service or selling music lessons, choose a business idea that brings you joy—not stress.
How to start a business if you’re under 18
If you’re in high school, you may have enough autonomy to successfully run your own business almost entirely on your own. There are, however, a few legal and financial considerations.*
If you’re under 18, you likely need parental signoff to get started. Depending on national and regional law, in most places minors cannot legally start a business on their own, nor can they sign legally binding contracts.*
Parental help will also likely be required to open a business bank account. Again, this depends on the laws where you live. Many services like Shopify and PayPal require you to be at least 18 to sign up. As such, parents are legally liable for the actions of teens through these various accounts.*
🚀 Ready to get started? Learn everything you need to know from finding your target market to building an ecommerce store in our guide to starting a business.
Teens and parents should discuss how much involvement each will have, how roles will be divided, and what safeguards are in place to protect both parties. Note: This information is not a substitute for legal and financial advice, and parents are encouraged to contact their lawyer and accountant.
🤔 Questions for young entrepreneurs and their parents to ask before starting a small business:
- How much time will you have to dedicate to the business each week?
- How much autonomy will the teen have?
- Who will manage the finances?
- What are the ground rules and consequences for breaking them?
- What’s the exit strategy?
Bonus quiz: Which Baby-Sitters Club character are you?
Are you a Claudia or a Kristy? The Baby-Sitters Club, a classic YA book series and Netflix spin-off, follows a group of enterprising young girls who band together to dominate the temporary child care market in their town. Take our quiz to see which Baby-Sitters Club character is most like you—and what it says about your small biz persona.
Feature illustration by Alice Mollon
*You must be 18 years of age or older to sign up for Shopify.
Business ideas for teens FAQ
What business should I start as a teen?
The business you choose depends on your interests and the amount of time you have to dedicate to it. However, your entrepreneur personality type might also point you in the right direction. There are many business ideas for teens, such as social media influencer, web designer, personal shopper, or owner of a delivery service business.
What can I sell as a teenager?
Provided you have parental permission and the item does not have age or legal restrictions (alcohol, for example), teenagers can start their own business and sell almost anything. Selling handmade items, dropshipping goods, and child care services are some easy business ideas for teens.
Can a 13 year old run an online business?
Yes, a 13-year-old can start a business. They will require parental involvement to sign up for an online store and manage financial aspects of the business. Parents may also wish to monitor or restrict a young teen’s social media presence or other marketing channels that may not be age-appropriate.
How can I start my own business as a teenager?
The first step to starting a new business as a teenager is to ask a parent or guardian. Teens will likely need parental signoff to set up a website and bank account. After that, teens can get up and running quickly by selling products or services through a simple ecommerce store. The Shopify Starter Plan is ideal for young people who wish to sell products without building a website. This is also great for teens looking to build a business as a social media influencer.
How can a kid start a small business?
Kids younger than 13 can start a business with help and approval from parents or guardians. An adult can help young entrepreneurs set up a simple website and provide ongoing support for marketing and customer service. Children can get involved in many aspects of running a business, such as producing products and learning skills in social media and communication. Business ideas for kids and young teens include dog-walking services and handmade goods.