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Teen Entrepreneurs Provide Information All Entrepreneurs Can Use

By Laura Petrecca, USA TODAY

Launching a small business can bring big returns. But it's anything but easy money. Running a firm takes stamina, creativity, discipline — and sometimes, even physical work.

"Starting your own business is more than just buying things and trying to sell them," says Amy Rosen, CEO of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a non-profit organization.

NFTE, which provides entrepreneurship education programs to low-income communities, teaches skills such as negotiation and creating a business plan.

ENTREPRENEURS: More teens starting their own businesses

Enterprising kids can also turn to Junior Achievement for formal instruction and advice. Its 135 chapters in the U.S. teach entrepreneurship, workforce readiness and financial literacy.

For kids who want to get started right away, USA TODAY polled successful entrepreneurs and small-business experts for advice. Their tips:

• Don't let shortcomings thwart you. Everyone — from those with learning disabilities to those earning national scholastic honors — has the ability to become an entrepreneur, says Mark Victor Hansen, author of the soon-to-be-released book The Richest Kids In America: How They Earn It, How They Spend It, How You Can, Too.

• Expand upon your interests. "Find a task (or) work you like and that is in demand," says Lucas Rice, 18, who runs a successful landscaping business in Loveland, Ohio. "With my business, I like to be outdoors and to work with my hands, which was one of the reasons I chose landscaping."

• Create a formal business plan. "Put it all on paper in an organized and accurate fashion," says NFTE's Rosen.

• Scour for savings. Leanna Archer of Leanna's Inc. surfs the Web to find the best prices on everything from ingredients to product containers. Kids who buy supplies should also negotiate for discounts, Rosen says.

• Price wisely. "Feel around and see what other companies are charging," then price competitively, Rice says. "When you're starting out, go a little lower on price in order to start capturing some customers."

• Make taxes less taxing. Save every work-related receipt. Those expenses could become tax write-offs. IRS.gov has details on dependents, such as children, filing tax returns.

• Create a sound financial plan. Archer has a formula for allocating the money she makes. She socks away half her earnings in a college fund, 25% is reinvested in the business, and the last 25% goes to a charitable cause to help kids in Haiti, where her family is from.

• Don't overinvest in supplies/equipment. "Allow your business to grow, and then grow your equipment into your business," says Rice, echoing advice he was given by others. He invested in his first riding mower at age 12 (bought at a yard sale with savings from a newspaper route) and as his customer base grew, he conservatively bought more equipment.

• Promote your business and yourself. "Seek business; do not wait for it to come to you," says Rice. "I go and welcome new people in the neighborhood and offer my services and give out business cards." Archer promotes herself and her products on the Web, as well as through fliers she places into shipments to customers.

• Know the rules. Entrepreneurs who want to hire other young folks for help should check the YouthRules section at the Department of Labor's website at youthrules.dol.gov. It provides federal and state labor regulations for younger workers.

• Carve out personal time. "For a while, I was working so much that I didn't have time to do things that I wanted to do," Rice says. He didn't want to miss out on leisure actives such as golfing with friends, so he made some changes to his landscaping business, such as hiring others to help him with the work. He now has three employees.

• Stick with your dream. When Archer first brought up the idea of selling hair pomade, her parents didn't take her seriously. "It took a lot of convincing" to get the business going, she says.

"My mom was like, 'Maybe you can start the business when you are 20 or when you get out of college.' " Now, Archer is bringing in six-figure sales and has customers as far away as Ghana, Switzerland, Indonesia and Iceland. 

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