Having a mom who teaches entrepreneurship can lead to some pretty interesting summertime activities. I believe that every kid needs to learn how to start up a business. (I also believe every kid should learn how to change a tire, make a turkey, fold a fitted sheet, work in retail at least once and and learn to play an instrument.) My mother owned the first frozen yogurt shop in Omaha in the late 80’s and I grew up learning about what it was like running a business from the inside out and it brought invaluable insight and a lifelong love of frozen yogurt.
In the late Spring of 2016 I told my daughters that they needed to come up with a business idea and that my husband and I would fund it. It had to cost less than $500 to start and it had to require less than 100 customers to be profitable. My then 14 and 8 year olds were baffled. What could they possibly do and sell at their ages? The previous summer we’d done a lemonade stand and learned the valuable lesson of focused product mix. Caitlyn wanted to sell lemonade AND silly bands but we learned lemonade consumers aren’t necessarily silly band users and Taylor learned all about break-even points and product margin… but that is another story. Of course I would help them and offer guidance, but I wanted them to pick something that was simple enough that they could do most of the work on their own.
After some research, debate and some intense sessions watching Shark Tank, it was determined that with this new business venture, handmade candles, soaps and scents, we were going to go a bit bigger with the bells and whistles than last year’s lemonade stand but keep the business seasonal to accommodate their school schedule. After all, this is a learning activity, not a sweat shop. It was very shortly thereafter that Old Glory Company was born.
The girls learned how to do market research, vendor management, supply chain management, marketing, branding and product testing without knowing that was what it was called. The girls picked the scents, the shapes, the sizes and we set up shop in our kitchen making small batches of candles and soaps with the girls running everything from writing and posting social media to packing and writing personalized notes on the invoices and packing slips.
They researched types of materials and learned the process of soap making; choosing materials that were healthy and natural. They learned how to quality test product and even threw away some candles and soaps that were not up to the standards that they knew they could create. Over time, they developed new product standards – like no longer using dyes so that the candles burned cleaner and longer. They switched vendors to get better pricing. They refined the processes so that they could make soap and candles faster but with high quality levels.
They managed the online inventory process and chose the e-commerce website provider Shopify to run the back end of the business. They learned about taxes and shipping fees. They learned about profit margins and market research for developing a pricing model and ordered samples from vendors to test and compare as they developed the product mix.
They learned how to value customers and communicate more effectively. They wrote customized notes on every single order and responded to reviews, questions and comments online and via email. They took the time to listen and learn and made changes and additions to what products we offered the customers. They even made changes to the shipping packaging with some customer feedback and added some new scents.
They learned how to market themselves and their products. They took pictures of the products – learning how to use light and angles to create the best possible images of their handmade products so people could see them from every angle. They sent out newsletters talking about product, product materials and upcoming scents and specials. They created sales and specials to create customer incentives to buy so we could make room for new inventory and even took on a special project – a wedding shower as a special order.
They learned brand new skills that they will use in every aspect of every job that they have. They took a calculated risk and by the end of June they had not only paid back the investment but they had earned money that went into their college fund and a little money that they got to spend. Taylor got her first debit card and learned how to use it.
They learned how to give back, donating proceeds from product and even setting up a fundraiser for a local animal rescue HUGS who found our beloved little pup Annie Oakley. When the event concluded we were able to donate over $100 to HUGS to continue their mission.
They didn’t just run the company over the summer, we did a lot of other fun stuff too. We went to Minnesota to fish and play outside. There were swimming lessons, a nano-tech camp, play dates and canoeing. We went to movies and played soccer and jumped on the trampoline. We ate s’mores, read books (Harry Potter) and we spent time with family and friends. In all the other things working alongside the business, they learned balance.
The girls still run the business over the summer and produce small batches of product to maintain some inventory but maintain high quality standards and they have become old pro’s at the day to day efforts. I don’t know how long Old Glory Company will around, but I know that what the girls have learned in the process will last with them forever.