Children’s Business Fair: Choosing the Right Business with Your Child

Children's business fair logo

Written by Lisa Bean

Lisa is the founder and head of school for IGNITE: An Acton Academy. She is a Mom of two boys, an entrepreneur, and a coach for high-performance businesses, leaders, and parents. She is passionate about re-defining education for the 21st century, and is adamant that learning be a fun and engaging experience that honours a child's unique strengths and passions.

April 29, 2023

There are so, so many good reasons to help your kids explore the world of entrepreneurship. Whether it is a small project such as a lemonade stand this coming weekend, or a grandiose idea that doesn’t seem even remotely realistic. I promise you; the learning opportunities are worth it!

But, here’s the thing… although you have the best of intentions, the thing that holds most parents up, and kids too, is choosing the right business. There are so many great kids’ business ideas; how do you choose the one that is right for you?

This past year, I decided to host a Children’s Business Fair in my local community. Children’s Business Fairs are a fantastic initiative to provide kids with an outlet for their ideas and business experimentation. It’s low risk. It’s easy. It’s fun. If your community has one of these — check it out today! If not, consider hosting one as a family or community project.

During this experience, the one thing I heard repeatedly: “Great idea. We’d love to participate, but I have no idea what my kids will do.”

This came up so frequently that I developed a standard, but proven framework for working through the roadblock around kids’ business ideas.

A Lesson in Solving Problems

Before I explain the framework for finding the right business, I want to point out that entrepreneurship is very much about learning to solve problems. This is one of the gifts that a kidpreneur project can give to your kids!

We want to teach our kids to push through adversity. They are learning to get comfortable in not knowing and not having all the answers but doing it anyway. It is about being ok with not getting it right (aka. failure).

As parents, we are just as susceptible — in fact, even more susceptible due to our life experiences — to the desire to avoid failure than our kids are.

Finding the right business is just the first minor problem to solve.

So, make a commitment to lead by example. Coach your kids on how to move forward in the face of this slight adversity and figure out, if not the perfect answer, a good-enough answer.

Now, that I’ve said my piece, here is what you can do to help your child find the right business idea for them.

Coach your kids on how to move forward in the face of adversity and let them get comfortable in not knowing and not having all the answers but doing it anyway.

Start with Questions

In my experience, kids love brainstorming, and it can be helpful to get them to open up, be creative and explore possibilities. With brainstorming the wilder the kids’ business ideas, the better. No idea is judged as wrong or impractical so it can be really fun to see what ideas are proposed.

For now, suspend any critical thought or judgement.

If the concept of starting a business is still a bit unknown to your child, you may start this off by watching some YouTube videos together. Try searching ‘Children’s Business Fair’ on YouTube, for example. Here’s one that is great: Children’s Business Fair 2011- Recap Video.

Once you have a solid base of understanding, start asking the following questions. This can be done in one sitting or over the course of a few days.

  • What do you like doing?
  • What do you like creating?
  • Is there anything that people regularly ask you to help them with or to make for them?
  • What are your strengths (things you are good at doing)?
  • What were the last 5 items (or services) that you bought for yourself? Ask a few different people to answer this question and see what you hear.
  • If you go to a craft fair, what type of things are you attracted to buying?
  • Are there any holidays or events coming up that could inspire you? For example, if summer vacation is around the corner what types of things might people be looking to buy?

Write All the Business Ideas Down

Having a place to visually record all the creative ideas can be very helpful.

First, it ensures that you don’t lose any of the ideas, and the act of writing them down tends to trigger more inspiration and ideas. Lastly, it makes it easier in the end to evaluate and prioritize the ideas.

You could use a whiteboard, a chalkboard, or a big piece of paper taped to the wall. If your brainstorming happens over the course of a few days keep it somewhere visible and add any ideas that pop to mind.

Evaluate the Business Ideas

I am not fond of over-analyzing things at this stage as this is where we can get stuck. If your child is really having a hard time deciding, suggest that they set a deadline for themselves.

I believe this is where the approach can and should differ by age of the child. If you have a younger child (under 10) or if this is your child’s first experience with a business, keep the evaluation stage simple.

Try suggesting that they circle the 3 ideas that are most interesting to them, and the 3 ideas that they think will be the easiest to do. Is there any overlap between these 2 criteria?

For older kids, a slightly more robust evaluation could take place, just like an adult entrepreneur might undertake. Try this for the criteria:

  • Which products or services does your child have the most experience with?
  • Which are they most passionate about?
  • Which are going to be the easiest to execute? (For example, are there significant start-up costs, a large investment of time, or other resources that need to be acquired?)
  • Which ideas look like they may be the most profitable?

A word of warning — don’t get into the analysis paralysis trap here. The time spent on this step should be measured in minutes, not hours and days.

Decide and Go OR Decide and Test

Once you’ve done the analysis it’s time to make a commitment — which idea should you go forward with or test?

Again, I believe the approach should be dictated by the age of the child. Older children may benefit from the experience of testing their ideas, creating a prototype, and doing some market research. Younger children are more likely to benefit from more of an instant gratification approach. In absence of this, their interest and momentum may fizzle out.

If evaluating the idea did not produce a final answer, use the ‘gut feel’ approach. Have your child close their eyes for one minute. Ask them to open their eyes and say the first idea that comes to mind. Ta da… that’s THE IDEA!

Sometimes our brains get in the way of what our gut knows!

Keep it Simple and Age Appropriate

I hope you and your family find this approach as useful as it was in our family. It ultimately sparked all kinds of ideas and we have launched businesses around leather bracelets, lava rock bracelets, table centre pieces, tie dye clothing, and dog treats.

In all this experimentation I have noticed one other thing: It does not have to be complicated in order for your child to get a high-quality learning experience. Keeping it at your child’s level so that you can be minimally involved is going to provide for the best type of learning experience.

Even the most basic of lemonade stands, baked good tables, and garage sales still have the same mechanics of running a business, and therefore the same learning opportunities.

If you keep it at your child’s level so they can do most of it on their own they will be encouraged enough to keep exploring, keep learning, and keep having fun.

It does not have to be complicated in order for your child to get a high-quality learning experience.

Now it’s your turn! Have your kids expressed an interest in starting a business of their own? If they have, or if like the idea of true hands-on-learning projects like this, hop over to the Children’s Business Fair website and find a Fair near you to participate in.

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