Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Micro Business for Teens: a Review

Over the last year I've been running a distribution small business. This is something for which I have had no training so the learning curve has been steep. When I had the opportunity to review some books from Microbusiness for Teens I jumped at it, despite not having been a teenager for many a long year!
Micro Business for Teens Review

Carol Topp is an accountant in the US who has written books specifically for tweenagers and teenagers from 10 to 18 starting what she calls microbusinesses. She defines these as being easy to set up and close down, having one owner and typically no employees, a learning experience, low risk as generally debt free and often home based. She states that these are ideal first businesses for teens. The books Starting a Micro Business,

Micro Business for Teens Review
Running a Micro Business

Micro Business for Teens Review
and Micro Business for Teens Workbook

Micro Business for Teens Review
 have all been written to support those starting a micro business. I reviewed the pdf ebook version of these books.

The books start with basics and assume no prior knowledge. They are clearly aimed at teenagers and the many examples are of teenagers running businesses.  In the first book, Starting a Micro Business, the chapters are
  • What is a Micro Business?
  • Getting an idea
  • Problems and pitfalls and how to avoid them
  • Writing a business plan
  • Financing your business without breaking the bank
  • Taking care of business
  • Encouragement
I was fascinated to learn that one in eight Americans own a micro business. I haven't a clue about the proportion in the UK. 
The ideas suggested are practical for teenagers including things such as babysitting and cleaning. One of the things that had prompted Carol Topp to write this book was reading about unrealistic business ideas for teenagers such as opening a restaurant. There is none of this here: the ideas are sensible and have been tried and tested by teenagers.
The workbook has a section for brainstorming ideas and then working through some of these ideas.
The problems and pitfalls chapter details difficulties for Micro Businesses and  also points out the differences between those with products and those with services. I certainly didn't fully appreciate the difficulties of having products to store. This is one of the issues which are detailed.
The chapter on writing a business plan is something that should really be part of everyone's education. I certainly remember being in meetings for doctors where we had to be taught the importance of business plans. The business planning in the book is quite simple but goes through the business concept, marketing plan including researching the competition as well as a financial plan.

The second book, Running a Micro Business, is aimed at the teenager who has already started a business although it would be important reading of anyone about to open a micro business. Its chapters are

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer service
  • Record keeping
  • Bookkeeping basics
  • Using software
  • Legal names and numbers
  • Reducing risk
  • Time management
Again, the book was practical particularly around how to make a sale and market the business. Time management is, of course, always relevant especially for teenagers who are balancing other responsibilities with a business.
The workbook covers the contents of both books and goes through what needs to be done on a step by step basis. For example, the chapter on business planning has sections for writing about the business concept with detail such as thinking through trends in the industry and whether there is an opportunity in the field plus much more; followed by step by step marketing and financial planning.

I found these books easy to understand and helpful. They would have been ideal for me to read a year ago. I am working on some of the ideas to improve my systems.

In terms of the UK, there are some differences

  • under 18s are not able to be business owners here so would have to work with a parent.
  • the regulatory/tax framework is different. 
This doesn't negate the utility of this book. 
Obviously, mothers owning businesses have some different issues but many are similar.  I  highly recommend this set of books for anyone who has little or no business experience and has either just opened a business or hopes to open one.

Do pop over to the Microbusiness for Teens website to see some samples of the type of information in the book plus many ideas for businesses.

The books are very reasonably priced and Carol makes the helpful point that their cost can be deducted against business taxes. The two books, Starting a Micro Business and Running a Micro Business both cost $4.95 (about £2.94) as ebooks and $9.95 (about £5.91) as paperbacks. The workbook costs $9.95 (about £5.91)as an ebook and $14.95 (about £8.88) as a paperback.

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  1. Ooh, that looks great. I have a tweenager who's desperate to run her own business. We're starting with selling old stuff at a garage sale in June!

    1. Good for her! Selling old stuff in a garage sale sounds like a win-win!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Great topic! I have a few questions I would like to ask you, regarding these books. Where can I send you my questions? Sorry, I couldn't find a contact link. I'll see if my local HS store has these in stock.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Carol,

      The books are available on my website MicroBusinessForTeens.com and there is a list of other retailers on the homepage.

      If you have any questions about running a micro business, post them on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MicroBusinessForTeens?ref=hl or on my website

    3. Thanks Sarah, I sent you an email, I hope I got it right. ;)

      Carol, I do not have a Facebook account, sorry.

  3. Sarah Elisabeth,
    Thank you for the review! I really appreciate it.
    I really appreciate your perspective from the UK.
    I didn't know that teenagers under 18 were not allowed to start a business in the UK. Too bad, there is so much they can do.
    I'm looking forward to visiting the UK (London) this summer for the first time. We have 8 days planned and a lot to see and do!

    1. Thank you for reading.
      I think the way round teenagers starting a business here is for them to work with a parent.
      I do hope that you enjoy your visit. There is a vast amount to see. Let me know if you need any local advice.