Good Work Ethic & Entrepreneurial Teenagers

When I was growing up, and as teenagers, we didn’t get an allowance. We didn’t get pocket money. And we didn’t expect to get all the things we wanted. This may sound harsh, but it wasn’t at all. It was normal to us and totally fine. We knew that we could work, we could find creative ways of finding odd jobs, small jobs, and part time jobs. And these weren’t jobs to help around at home either — those are just chores, those were expected as part of our family — but jobs outside of our home.

I was recently reminded of my entrepreneurial teenage days when my god daughter, who is fifteen, started her own little company with a best friend making beaded earrings and rings. They named the brand Liza Jane. And I have loved watching her develop her concept, source her products, create an Instagram page, and sell these items on Etsy… even sending a few pairs of their earrings to friends to photograph before the launch date. So professional.

And then the joy for her when she announced recently that she broke even financially with the business! What a great thing to celebrate. And to understand. Not just the money side of all of it, but everything! Packaging. Branding. Shipping costs. Brand values. Dealing with customers. Managing money. Choosing to be eco conscious when possible. How to manage time.  So many decisions. Think of how many skills these two teen friends, Maia and Lottie, have learned about business and life in that one experience! The balance of work and play, of school, and of learning. This is such a great foundation for all humans.

And I remember my first business venture fondly. When I was twelve I had an apple pie making business. I remember it so very well. I received bags of free apples from a kind neighbour who was too old to have the energy to make crumbles or pies. He was happy for them to be used! So I made one pie, then two pies, and then my my mother brought a pie to a retirement celebration at the school she taught in and it sparked the interest of others.

People love pie. But they don’t always love making pie. And soon I was not just baking, I was taking orders and selling dozens of pies to my mother’s teacher friends. The pies were delicious but also very artful. Maybe even beautiful — with crafted crusts, of Autumn leaves etc. This was pre Instagram feeds and Pinterest. Pre Etsy shops and talk of brand experience happening at dinner tables. But I knew the artful crusts were an essential part of my brand. The pies only cost seven dollars each, ($7)! But I had done the math and knew how much time and materials and comparable bakery pies cost. And I was making money. And I would sell dozens in a week at my peak week — Thanksgiving!

It was hard work, but fun. And I learned so much from it, and also earned money from September to December every year making them for three years straight. I still love making apple pie. Although now just a few a year. But I have so much appreciation from that time that I can’t make a pie without reminiscing.

And I have a great respect now when I see teenagers who don’t expect everything to be given to them, but instead think of interesting ways to make money. I don’t yet have teenagers, but I hope a good work ethic is already being instilled in my children, and that they look up to our friend’s older children and teenagers who work — and learn how to wisely invest time and money into their jobs. I also love that Liza Jane have considered their product against all the several options out there in the world — and that their earrings and rings are so lovely and well made that I too will proudly wear them.

Perhaps you can share my little interview I did with them with teens in your life. Maybe it will inspire them too? Here are the responses to some questions I asked Maia, of Liza Jane (who sell on Etsy here). And like the budding professionals that they are, here are their very sweet answers below. And may I also add, that these are great gifts for women and girls of all ages as they are under £10 so if you don’t inspire them with the story, you can inspire them with a stocking stuffer or gift!

Liza Jane:

What inspired you to do this?

The idea of beaded jewellery first came from when I was travelling around Kenya when I was about 13. We where staying in this camp and the guides who where looking after us brought out wire and beads and taught us how to make braclets, earrings, rings and much more. I totally fell in love with it and spent hours sitting on the ground beading. I made all of the gifts I brought home for my friends there, and it occurred to me that one day I could sell these. How amazing it would be to create our own together and include my oldest childhood friend. She loved the idea and we began planning.

What do you plan to do with the money you earn?

We will save the money, some going to gap year and travelling savings but most of it we are going to spend on tickets and accommodations to go to the Edinburgh festival next year as a celebration of finishing our GCSE. However, in the short time some of the money will have to be re invested in Liza Jane, on new colours etc. 

What’s the most exciting thing about having a business?

I think mostly the fact that we get to create these pieces that people wear, and like. And we have put so much into this and people are so kind to us about it. We have had so much support from so many people and that’s really lovely. Also just getting to be with Lottie for hours planning is great.

How many hours do you think you each spend a week on it?

Early on it took up almost all of our time. But this was when we where experimenting. Over the summer is when we decided to do it because we had time. We sometimes sit together to take photos, and have a ‘making day’ and since we went back to school it hasn’t been in our way at all.

What values are important to you in your business?

I think the most important thing to us is being as eco friendly as we can. People need to take more care over what we buy and whom we buy from and creating a brand people could buy for guilt free was very important to us. Obviously no one can claim to be completely eco friendly, but we have tried our best to make our packaging all recyclable (except tape which is necessary for shipping). You have to be so careful about what you buy in this day and age, people throw the word ‘eco friendly’ around and so we don’t tend to flash it around because it can’t be 100% true.

But we are making the move every day towards it, and that would properly be my main piece of advice to anyone creating a small business. Be careful with what you buy because we have to think about the planet. Another thing is properly being independent and handmade. Our earrings are handmade and aren’t completely perfect. Being handmade they are what you would call ‘perfectly imperfect.’ This is what we hope people will love about Liza Jane, that it is made with love. 

Last thoughts…

Have fun with it! – one of the main things that makes us love doing Liza Jane is that we get to spend all this time together. We have something that we created together. Even if you are doing it on your own, still enjoy every moment of it. If you haven’t had orders for months, switch up your Instagram. If you can’t seem to get any new ideas, take a break and go totally crazy with ideas.  

How sweet is that? What wise girls! And savvy business owners. I love these entrepreneurial  teenage thoughts… actually, we can all learn a lot from them! So inspiring. Thanks Maia and Lottie of Liza Jane.

Teens and money is such an interesting topic, and if you liked this you should read the post Esther has written about clothing allowances and teens learning to save and spend wisely here. And Courtney wrote a great post about chores for all kids in her family here. What are your views as a parent? We’d love to hear.



Comments (1)

November 11, 2020

What clever girls – good on them for being so resourceful !!!

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