My 8-year-old wants an Etsy shop: thoughts on raising young entrepreneurs

My 8-year-old wants an Etsy shop: thoughts on raising young entrepreneurs

entrepreneurs-header

First she wanted a blog. Now she wants an Etsy shop.

This is nothing new. Sarah’s been making things for as long as I can remember, and she’s wanted an Etsy shop since the day she discovered it.

She loves to create: she knits, she sews, she crafts. She designs cards and hair accessories and address books. And most recently, purses.

I think they’re pretty cute.

In between the creating, she sketches business plans and roughs out sales flyers. She makes numbered lists of potential customers and future products. She calculates her income and her expenditures. (She wants to spend half her income on more supplies and send half to Ethiopia.)

We’ve never encouraged her in any of this; it’s just what she does. Sarah has the crafty gene and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a delight to see her in action–although it has created a few dilemmas. (And I’m not even talking about the mess.)

*****     *****     *****

entrepreneurs-3

I was the young entrepreneur once. I loved to make things and I wanted to go into business. My most successful ventures were a gift shop in my bedroom (among other odds and ends, I sold used books, which I’m sure surprises exactly no one), and a tiny bracelet business.

I sold my bracelets to my friends at school, and once I exhausted that market, I begged my mom to drive me to local boutiques to sell them–and she did. (Looking back, that’s what surprises me the most.)

But somewhere along the way, I lost that path. I reached a point where making things for market just wasn’t fun anymore, and selling them was no longer an inviting challenge–it was just plain hard. I don’t know if I succumbed to my own perfectionistic instincts, or if that’s a normal path kids follow. I just know I quit.

I still made my own creations and sewed my own clothes, but I didn’t create as much as I did before, and by the time I hit my teens I never dreamed of selling anything (even though people asked). I’d decided that wasn’t for me.

*****     *****     *****

So what does that mean for my own daughter? How do I encourage–rather than squelch–her creativity and entrepreneurial instincts?

Her products aren’t exactly Etsy quality right now, but something tells me my job as her mom is not to help her improve her products–it’s to fuel her love of creating. I’m afraid that tips on bettering her goods might have the opposite effect.

entrepreneurs-2

And Will and I are trying to determine the right amount of encouragement for her entrepreneurial instincts. We obviously don’t want to put the kibosh on her business plans, but she’s not ready to run an Etsy shop. What’s the right amount of feedback? What direction should we (gently, gently) guide her in?

Honestly, I’m not comfortable with the thought of her shaking down the neighbor girls for cash (even though we’re just talking about a few dimes, and even though that’s exactly what I did as a kid).

My husband disagrees. A recent conversation went like this:

Will: Maybe she should drop [one of those adorable wallets] in her gym bag to take to dance. Those kids will want to buy one. 

Me: {Laughs}

Will: I’m serious!

We’re thinking about letting her sell her wares at our next extended family gathering (after giving the adults sufficient warning). We’re encouraging her idea to give away handmade gifts for Christmas and birthdays. And we’re only giving feedback when requested.

I never thought parenting would be easy, but I can tell you this: these are not the mothering challenges I thought I’d be encountering with my 8-year-old.

Do you have any  young entrepreneurs in your life (or were you one yourself)? All tips welcome in comments!

Help! My 8-year-old wants an Etsy shop: thoughts on raising young entrepreneurs.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page

77 comments

  1. Katie says:

    I think you will find this boy’s story inspiring: http://louisbarnettchocolates.com/Louis_Story/

    I used to sell things to my friends in school as a child – I generally had more ideas than products though! I sold stickers in the school library at break times and kids I didn’t even know would come buy them. No coercion or distance selling involved 🙂 I think I would be keener on real-life sales than etsy at this point though.

  2. Anne, I came across this article while researching young Etsy Sellers. I am planning a course to teach young people, especially girls how to create a business from their hobbies. As the mother of an adult son ( a creative entrepreneur who loves his work and life) , a craft biz coach and self-employment proponent, I found your take on this interesting. I completely agree with you about not helping your daughter improve her craft (unless she acts you to on her own). However, I agree with your hubby on the allowing her to go with her desire to sell her craft. Here’s why: I find so many people, particularly women, have this long-held belief that it is wrong to get paid for their gifts. They are comfortable receiving a paycheck but their issues around getting paid to do what they love and what comes naturally. I say if Sarah wants to try her hand at selling her creations, allow her to go for it under supervision and encourage her to give a portion to a good cause. It will teach her that her creative gift is valued and she won’t dismiss it as impractical.

  3. Erin says:

    I don’t know about the kids aspect of things, but what about setting up a Facebook page for her business and letting her sell on there. You could control who sees it so it wouldn’t be as public as etsy.

    Also etsy has gone downhill since they now allow manufacturers to sell. It makes it harder and more complicated for artisans to market their wares.

  4. Vanessa says:

    I think you should encourage as much as possible, and support her goals as much as is financially feasible for you to do so. It sounds like you’re worried about her self-esteem and how she will cope if things do not go well, which is totally valid. But that’s where you’ll come in to give her pep talks on perseverance. Constructive criticism and crafting a pretty product is good, but learning to roll with the punches and get gritty is the more valuable lesson here.

    And who knows? You might not need to teach her that at all! Maybe her first venture will take off like a rocket. Crazier things have happened!

  5. Erin says:

    Hi! I just discovered your blog by accident, so I’m joining the discussion a little late. I’m so curious to know what came of this topic! Did your daughter open her etsy shop? One fun idea could be to help her connect with like-minded friends and set up a holiday fair at your local community center, church, etc. You could even give her the option to donate a part of the proceeds to a charity of choice.

    On a side note, my twin sister and I were those kids who crafted constantly, set up lemonade stands, sold hand made crafts at our garage sales and yes, got our mom to drive us around to local boutiques to sell our jewelry when we were 12. Today, my sister and I work full time hand crafting jewelry and wedding accessories!

    • Anne says:

      She didn’t open an Etsy shop. Lately she’s been baking more than crafting. 🙂 It sounds like you had a fun childhood and that it serves you well now.

  6. My 7 year old has had a business since he was 5 and it has been awesome! We happen to live on 57th bet 8/9 in NYC.. a prime location for any store front! What happened was when he was 5 I asked him to draw a few pix for our Christmas card. They were such great designs, I copied them at Kinkos and glued them on to expensive Italian card stock and used them. I used to work at Kate’s paperie, a premiere stationary store and I knew this whimsical cards were so good and I knew that the quality was just as good as what was in the store. So I made an offer to Tristan. I asked if he would like to earn his own money and told him I would help him with production and he could take a little table on our street and sell his cards. He has been doing this around each major holiday since he was 5 (now he is 7) and he has been able to save over 3000.00 !!!! He has a goal of investing 1000 a year (a financial advisor told him if a 5 year old invest 1000 a year the rest of his life, by the time he is 65 he will have 10 million dollars. On his own he probably spends 10% of what he earns, saves 80% and on his own he made a jar for “community” where a portion of his money goes for charity. It has been such a positive experience for him and for us. I will never give him an allowance now. He looks at a toy and instantly asks how many cards would I need to sell to buy this? And we do the math and then he gets to work! As he gets older, I know the ways of earning money will change..this summer he will sell figs from the road on my parents farm, and will work at my dad’s office being an office boy sharpening pencils or emptying trash…not all jobs will be as lucrative as selling his art ( he makes about 100 an hour out on our street! more than I make!) and he doesnt pay for his supplies! Anyway…I also strive to find that balance of being encouraging and not pressuring (this year for instance he had too much homework for his valentine commission project! He spends about two hours per card and earns 5.00 a card for those!) and I let it go! I never want this to be stressful or pressureful. But I also dont allow him to be lazy or try to sell something that is not up to par! He is really learning to collaborate and brainstorm and he does lots of rough drafts before settling on a final design. Here is his etsy shop if you want to take a look ! Love your blog and love reading everything from simple homeschool and all the sister blogs! Thanks for letting me chime in!
    Oh and here is a great story about art….
    A pottery teacher divided his class in half. One half he said, “You will be graded solely on the quality of your final pot.” To the other half he said “You will be graded solely on quantity. 50 pots is an A, 40 pots is a B, 30 pots is a C, 20 pots is a D and 10 pots is an F.” The class was outraged. How can you judge art based on quantity!!! At the end of the semester every person who made 50 pots had far better quality pots then the ones who worked all semester long on one pot. It’s about quantity. I have probably made 5000 cards and collages in my life (since a kid!) Tristan draws every day and draws a dozen drafts before settling on a final design…I believe if we encourage that kind of rigorous practice, the quality of craftsmanship naturally improves until they are etsy ready! I think its loving to be honest about that! There is a way of being encouraging and supportive without thinking everything is a masterpiece! I also thinkits a great education that prepares kids for real life. My dad is an inventor, I’m an actor, my husband is a director…all we do is try and fail and fail and fail! It’s so good to show that’s ok! OK thanks again for letting me chime in!

  7. Liz says:

    So, how is it going with your daughter’s creative adventures?! Your little one reminds me of mine. My now 8 years old daughter, who is a great swimmer (on a swim team) is also a little artist at heart and nature. She loves to draw, sew and now wants to pick up cooking! Along with selling her artwork/baking goods! OH BOY! I am trying to help her figure out one thing she would truly enjoy doing on a day to day basis to figure out if we should start selling it. She came up with all these ideas herself. I am a SAHM with a small photography business. My business itself is still driving to lift off the ground. We just moved to another state and trying to settle in and searching for clientele isn’t on my top priority list. My point is, she knows I have my own “business” but she also knows I don’t work all the time. o, just wondering how you all are getting along with your daughter’s ideas of a small “business”

    Thanks – Liz

  8. Ellie says:

    Thanks for writing this up. I’ve got a four-year-old who loves making bracelets, we have run out of people to give them to. I am considering setting up an Etsy shop for her as a way to teach her about running a business. My current thought is I’ll be doing most of the behind the scenes and she will be making the bracelets, helping package for shipping, and then dividing her profits into savings and charity envelopes. We can talk about the process as we go.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.