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Beyond babysitting

In this summer's tight job market, some youths may revert to traditional tasks. But those who have tasted entrepreneurial success will likely push for more creative work.

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Looking for a preteen to mow your lawn this summer? Stumbling down suburban streets in search of a 50-cent lemonade?

In recent years, that search has been tough. The '90s dotcom boom, with its burgeoning computer jobs and inflated pay, created a trickledown demand that raised youths' expectations and drew many away from traditional tasks such as yardwork and babysitting.

With a shortage of workers and an abundance of office work and programming opportunities, some kids were suddenly reeling in cash.

A handful of preteens and young teens found themselves in demand for all kinds of service jobs – and even high-tech work – as the 20-somethings ahead of them went into career overdrive.

So now, with the bubble long burst – and teen unemployment at a five-year high – will youths get back behind the Weed Whackers? Not necessarily.

Although leaner times may have restored humility to some young hotshots, experts say kids' job expectations remain high. That appears to be giving rise to a more tempered brand of entrepreneur – one that may value creativity over raw capitalism.

Take Melody Moher of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., who launched her business, Beautiful Braids & Beads by Melody, at age 10, with her parents' support.

After spending $20 in birthday money to have her hair braided and beaded while on vacation at a Florida beach, she realized she could start a similar business herself.

So she began peddling her braiding prowess at local arts and crafts shows as soon as she got home – and made $80 at her first fair. Soon, she was a regular at a Thursday night marina art show.

Now, at age 16, Melody has four employees, regular poolside spots at two Singer Island resorts, and a mutual fund. On a good day, she reels in $500. She says that far from being a hindrance, her youth helped her get started.

"I was so young when I went to the resort [that] they just thought it was really cool that such a young person had a business," she says. This year, she won a $2,000 scholarship from Guardian Life Insurance for her entrepreneurship.


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