Making a Business of Baby-Sitting
NO matter how big your allowance is, almost everyone can find a use for a few extra dollars. During Indiana summers in the 1950s, my dad ran an in-house exterminating service. This is a fancy way of saying he got a dime for every fly he killed in the house. Sometimes (in complete disregard for ethics), Dad would go outside and swat a few, if business was slow.
While 13-year-old Arthur Berg Bochner would admire my dad's hard work and dedication, he would not approve of Dad's sneaky way of padding the profits. For Arthur, who wrote ''The Totally Awesome Business Book for Kids,'' ethics are as crucial a part of a business as supplies and equipment - in this case a fly swatter. While a goal of business is to make money, Arthur says, ''of more importance to me is starting out with a worthy idea - an idea that not only works and makes money, but also does some good
in the world.''
''The Totally Awesome Business Book for Kids'' (by Adriane G. Berg and Arthur Berg Bochner, Newmarket Press, $10.95) is Arthur's second book. In it he outlines the basics of running a business. This way you can decide whether you want a partnership (work with your friends), a sole proprietorship (you do all the work and keep all the money), or a franchise (you come up with a creative way to make money, and your friends pay you to borrow your business). He also discusses the skills needed to run your bus iness.
Arthur has personally kid-tested each skill, from advertising to filing, and he should know what he is talking about. In addition to being a writer and a student, he has a part-time business selling game cards to stores.
Finally, Arthur describes 20 different businesses kids can run (with parental approval). In fact, some of the business ideas include ways to save your parents money - such as being a consultant. You find out how your family wastes water, electricity, or money, and invent ways to eliminate the waste. In return, you get paid a percentage of the savings.
As Arthur says, adults are sometimes too busy to run their home as efficiently as they would like, and you can be a big help. For example, when I was 14, my mom (who was working overtime at work) paid me to take over the cooking and most of the house cleaning. It doesn't sound like much fun, but it felt good to be making money doing something that helped my family. Plus, I found out that I really like to cook.
One of Arthur's suggested money-makers is running a lemonade stand. My friends and I tried that a few times when I was in elementary school, and we usually made about $5 - more if Mom felt like donating the lemonade and cups.
According to Arthur, we went wrong in a number of areas. First, we didn't advertise. Second, he recommends making lemonade from scratch and selling cookies and treats along with it. We just opened a can of the powdered stuff and added water. But I think our biggest problem was location. We usually set up shop in front of one of our houses - in case we ran out of ice, and so our parents could keep an eye on us. Arthur recommends finding a busy, safe location such as outside a school or library.
I also tried mowing lawns. As Arthur says, you can make a lot of money this way (provided your parents will lend you their mower). I typically got $5 per lawn. Some people would go as high as $10, just to avoid the blistering Florida sun. However, after straining to push my mower across acres of grass in 95-degree weather, my sweaty hands vibrating against the metal handle, hair straggling in my eyes, I decided to find another line of work.
I had much better success with baby-sitting. I had all the necessary qualifications: I liked kids (after all, I was one); had a lot of energy and a nonstop imagination; and possessed a working knowledge of diapers.
Somehow, I stumbled across most of the skills Arthur outlines in his book. I advertised (primarily by word of mouth). I networked, taking jobs for friends who were too busy to baby-sit for their regular clients. I was polite and courteous. I even had a target market - parents within walking distance who had children from 2 to 8. (Any older and they were probably pals with my younger brother and weren't inclined to regard me as an authority figure.) Most important, I had a great attitude: I loved my job.
In fact, sometimes I couldn't believe I was really getting paid to play with my younger friends.
Where I bombed was in the negotiating and rate-setting. I wasn't brilliant on the telephone, either. (I was 15 before I could order a pizza without my hands shaking.) To put it simply, I didn't have an hourly rate. I just accepted whatever parents felt like paying me. Sometimes this worked out in my favor: I once was paid $3 an hour to watch a toddler who was awake for all of 10 minutes. On the other hand, there were times when I received $1.50 an hour for baby-sitting three energetic kids who may have sat down for 10 minutes total.
Arthur says, ''You should always speak up because there's a good chance that you will get results and no chance if you don't.'' Also, in his section on negotiating he writes, ''When you are negotiating, never be intimidated by the other person, especially if he or she is an adult.... When you negotiate, you should always hold your ground. Don't give up what you want easily.''
I went for a walk one day this summer and passed a lemonade stand set up outside of a home on a quiet street. It was manned by an enterprising toddler, whose pink mouth showed that he had been busy drinking the profits. On a sign, faintly scrawled in light green crayon, were the words ''Amy's and Sam's Lemonade Stand - 10.''
I asked for a glass of lemonade. (It was actually powdered fruit punch.) Sam carefully lifted the heavy pitcher and poured about 10 drops into a Dixie cup - as much as he could manage without spilling. I thanked him, gave him a dollar, and left without waiting for change. Behind me, I heard an unprofessional shriek of delight. ''A whole dollar! Amy, a lady gave me a whole dollar!'' I bet I boosted profits by 20 percent.