First you start with an idea or an interest. Do you enjoy helping your dad plan for family barbecues? Shopping for matching paper plates and cups? Making up a menu of special treats? You might want to think about a party business and offer your service to other parents.
Expanding on the party idea, you could think about entertaining little kids at birthday parties. Would you like to clown around and get dressed up in costumes? Taking the idea one step further, how about making twisted balloon sculptures? Could you learn to make balloon animals and silly hats? Little kids love to watch balloon animals being made. And they love it even more if they get to take a balloon home!
So now you've got an idea. You can set up a business entertaining little kids at parties by making balloon animals. Next you need a plan .a business plan. Consider your situation. Do you have the time to do everything that is involved? Will it interfere with your schoolwork? Think about the balloon animal business. You'll need to learn special skills and practice your act. Should you make or buy a costume. How about a catchy name for your business? Where will you advertise your services? What will you charge your customers?
Before you start on any of these, you want to do a market survey. What's a market survey? It's a study that will tell you if there is a need for your business in the area you live. Wouldn't it be horrible if you spent time and money setting up your business and then found out that there are twenty other businesses in your town that do the exact same thing?
Start in your own neighborhood. Are there many kids ages eight and under? Ask the parents of these children if they ever hire entertainment for their kids' parties. Who have they hired? Were they happy with what they got? Would they be interested in balloon entertainment? What would they be willing to pay for someone to keep the kids amused for about forty-five minutes?
Get out the yellow pages. Look up clowns or parties and see if there are any listings for children's entertainment. Go to the public library. There may be a children's services directory that lists entertainment services in your area. (If there is a directory, make a note of the publisher. If your business is a success you could advertise in the directory!) Do an Internet search for party entertainment in your area.
Okay, your market survey has left you feeling that there's definitely a need in your town for your service. What's next? Training. Having seen a balloon twister at work and thinking, "It looks easy enough," doesn't mean balloon twisting is easy! Again, go to the public library and look for books on balloons and/or clowning or visit some websites about it. Remember how the people you've seen making balloon animals always kept up a steady stream of talk? Take out a few books on jokes or bookmark some websites.
You'll need start-up money to get your business going. You may have to buy a balloon twisting book to bring with you to parties. Also necessary are a supply of balloons and perhaps a small pump if your lung power isn't great! You might need to buy some clothes to create your entertainer outfit. Look at your own savings to see if you have enough. If not, discuss with your parents if they will loan you the money until your first paying gig. To add a professional touch to your arrangement, put the promise of repayment.
At this point you will need to be ready to tell a potential customer your price. You got some ideas of what the market will bear, .that is, what people are willing to pay .from your market survey. A parent may help by telephoning a professional entertainer and asking for her rates. Since you are new at the business, you should be willing to be paid a whole lot less! Professional rates are something for you to shoot for a business goal.
Finally, the day arrives. You show up on time. You and the kids have a good time. You get paid your $25. Now it's time to see if you've made any money.
"But," you say, "I just made $25." Yes, you did, but did you remember to subtract your expenses? If you subtract your expenses from your income, you find that you made -$1.45 for your first gig! A negative amount is known as a loss.
Have you failed? No, of course not. You did a good job. Two mothers asked for your flier and a dad booked you on the spot! Give yourself a pat on the back!
You have to remember that some of your expenses will last through all of your jobs. The second gig is easier. You have a larger audience this time, so you have to buy more balloons, but you don't have to buy another book or a new outfit for yourself! You get paid $25. Now have you made money? This time when you subtract your expenses from your income you find that you made $14.95! A profit!
Your business has begun. Now you should update your business plan so that you can continue in business. Include advertising, continued training (you have to keep wowing your customers by twisting new animals), setting up a system of bookkeeping, paying taxes, and seeking free publicity. If you do a free show, ask the group you do it for to invite the local newspaper. You'll get your picture in the paper and will make yourself known to more potential customers. And if you get a few parties signed up in advance, you may be able to buy your balloons in a larger quantity so they'll cost you less per balloon.
After a period of about six months, sit down and evaluate your business. Is it going according to your expectations? Are you happy doing the work? Do your losses outnumber your profits? Are you keeping up with your schoolwork? Your social life? At this point you could decide to throw in the towel and quit. You've given it your best, so there is nothing to be sorry about. In the adult world, 70 to 80 percent of new businesses do not make it beyond the first year!
If you are enjoying your work, meeting new people, and making a little money, then you may decide to keep going. Good for you! Or, maybe you've been successful but you've outgrown your business idea and would like to try some other business. Either way, setting up a business has been a valuable learning experience, you learned a skill, you increased your self-confidence, and you proved to your parents that you can see a project through.