Everything I Need to Know about Business I Learned from Babysitting
My eleven-year-old is now in business. Fine, she currently has one client and makes $1/hour, but to her, it’s a business. Watching her go through the process of setting herself up to be a babysitting entrepreneur has made me think about how many business lessons apply at any age, and at any step of the process.
Becoming a babysitter is my daughter’s lifelong ambition. But, unlike some of her friends, she doesn’t have a group of younger siblings or cousins on whom she can practice. So, she took a babysitting class offered by our local park district. Luckily for her, she had an angel investor willing to pay for her training (that would be me).
Grown Up Business Lesson: Like a lot of entrepreneurs, my daughter thought she was pretty much ready to launch her business, until she learned more about it. A great idea isn’t enough, you need to know how to run the business.
Limits and Legalities
After taking the class, my daughter revised her plans. She realized that because of her age and inexperience, she wasn’t really ready to take on full responsibility for a child. She also knew she would need to build trust with clients. So, instead of launching herself as a babysitter, she’s advertising herself as a “Mother’s Helper,” someone to watch your kids while you do other things in the house. She offers her services at a lower price point and instead of competing with the teenagers on the block, she’s setting herself up to take over their clients when they go to college.
She also learned that not only would she not be comfortable being fully responsible for other kids, according to our state, she isn’t legally allowed to be.
Grown Up Business Lesson: A lot of would-be restaurant and bar owners have discovered similar legal issues surrounding liquor licenses or zoning regulations after making a considerable investment in their business. Researching the laws of the state, and knowing your own capabilities, and being willing to adjust expectations and plans are all crucial to running a successful business.
My daughter spent an hour creating a flier. She thought of and rejected taglines and copy. She played with fonts and images. She wanted to make it clear that parents had to be home, but that this would still be a service. “You know what moms always complain about?” She said to me, “They don’t have time to read.” So her headline was written: “Want to take a nap? Want to read a book?” and she went on to explain her service, her qualifications, and how to contact her.
Grown up Business Lesson: Obviously, “find a need and fill it” is an old business adage, but it’s amazing how few entrepreneurs start with the needs of their customers when they think about marketing.
Later, after distributing the flier she thought of another need she could fill. She could watch kids on the playground, while their older brothers and sisters played on their soccer and baseball teams, that way parents could watch the game uninterrupted.
Rather than distribute another flier, she asked me to use Facebook to help her advertise this service to the parents of her younger brother’s friends. This turned out to be a great idea as her first client is hiring her to do just that, this Saturday.
Grown up Business Lesson: Your first idea isn’t always the best idea. On top of that, you have to be willing to switch courses in everything from your method of delivery to your advertising techniques.
As my daughter gets older there will be other business lessons. She’ll have to think about work-life balance in terms of school, her job, and her social life. She’ll have to learn what to do about a client that doesn’t pay on time, and possibly even how to handle a client who behaves inappropriately. She’ll have to handle more competition and eventually branch out to approach families she doesn’t know as well. Whatever she decides to do in life, hopefully these lessons will serve her well.
What was your first job? What did it teach you that you still need in your business today?