What are some potential low-cost businesses that can be started and operated by a teenager?

I am 16 years old. I have $1000 to work with. I have the best credentials a 16 year old could have, with a 4.25 GPA, and being an Eagle Scout, and have learned to speak proficiently in Spanish. I have earned my money up to this point with yard work ( a mix of skilled and unskilled labor). Some potential ideas I've had: Vending machines/gumball machines. Lawn care service (Hiring other teenagers to do yard work, and make a small profit off setting up the arrangement) I live in the suburbs about 45 minutes from Atlanta, to somewhat gauge the population of potential clients. I would like something that would be more of a constant, rather than occasional customers or chance. Potentially selling a good or a service to a company? Any help would be appreciated.


Congratulations on the credentials you've earned to date and I admire your ambition. I started my first company at 13 and was hired by Apple (in part because I had started my company first) by 15.

Especially in today's economy, I would suggest that you seriously explore learning to program. There are excellent online programming courses offered by a number of reputable vendors.

However, if that seems too daunting, you might look at other IT related services. For example, offering local IT support services (targeting senior citizens) helping fix things that you might already know how to do.

Best of luck in your ventures and happy to help if I can.

Answered 8 years ago


Great start, now here's the hard part...Converting that $1000, drive, and knowledge in to a profitable business!

When I was a freshman in business school--I was super broke, like really broke. I was waiting tables at Chilis, and I knew I could do more with my time.

I lived in a part of town where there were quite a few older residents, and I realized a lot of them had flaky/outdated/weathered decks and docks. Most of them didn't want to take the time or energy to revive it, so I started doing it!

I used the money I had($400), and I went and bought a pressure washer(from sams club), hose(lowes), and wood treatment(lowes). With that, I did one deck for free, and took some great photos of it on a nice sunny day.

I posted the photos, rates, and contact details on bulletin boards around town(know your audience), as well as craigslist. In a week, I had 7 people wanting their decks, docks, and even parking lots sprayed and treated/stained.

The business was super profitable(and easy). You can watch a 5 minute video on youtube and learn both pressure washing and staining. I charged people by figuring out the stain/treatment cost, and multiplying by 3.5.

Takes a couple of jobs to work out the kinks, and drill down on the costs. But, once you do--You're set. At one time I had 5 friends working for me making $10 an hour, and it still had 30% margins. I was able to pay tuition, rent, bills, and "be my own boss" for a few years before selling equipment and client list to a regional player. It was pretty awesome, you should give it a shot!

If you have any more detailed questions, just let me know.

Thanks and good luck!

Answered 8 years ago

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