At what age should you start “encouraging” your kids to get out and get a job? When Dave’s daughter, Rachel Cruze, was 14, she started her own small business with her sister.
In this excerpt from Dave and Rachel’s #1 New York Times best-selling book Smart Money Smart Kids, she talks about what she learned from that experience.
When I was about fourteen, Dad sat my sister and me down and told us we needed to open our own business. As you can imagine, Denise and I blankly stared back at him with our fourteen- and sixteen-year-old eyes, thinking he was crazy. I said, “Dad, that’s nuts! Why in the world do we need to open our own business?” If you know anything about my dad, you can imagine him getting excited about the idea and going on and on about profit and loss statements, managing products, and learning how to be entrepreneurs.
When we realized that he was serious, we started brainstorming how we were going to pull off our own business. Then we thought of the perfect job. At the time, Dad’s growing company was filled with more than 150 team members. Do you know what hardworking people really like at work? Food! I’m talking about chips, candy bars, nuts, cookies, and granola bars. And lots of soft drinks and bottled water to finish it off. Denise and I basically stumbled upon a goldmine!
Dad always told us, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Translation: There was no chance that he would allow us to simply show up at the office and sell snacks out of a box. If this was going to be a business, we had to run it like a business. That meant before the owner (Dad) allowed us into his building, we had to write up a full business plan. Yes, I’m serious. That plan detailed where we would purchase the snacks and how we would pay for our start-up inventory (which Dad graciously donated to us), price our products, manage our stock, run our profit and loss statement every week, and even evaluate our competition. That’s right: competition! There were vending machines on each floor of the building, so we had to set our prices lower to attract customers.
Denise had a car by then, so every week the two of us went to the local discount warehouse and fought our way through the crowded aisles pushing a flatbed cart stacked with candy bars, chips, cookies, and cases of canned drinks. I remember barely being able to push that giant cart because it weighed more than Denise and me combined! Once we finally got all of our inventory into the car, we’d drive it over to the office, borrow a hand truck from shipping, and unload the car ourselves. Then we’d make our rounds through all the different break rooms around the building, setting up and restocking our display racks. By now you may think I am joking, but this is as true as it comes.
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We replenished the snacks and soft drinks weekly, but Denise and I were both in school all day during the week, so there was no one left to “mind the store.” That meant we had to rely on the honor system. We posted our prices next to the displays and set out a collection jar for the money. There was only one rule for Dad’s team members: Don’t eat it if you can’t pay for it! That worked great . . . until the money came up short a couple of weeks in a row. I thought Dad was going to lose his mind. His own team members were ripping off his daughters! It’s kind of funny when we look back on it.
That led to a quick rebranding of our little enterprise. From that day on, our business was known as “Your Integrity Snacks.” If someone was going to take something without paying, then they had to steal from a business called “Your Integrity”!
For a few years, it seemed like Denise and I made a small fortune in loose change. I remember the first big purchase we made for the business was an automatic change sorter and money roller. We saved up for it and instead of manually putting each coin into a coin wrapper, we had this marvelous machine to do it for us. It was the best and only investment we made in Your Integrity Snacks. But every week we took stacks of rolled coins to the bank. And of course, we had to keep our profit and loss statement updated, showing our gross income minus our expenses, which left us with a pretty nice profit every week—even after Denise charged me gas money.
The snack shop idea was so simple, but it actually made some pretty good money for us. More than the money, though, it taught two young teenagers how to run a business, serve customers, and turn a profit. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s really why Dad suggested we do it.