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Start It Up!

Frank Giaccio mowed the White House lawn last September to promote his lawn-mowing business. MIKE THEILER—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Every year, thousands of children write to the president. But 11-year-old Frank “FX” Giaccio, of Falls Church, Virginia, had an unusual request: He asked to mow the White House lawn. In his letter, Frank explained that he’d started a lawn-mowing business, and he offered to do this job for free.

To Frank’s surprise, the White House agreed. So last September, he spent five hours there. He mowed the Rose Garden lawn, met President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and visited the Oval Office.

Frank’s budding business benefited from the high-profile job. While his experience was far from typical, summer is a terrific time to start a business of your own. Ask yourself these questions to figure out what kind of venture might work for you.

Great job! Frank Giaccio high-fives President Donald Trump.


Where do my likes match up with local needs?

Being passionate about your idea is step 1. But people have to be willing to pay for the product or service you’re providing. In other words, there has to be a need. While Frank was brainstorming things he could do for extra spending money, he floated ideas like dog walking and house-sitting, but he didn’t think they’d yield much business in his neighborhood. Eventually, he says, the “lightbulb turned on” when he heard a lawn mower outside. After all, Frank thought, there were many more lawns than dogs in his neighborhood.

How can I compete?

Whether you start a babysitting business or offer up your computer skills, you need to figure out how to stand out from other businesses. There are four ways to distinguish yourself. Marketers call them the “four Ps”—price, product, promotion, and place (where or how your product or service is sold). Frank decided to compete on price. He charges only $8, which is less than his competitors. Frank’s adventure at the White House, which brought a lot of promotion his way, helped too.

Will I make a profit?

First, figure out how much you need to charge for your product or service. The price needs to cover your costs (gas for the mower, in Frank’s case) and justify the time you spend doing it. Ask an adult to help you research how much others in your area are charging. As you break into the market, consider setting your price a little lower because you have less experience.

What do I want to achieve?

That’s the question to ask yourself, says Steven Gordon, president of Lemonade Day National, a program that teaches kids how to run a business. Your goal can be something you want to buy, a charity you want to support, or just learning enough to move on to bigger things. For Frank, that means going to college, becoming a Navy Seal, and opening a Lego resort. “Then, once I get old enough, I’ll run for president,” he says. —By Hayden Field

Family Challenge

Ask a parent if he or she remembers having a summer job at your age, even if it was just a lemonade stand. Ask: What did you learn from it? What could you have done differently? Then brainstorm ideas that might be right for you.