"Little Peddlers"

Several years back, when my teens were younger kids, they wanted spending money. Don’t get me wrong, they still want spending money, but they have more choices and opportunities to make their own money as teens that they didn’t have available to them as elementary school kids. I found myself in a pickle. I didn’t like the idea of an allowance for household chores because my thought was everyone contributes to the load just because…not because they were paid to do so. Also, having several children, coming up with allowance money, just for the sake of them having allowances, would have been a real challenge.

I knew though, that the kids needed to have experience with their own money to learn how to budget and spend and when not to spend…from this quandary is where their “Bead Bracelets” business was born.

I purchased a slew of beautiful, recycled glass beads and reels of waterproof, elastic cord and we began experimenting to find the best method of bracelet construction to be quick to produce–easy enough for the kids to make them– and to be sturdy and marketable as well.

This process allowed the kids to learn the process of trial and error, the importance of producing quality products and the art of placing the right sizes, colors and bead types together, in a pleasing order. Once we got our methods down pat, the kids and I would sit around a card table and spend two evenings each week making the bracelets. Each new bracelet turned out even more beautiful than the next. They enjoyed sharing their ideas and showing their siblings their bracelet creations. The kids always looked forward to the planned bracelet making times and often chose to make additional ones outside of the group times.

I acted as the business manager and the quality control supervisor. I supplied the materials and guidance. I helped them understand why we set our pricing as we did–to cover materials and have some profits to share between them. I tied and sealed the bracelets to ensure quality and repeat business. The children did the bulk of the actual creation and construction. They also did ALL of the selling.

First, after supplying them with a cell-phone and going over safety rules, they took to the streets…in our neighborhood. The beautiful glass bead bracelets–30-40 at a time–were all arranged on a long, hand-carved walking stick; the kids looked like they were acting out a scene, from Peter and the Wolf, with one kid on each end of the stick and the others leading the way. The children had practiced their sales pitches, and  decided they would take turns doing the talking.

The first day of selling–which was actually two hours–the kids came running back home with $125.00! They had stars in their eyes and were so pumped! Talking at the same time and in feverish pitches, they teamed to tell the tales of their selling adventures. After the hoopla died down a bit, I explained it was time for them to pay  for the materials so that I could purchase more to keep the business running and well-stocked with inventory. I had them figure out the math on the cost of making the 25 bracelets they sold. They paid me, and divided the profits among the four of them…$25.00 each.  You would have thought they’d won the lottery.

They had “the bug” now, after experiencing the fruits of their labors…they couldn’t wait to get back out selling. This time they worked their way through the other side of the neighborhood, including their grandparents’ house. They sold many before getting to Nana’s and Gaga’s house, and of course sold a few to them.

I received a phone call from my mother before the kids even made it home. “You are raising a family of little peddlers, I see.” I laughed and explained what we were doing and why we were doing it, and also that the kids preferred to be called “entrepreneurs.”

Such valuable, lasting lessons came from our time running “Bead Bracelets.” The older kids have outgrown it now, but I still have a stock of beads and elastic cord for the younger ones to start up soon…So, if you see several kids skipping through our Chesterfield neighborhoods while balancing a long stick wrapped in beautifully colored glass bead bracelets…those would be my “litttle peddlers.”

Just remember, today’s “little peddlers” are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.