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The Almighty Buck Technology

Summer Businesses for High School Students? 184

Posted by Cliff
from the lemonade-stands-are-so-blazé dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "A friend and I are going into our final year of high school, and given a variety of factors (the relative paucity of technology jobs for HS students, etc.), would like to start our own business. We'll probably have about $1000 in capital, but (in effect) start out with no other resources other than our own skills (technical and otherwise). We have no constant access to a car, which means on-site tech support is effectively out. We'd like to start something in the technology field (IT, software design, hardware construction - we can solder, web design, etc.), but are open to any suggestions. We'd also like some sort of business we can start this summer, but can continue to maintain. What do you suggest as a business idea for the summer->longer term?"
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Summer Businesses for High School Students?

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  • This was my business plan, and I have found it highly effective.


    Step 1: Steal Underpants
    Step 2:

    Step 3: Profit!

    Rince, and repeat. :)
    • Step 1: Steal Underpants

      ...

      Rince, and repeat. :)

      When dealing with stolen underpants, repeated rinsing is most definitely a good idea!

    • by Glonoinha (587375) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:04PM (#8470988) Journal
      The summer before my last year in high school I had a cheap beater of a pickup truck (a 1970 Ford F-150 with a motor and transmission out of a Mustang (V8-302, 3 speed manual tranny) - it was ugly, beat up, and cheap. Also had lots of room in the back for gear. Estimated cost : $500

      Bought a used lawn mower, cleaned it up and sharpened the blade with a file. Estimated cost : 100 total.

      Got an electric weed-eater for about $40 new w/ a 100' heavy duty extension cord.

      Other crap : eye protection, ear protection, maybe a second mower and trimmer because there are two of you.

      Total cost, roughly your entire $1000 budget.

      Get started by printing out 1 page flyers to put on people's doors in neighborhoods (nice neighborhoods.) Each place you do will take you about 2 hours max with two people, and will pay $40, and needs to be done every two weeks. You can do like 4 each day tops, and if you do a GOOD job you will have awesome repeat business. Totally a cash business, so no taxes.

      It takes some time to build up a client base, but once you two do a good job you will have more business than you can imagine. $800 free and clear every week on a full schedule, possibly more. That's $400 a week per person free and clear, $1600 a month.

      It is hot, sweaty, dirty, demeaning work - which is why you will have so many people eager to have you do it for them. If you aren't too proud to sweat you will make more doing this than doing 'computer work' - esp. now.

      Maybe you will find something that you can do with your $1000 start up fund, something that will net you $5,000 apiece in three months without access to a car ... something that involves pushing buttons and moving a mouse around ... if you do let us know because a bunch of us would love to do the same.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you live near a college campus (and you get that beater truck), you can buy and sell dorm fridges.

        Print up flyers offering beer money ($10-20) for used units as Spring move out time comes. Cruise the alleys in the off-campus student housing area and pick up any you see left out for trash pickup. These can be for spare parts. Rent a garage for $50 a month if you need storage space. Clean them out and check and fix any that you can. Sell them in the Fall for $50-70 each (vs. $100+ new).

      • by yog (19073) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:09PM (#8476464) Homepage Journal
        Great advice except for the no taxes part. That's against the law. You are required to report your income whether it's cash or check. Actually, some of your clients will probably prefer to write you a check anyway so you will have a paper trail.

        Furthermore, if you want to account for your time in order to impress a potential employer in the future, you had better have your ducks in a row; there are ways of finding out. Otherwise, you will have to lie and say you spent the summer doing nothing. That might be dodgy given the fact that 30-40 people around your neighborhood will testify that they hired you, and hundreds more saw your flyer.

        Maybe you are OK with working under the table like the thousands of carpenters and the like who try to get paid in cash, but if you ever want to do work for the federal government either as an employee or contractor, they will probably want to know every job you had for the past 10 years, so you then have the choice of perjuring yourself or admitting that you owe back taxes, neither of which is particularly great news to the employer.

        Finally, you should consider that finances are a vital part of running a business; the accounting and tax work you will do will be useful experience for later on when you start the next great software company or whatever you end up in.

        Good luck!
        • I am not advocating cheating on your taxes, but you think that people are going to go after you for the money that you earned mowing lawns during the summer after high school?

          My current employer never asked me if I mowed lawns in high school.

        • Finally, you should consider that finances are a vital part of running a business; the accounting and tax work you will do will be useful experience for later on when you start the next great software company or whatever you end up in.

          So you want to do your own taxes/accounting. Accounting I might believe, but taxes - no way. First off - read the rules... Oh wait - I don't have time to read feet of small print annually to determine if I am allowed to deduct expenses, or if they are capital expenses so

  • Easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:50PM (#8469660)
    1) Spend $1,000 on clothes and a lease on a phat car
    2) Use clothes and phat car to get hot women
    3) Pimp out hot women
    4) Profit, motherfucker. Profit.
    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FLOOBYDUST (737287) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:33PM (#8472033)
      Three (outsourcing proof) jobs that will give you skills to last a lifetime....
      1. Electricians helper.
      Find a local guy in the neighborhood who has a sign plastered on his truck, work cheap, watch and learn...return on investement 3,000%
      2. Plumbers helper;It may be stinky but they make good $$$$
      3. Carpenters helper...See # 1 above
      Why no Computer ideas?
      easy
      1) you are no Bill Gates or Michael Dell. They never asked a bunch of timewasting web browsers for job advice, they just did it. Same with Steve Jobs
      2) Those three jobs will teach you the meaning of the word work... a very important thing to know.

      3) you may develop a life long part time career

  • Where do you live? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnits0r (633893) <nathannd@NospAM.sasktel.net> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:51PM (#8469670) Homepage Journal
    I beleive if you live in certain places, they pay you for donating sperm. My summer job when I was a teen, was more like summer volunteer work.
  • More info needed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:51PM (#8469676)
    1. Where are you? US? What region thereof?
    2. What's your skillset?
    3. What's your dream job? What's "beneath you?" What can you not stand to do?

    I don't want to crush your hopes, but you may find it very difficult to do something meaningful. You might consider finding the Entrepeneur's Club at a local college / University and hooking up with them. They may be able to find investors for you if you can present a viable business plan.

    Good luck. You'll need it.
  • by millia (35740) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:51PM (#8469678) Homepage

    first off, blaze (with accent.)?
    it's blase. (with accent.)

    here's the idea i am sure could make somebody a ton of money.

    instead of refilling and rehabbing toner cartridges, do it for lcd projector bulb cartridges. almost all the time, you have to buy a new one- for a good chunk of change. a little googling found me a place or two where you can buy solely the bulb. clean the cartridge, and replace the bulb (being careful of course not to get oil on anything) and charge 1/2 to 2/3 of what a new projector bulb costs.
    if i were mechanically inclined, i would do this. it's a growth industry. here at work, thanks to doofuses who can't remember how to turn off a projector, we can chew through a unit, at $330 per, in 6 months. and i know college professors aren't the only group of clueless projector users out there.
    • here at work, thanks to doofuses who can't remember how to turn off a projector, we can chew through a unit, at $330 per, in 6 months. and i know college professors aren't the only group of clueless projector users out there.

      If they can't even work a projector, what makes them think they can teach?

      • I suppose that was meant to be funny, but "remembers to turn off the projector" is not actually high on my list of desiriable traits in in a teacher. I look for things like "really understands the topic", "able to communicate his/her knowledge", and, for bonus points, "shows enthusiasm for both teaching and learning." Those skills are precious and rare. Schools lucky enough to have such teachers should stop griping about projector bulbs and pay some whiny IT guy $5/hr to follow them around and turn off the

        • Schools lucky enough to have such teachers should stop griping about projector bulbs and pay some whiny IT guy $5/hr to follow them around and turn off the projector. Whiny IT guys are a dime a dozen.

          In what third-world state is $5/hr at or above minimum wage? I can't even remember a minimum wage lower than $6.50/hr. It's $7.10/hr now and I expect it to go to $7.30 or so depending on inflation in January.

    • it's blase. (with accent.)

      In any case, I believe he means "passe".

  • by Dr. Bent (533421) <ben&int,com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:52PM (#8469683) Homepage
    ...on the web! Then get 10 million in VC funding and go public.

    Oh wait, it's not 1999. Forget I said anything.
    • Clearly you didn't notice which department this story came from:

      From the lemonade-stands-are-so-blaze dept.

      For what it's worth, my first thought was also that they should start a lemonade stand but then I realized they would have to compete with all the IT people that were "surplused" when their jobs went overseas.

      Semi-OT. I just saw Lou Dobbs tear Mark Andreessen about his company exporting jobs to India. Ouch.

  • by Vaevictis666 (680137) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:52PM (#8469687)
    ...Hosting and web design.

    Rent a box from somewhere, and harass friends, family, and neighbors if they know anyone who could use a web presence. You provide the hosting, set up domains and stuff, and if they need it, some basic web design.

    There's even a few packages out there that have a very simplified markup structure (ie. _underline_ and *bold* and stuff) that means your potential clients can edit pages directly.

    Your costs are monthly fees to your host, and one-time fees for domains and such. Income is monthly hosting fees from clients, and one-time or recurring fees for web design, graphics, and maybe even some freelance coding for special features and whatnot.

  • by TechnoBoffin (709130) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:53PM (#8469689)
    Programming of any sort (including web design) is probably the most portable of the IT trades. You can do it from your house, or from your dorm room if and when you go off to college. Beyond that, maybe building custom-order systems for people, but it's unlikely you could ramp that up in 3 months. You might also check out itmoonlighter.com for some available contracting work in your area which might not require you to be on-site.
  • Start an online calendar company. Nobody's thought of that before.
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:54PM (#8469698)
    I'd not even bother.

    1: Everybody can make a website.. Notice I didnt say good
    2: Anti-crapware like the new AOL discs /ad aware and the like make problem solving easier on consumers
    3: Real software issues on MS systems always require a reinstall-Use vendor wipe disc
    4: If its a hardware issue, you cant repair motherboards and the like. On dell/gateway crap, it's "Buy New Machine"
    5: You're just HS students. I'm 22 and people look down at our age group as consultants. The "Consultant" is supposed to be 30-40 after numerous lay-offs and fires (from idiotic companies that lie to get out of unemp.)

    Yeah, at 22, I'm jaded enough to be a consultant. I've not seen it all, but close.
    • Just wait until you reach 23! I'm doing a temp job AND an electronics consulting project at the same time! People don't look down on 23-year-olds (almost 24) as much as they do for 22-year-olds. You got moxie, kid. You'll go far someday.
    • by trav3l3r (666370) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:33PM (#8470715)
      1. You are right, most people can create a web site, and few do it well. However, those that want a good web site are still willing to pay money to have it done professionally. Create a couple of demo sites to show prospective customers, everything from very flashy with bells and whistles, to the business web site. Also, make sure you explain how you can make thier web site rank high on some of the more populer search engines. A business web site should make money or provide some benefit to the business. Show your customer how you can make that happen.

      2 and 3. There is still money to be made repairing PC's. People that tell you the only way to repair a Microsoft product is to wipe and re-install generally do not know what they are doing. If the first response I got from a consultant was wipe and re-install, I would look for another consultant. Most experianced techs can repair a Windows PC without wiping it.

      4. Hardware issues can be fixed. Power supplies can be replaced. I have often replaced caps on a motherboard, or disabled a built in device on an expensive board then installed an add-on replacement. For example, we had a lightning strike in the area, lightning surged through an unprotected hub and took out 9 computers. On 8 of the computers I was able to disable the on board lan, install a NIC card and get them back on-line. The 9th PC and the hub was toast. I also find many hardware issues to simply be bad fans, faulty memory or such. Always troubleshoot. Customers appreciate it if you look at thier machines before you tell them they need to be replaced.

      5. Ok, you're high school students. You will need to try harder and prove you have your stuff together. Dress neat, be well groomed, be polite, and act professional. First impression's count for a lot. If you give a bad first impression you probably will not get a chance to make any proposals.

      Finally, the consultant is not supposed to be any particuler age, but should be a professional, who can help the customers bottom line.
      • by SeinJunkie (751833) <seinjunkie@gmail.com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:25PM (#8471119) Homepage

        Why did this not get modded up?

        Excellent advice in response to the often seemingly bleak future of IT.

        If I could add anything to this, it's that the industry has (obviously) totally changed since just 3 years ago. What appeared to be a "great field" to get into, is still a great field, but it's just not as easy as it once was. In reality, this is when it gets better.

        Now, it's even more important to specialize than it was just a few years ago. Before, all of the skills that you mentioned you had were great, because they were pretty generic and you could just about fit anywhere. But you can't be the best at everything. Find something you really enjoy doing, learn everything you can about it through practice and experiments. Once you can prove to someone who knows something about your field that you're a viable investment, you'll be paid to prove it again and again.

  • by Fortunato_NC (736786) <verlinh75 @ m s n . com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:56PM (#8469727) Homepage Journal
    Since you guys are (most likely) minors and can legally repudiate any contracts you sign, many folks are going to be rightly cautious about dealing with you. You can make decent summer cash with a gas can and a lawnmower. I would have said get a paper route, but most paper carriers these days are retired folks with station wagons. One retired guy with a station wagon replaced me and my two brothers, plus a few other paper carriers when we gave up our routes in the late early 1990's. If you have friends who run a business, you might be able to get some web design work tossed your way, but I think you'll find that mowing grass will provide a more steady stream of income. Sorry to be a buzz kill, but I was 16 once, too. Don't lose your entreprenurial bent, though - it will serve you well once you join the majority. I've started 3 companies - cratered two and sold one, but I've had a lot more fun than my friends who've stuck with their "safe" jobs.
    • I'll add a little to this. Use lawnmowing as a starting base. You'll build up a few customer relationships. Then, write up a snazzy brochure illustrating some of the other skills you have, for example painting, computer support or even building new systems, house watching, etc. I made lots of good money between the ages of 12 and 18 by painting things. I even painted the entire exterior of a house once. I also did some minor computer support, but there just weren't as many computers around then...plus they
      • just as the above poster said, build customer relationships. start by mowing lawns, mention that you also are pretty tech saavy and people will ask you to fix their aol or remove a pesky virus...

        you'll learn a valuable skill: getting in the door is the hardest part of any business.

        before you know it you'll have all of the neighborhood kids working for you painting houses, fixing printer jams, setting up wireless ethernet connections, mowing lawns, helping old ladies carry their groceries home, etc.

        you c
    • by Kevin Stevens (227724) <kevstev&gmail,com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:15PM (#8471051)
      But... Have you considered GROWING grass?
    • My cousins came off the boat about 7 years ago from Poland, lived in my granmothers basement and started his own landscaping service (and worked like a FIEND 6am to 8PM in the summer)). He and his son plus another guy or two worked their asses off and in 4 years he built a $350,000+ house (granted they live in New Jersey which has some of the highest housing prices in the country & some /all of the stuff was "off the books").

      The lesson is that the American dream is still alive - if you work like a M-

  • by Stubtify (610318) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @06:57PM (#8469730)
    So no car. Check

    And little money. Check

    And you're young. Check

    And don't have much of an idea on what to do. Check

    I hate to be the first one to tell you, but million dollar ideas aren't sitting around waiting to find you on slashdot. It's going to be up to you and your friend to decide what's best here. As a consultant I can tell you, with no idea what you want to do, you really should hire a consultant if you want this to be anything more than you making webpages for people you know over the summer.

    You're going to be fighting an uphill battle, most businesses won't talk to you based purely on age and lack of business experience. The one thing I would suggest if you do this, do it right and get insurance, because if you're handling something worth thousands, you don't want to be held liable if you break it.

    • The first part of your post sounded like some of the spam I've been getting. You've fallen for their trap. Observe:

      1. Get story submitted on /. for their solutions to your need for content for your next round of GET RICH QUICK spam.
      2.Spam the hell out of people touting the new GET RICH QUICKER!!! scheme.
      3.PROFIT!!!

  • A suggestion... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by almaon (252555) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @07:06PM (#8469858)
    I work at a local comuter retailer in my city, one of the top requests we get from our customers is: "Do you guys or do you know of anyone that offers training?"

    They just want to know basic stuff, how to use their computer, how to copy files, create folders, etc really basic stuff.

    Our business doesn't have the space or the resources to make this happen. But it would be simple to do and something that high school kids could pull off with a little investment of money.

    You could check out an auditorium at a city library, they often have facilities for such things, including screens and projectors. You could hook a laptop up to it and do your demonstrations there.

    Q&A's, how to, basic stuff. May have to pay a few bucks to use the facilities, but long as you balance the costs:profit, shouldn't be a big dent.

    What kind of customers can you expect? The older generation, elderly retired people are new to computers still, they don't learn quickly, have surplus income to spend and have the time and interest to attend such a training class on general computer use.

    They're really into geneology and email correspondance. Little else, so although it's not the best use of your tallents, it should be rewarding finacially and equally rewarding improving some old farts quality of life.

    How to get the word out. Basic cheap marketing that targets your market. The Newspaper, they're one of the few audiences that still read it. Cheap too. Putting flyers up at senior centers, veterans hospitals, etc. anywhere old people hang out. Charge a minimal fee at first, just to gauge what your expected turn-out will be, jack the price up a bit afterwards once the word-of-mouth starts within their communities.

    Should work out well, I do this stuff on the side on a one-on-one basis (since I have a car) and the money is pretty good. I usually charge $175 an hour, but if you're going to have more bodies in an auditorium, shoot for 30$ a person, something basic that everyone can afford.

    Good luck, better than working at McDonalds all Summer (although working there would really give you a reason to go to college).
  • by stu42j (304634) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @07:09PM (#8469891) Homepage
    With words like 'paucity' you should probably give up on the tech route and get a job tutoring fellow students for their SATs.
  • by Dr. Bent (533421) <ben&int,com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @07:11PM (#8469907) Homepage
    If I had some kind of magical business plan for a company that only needed $1000 in seed money and a couple of high-school students, I sure as hell wouldn't be explaining the details of it on Slashdot.

    I'd probably be selling it on a late night television infomercial with Tony Robbins and that other guy with the shiny teeth.
  • Call up a couple VPs of{Engineering|Manufacturing|IT} at local tech small to mid size companies and tell them our story. You'll have to get a tax number etc. for them to deal with you, but its no big deal. Somebody may go, "hey we need 500 cables made." Take what ever is offered that you think you can do well. You can even get help from SCORE on some of the biz issues. Start small and assume that you'll make mistakes. Expect your experance to be your real profit.
    • I am a small company and I need 500 cables made once in awhile. Do you know how many ways 500 cables can be fucked up? I've got a pretty good idea. I already have a cheap Pakistani cable builder and a cheap Asian board builder. They screw up once in awhile, but they fix their screwups real fast as their house payments depend on keeping me happy.

      I would not trust my 500 cables to a couple of kids that have nothing other than beer money to loose.
  • Make fake ID's. Seriously.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @07:36PM (#8470137)

    I have an excellent opportunity for you. I am the ASSISTANT COLONEL VICE FINANCE MINISTER of a corrupt third-world dictatorship, and I am trying to embezzle foreign aid money. I have diverted FORTY-SEVEN MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS ($47,000,000) from the International Petroleum Reserve Slush Fund to a separate expense ledger sub-account within my country's incomprehensibly complex banking system.

    Unfortunately, my country's laws require me to find a RANDOM STRANGER ON THE INTERNET to complete this transaction. If you have the IQ OF BREAD MOLD, this could be you! I need to transfer the money into a U.S. bank account, rather than an account in an actaul banking haven. We would split the money as follows:

    1. 20% (9.4 MILLILON US DOLLARS) to you as a SUSPICIOUSLY EXCESSIVE TRANSACTION FEE
    2. 40% (18.8 MILLION US DOLLARS) to me, for organizing this transaction
    3. 40% (18.8 MILLION US DOLLARS) to Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON WHATSOEVER

    Now, to begin the transaction I simply need $1,000 from you as an EMBEZZLEMENT TRANSFER FEE. For reasons I can't explain, because I'm making this up as I go along, I am unable to pay this amount myself, though it amounts to FIVE THOUSANDTHS OF ONE PERCENT of my profit.

    Simply withdraw your money in small bills and FLUSH IT DOWN THE TOILET and my operatives will remove it from the sewer system and deposit the money into your account. I TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS H. FUCKING CHRIST that you are a trustworthy person who will do the right thing.

    Sincerely,
    COLONEL DOGUM GUNUN KUTLU OLSUN

  • eBay? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ubiquitin (28396) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @07:54PM (#8470322) Homepage Journal

    Here's my advice to high-school students looking to be entrepreneurial during a summer: find a way to make or import something interesting and sell it on eBay. You don't have a lot of overhead and actually wind up with real-world experience of building and/or supporting a product.

    • My first thought was eBay. But I was thinking, fish older sister's panties out of dirty laundry...eBay...Profit!

  • That 1000 dollars will keep you equipped with gloves and waders for the whole summer, so everything else is pure profit!!!
  • Consider
    1) So, given it takes money to make money, $1000 isn't going to net you much in ROI.
    2) Instead, write something gratis that other people will use, and will give you something to put on your resume after college.
    3) Open up a sourceforge account to organize your project. Do all the project planning work out in the open - project goals and descriptions, requirements, specs, docs, code. In the future, you can point people to this as a sample of your early work (keep it updated). Have a GUI (I don't recommend Web apps for something like this - too much infrastructure), write it in C++ (what I suggest), Java, or VB, depending on your talent and audience (and resources - Gnu C++ and Java are free).
    4) People don't use 80% of software they buy - so make that 80% open-sourced 'infrastructure' libraries and such, and the remaining 20% closed-source plug-ins or specialized customizations (and a good installer - people tend to buy stuff that has a good installer).
    5) If someone wants a feature or a bug fixed, see if they will pay for support.
    6) Leverage other people for the product.
    7) Learn how to market your product. Just see it as an experiment - don't be shy, be outgoing, and specifically, be clever.

    Do some market research: go and figure out what someone wants to do that they can't do now, or that the software to do is expensive. How? Ask them!

    The criterion for your research should be - you should have a representative sample of the population nearby, they probably should be a small business (since individuals don't pay much and usually need more prettiness-per-unit-usefulness than a small business solving a specific problem would need), they should have some general-purpose computers that are underleveraged (people do one or two applications on them (mail, word/excel/quicken, and Minesweeper) and don't really use them to their full potential).

    Consider what target audiences you have around you: small, non-chain restaurants (specifically their back office); professional practices, like small dentist/physical therapist/massage therapists/chiropractor offices; the corner bodega - they might have a cash register, but no computer tracking of stock so they never quite know what their inventory is or how much to buy - sell them that. House painters/plumbers/small general contractors. Churches/Synagogues/Mosques.

    Find something some group of the people above do that's tedius, and see if you can make it trivial. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of people, and say 'no' if it looks like too much - even if they will pay you. Do _not_ get in over your head.

    KISS - keep it simple, silly. Bang-for-the-buck is the keyword for this sort of development. You are trying to make their lives better/easier/smarter, and they might need 'just one thing'. Consider the first spreadsheets - they merely edited columns of numbers and added them up correctly, and saved and read them to a file. This saved an _enormous_ amount of time for people who had to do this stuff day-in-day-out. Almost nothing subsequently has had as profound an impact on their lives as taking the grunt work out of moving raw numbers around with pen-and-paper.

    -J
    • The one thing you forgot is marketing. I'm in advertising/marketing, and I gotta tell you, you're dead wrong on the ROI. You can do a lot for your businesses image with $1000. Nice business cards, a decent suit, stationary, home office, etc. You'd be surprised on how much you can do with so little. My opinion is, people don't buy the product/service so much as they buy the business. There are exceptions, but this tends to be most frequent.

      I know most people on here despise marketing and advertising, r

  • As a 19 year old... (Score:4, Informative)

    by krs-one (470715) <vic@openglforumsFREEBSD.com minus bsd> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @08:43PM (#8470803) Homepage Journal
    As a 19 year old college student with a ton of ideas all the time, its hard to pursue any of them. I keep a small notepad with me at all times. Anytime I get any inspiration (if its in the middle of a professor giving a lecture), I write it down. Then I can go and review it later.

    But I was in your position a few years ago (I was a Freshman in highschool, not a senior). Here's what I did (in 2000):

    The local science fair had a web design contest. I had been doing web design for about a year, mainly for my own amusement and knowledge. I also had a close friend who did the same, and since we needed teams of 2, we formed a web design team. We made a web page (one we actually wrote, didn't use Dreamweaver) according to the specs of the contest, and totally blew away the judges. They thought it was the most amazing thing ever. They both gave us their business cards, told us to contact them, we did, and bingo, $12 an hour work for each of us. We were psyched.

    Eventually our client fell out from beneath us and never contacted us back, but we got paid for the work we did, so all was good.

    Another science fair story: the magnet high school program I attended required everyone to do a science fair project every year. Since I was(am) a decent programmer, I always did stuff in the computer science category. I loved the stuff, and the category was small so I was always almost guranteed to win. I did a project on Artificial Intelligence one year, and OpenGL another and Massive Parallel Rendering a third year. All the judges loved it, and a lot offered me jobs. I already had a well paying job at the time, so I passed on them, but I got my name out there.

    Those are my opinions and experiences, take them for what their worth from someone in your shoes a few years ago. Keep in mind, as well, that all of this cost me nothing (in fact, it all made me $$$ as 1st place at the web design contest got me money, and so did 1st place at science fair, not to mention the actual jobs).

    Good luck!

    -Vic
  • Anyone else notice that the fortune displayed while reading this article is "You will engage in a profitable business opportunity"?
  • (A lot of things depend a lot on where you are, whether your lack of regular transportation effectively traps you in suburbia or elsewhere, whether there are people with money to spend on summertime child labor, etc ... that said, random thoughts)

    computer related:
    1) consider an internship somewhere. Less exciting as an idea than starting your own, but it can also lead to contacts, give you experience, etc. All sorts of businesses need computer-smart people, don't just think of ones that sell computers or w
  • I'm appalled... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gregwbrooks (512319) * <gregb@noSPaM.west-third.com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @10:20PM (#8471513)
    ... not at your question, but at some of these answers. Damn, what a cynical, pedantic bunch we can be at times!

    OK, first things first: You should be commended for wanting to work and (lack of car, funds and details aside) for wanting to pursue an entrepreneurial path.

    Some thoughts...

    • Don't let the lack of a car get in your way. Become the Young Tech Whizzes Who Have To Have Their Clients Come Pick Them Up. Sound lame? It won't when the local paper or TV station picks it up and you've got lots of calls coming in.
    • Consider putting both the money and yourself to work -- but on different things.A grand isn't huge, but it's enough to do a little dabbling in the stock market. Do some research, make some picks and then work your investments at night while you work a more boring day job.
    • If you do go that route, don't turn up your nose at mass-market jobs like McDonald's.The goal when you're a teenager is to learn life skills, make a little money and ... that's about it. Laugh if you want, but you'll learn basics of working in an organization by doing a stint at McDonald's that you won't learn simply by going the entrepreneurial route. I'm all for building your own business -- I'm a PR consultant and help start-up endeavors all the time -- but it's the rare entrepreneur who didn't learn some of the ropes as an employee somewhere else.
    • Related to above: You could always put the money to work in the stock market and then go get a kick-ass internship.
    • Whatever you do, focus -- and focus hard -- on execution. Contrary to what other posters have said, million-dollar ideas are relatively easy to come by; it's execution that can make even a mediocre business plan highly profitable. Meet your deadlines. Make customers feel special. Feel shy or nervous around strangers and customers? Get over it or learn to hide it. You'll find that only about 5% of the people you ever work with do what they say they will do, and do it when they say they will do it; master this one simple thing, and you will be a standout no matter what your profession.


  • Repair amps (Score:3, Interesting)

    by glk572 (599902) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @10:20PM (#8471518) Homepage Journal
    I made a good sideline repairing guitar amps in high school, $50-100 plus parts, sometimes more depending on the issue. The only trick is to only work on old wire wrap tube amps, no IC's, easy to work on. Most of the parts are widely available, the only tools you really need, are a basic electrical tools (get good ones) and a tube tester (buy this used). I actually ran my little business out of the electronics lab at my school, made a decent little bit of cash. One tip, check the diodes in the power supply first. Usually fixing one of these is just a matter of finding the burnt out part and replacing it.

    Place an add in you're local music weekly, there's big demand for this. But just make sure that you make it clear that you're not liable for more than the cost of the repair, and don't promise that you can fix everything.

    Also don't go cash up front, take a crack at it first, the best case scenario is that someone won't pay for the repair, you have the amp as collateral, worst case you can pawn it for more than you would have gotten anyway. You'll meet some interesting people, have some fun, and get a chance to chill out a bit before college.

    Old amps are pretty easy to work on and there's a lot of poor musicians who can't afford to buy a new one, or have it professionally repaired, they're pretty willing to take a small risk to save a buck.

    So my conclusion, forget about high tech, there's lot's of competition, find a niche and work it for all it's worth.
  • Make a cool tshirt for $10,000. www.pricewatch.com
  • by psyconaut (228947) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:19PM (#8471933)
    This is how I financed my college education.

    For $1000 you should be able to improvise a small hydroponic operation....focus the money on the lights....you can even just use compact fluorescents for the mother plants for cloning, and keep the HIDs for flowering time.

    You can probably turn $5000-10000 profit over the summer (~90 days).

    Good luck.

    -psy
  • by anticypher (48312) <anticypher@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:23PM (#8471962) Homepage
    I wish there were some students around here I could trust enough to pass off all the people who want me to install a virus checker on their win98 boxes.

    Get some practice with the main virus scanning tools, anti-spyware cleaners, and other basic windoze utilities. Learn how each version of windoze does things like dial-up, and how the local cable or ADSL provider like user machines to be set up. Then print up some nice flyers and go around to all the computer stores in town and ask them if they'll promote your "summer job" business of doing all the crap work helping (l)users set up their systems and get on the internet.

    Draw up a list of jobs you will do, a time estimate for each one, and the price you will charge for each job. Something like installing Norton Anti-Virus should take about an hour, and you should charge something around US$10 or $15. Installing a free firewall, with basic configuration should cost $10. Helping with an ADSL installation maybe $20.

    Make sure you are up front that the person with the machine is going to be buying the software, like a commercial virus checker, and your fee will be on top of that. Add $5 if you are the one to run to the store and buy the software for them. Don't get tempted to try pirating commercial software, enough people will then be wary of you, and the recommendations will fall off. Make sure you explain how some of the software is free for personal use, like AdAware and ZoneAlarm, but some effective virus scanners cost $40 or $90.

    Have your own collection of freeware utilities, on both a USB key and a CD, and maybe even a floppy with necessary drivers. You would be surprised how many old machines are out there still running win98 or NT, and don't have USB ports or a working CD drive. The owners don't care, since they have 33.6k dialup, AOL, and Word97. They don't really need much else, but the trojans and email virii are hurting their systems and they need somebody cheap to help them out, and the computer shops tend to want to charge large amounts per hour for basic installations.

    By the end of the summer, you will have learned you never want to work in technical support again, and you will probably blow your hard earned cash on a high powered rifle and a case of hunting ammo.

    the AC
    • I did that through the late years of school, and it looks good on a resume as well - off the back of that I got a job working at a local primary school doing tech support while I was in college, and then moved on to full blown sysadmin.

      Of course I'm now unemployed again, because I got laid off... but don't let that stop you.
  • This is my recommendation for all high school and college students. Spend at least a couple weeks working for Labor Ready [laborready.com]or some similar work today paid today temp agency.

    Since you get paid at the end of the day and the jobs are very menial and degrading these types of places attract many drunks, ex-cons, and drug abusers. They're generally nice enough people who have made terrible decisions and can't get a regular job. They're often continueing to make terrible decisions.

    Spend afew days observing
  • I started out back when I was 14, doing spot tutoring jobs for $10 an hour here and there for old people, it wasn't glamorous, nor profitable, my parents carted me around, but it laid the foundation. After middle school, i snagged a job as a lab assistant at a local college annex, 3 hours every saturday @ $9.25 an hour, i was originally promised $7 :) After two years, I had snagged a few key clients whomI tutored at their homes, and started fixing their boxes in the process. This became far more profitable
  • Networking. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oneiros27 (46144) on Friday March 05, 2004 @12:45AM (#8472470) Homepage
    You're about to leave the last free school you're going to get, most likely. [Unless it's offered as a benefit as a future employer]

    And then you get to the paying for education, and then the trying to pay off student loans, and find someone to give you money for your time.

    Although it sounds like a good idea to try to make money now, you may actually want to look at things that might help you to make more money later. So pick what you like to do, and go talk to people who work for companies that work in the field, or have jobs of the type that you want. You probably won't get to do it, but it doesn't mean that you can't get an internship, and learn something.

    Hell, it might be that all you learn is that you really hate the field, and that's the best thing that you can learn early. You might learn that you don't want to work for that type of company.

    But you also start building your resume, and gaining experience. You meet people, who can tell you later in life when there's a position that you might be interested in. And you have so many more people whom you can use as references for that first real paying job.

    As for transportation -- public transit. It's not glamorous, but the bus is your friend. Or, look for stuff within walking/bike distance. Hell, even a public library or local government might be willing to take you in, if you're interested in working there.

  • 3 Months (Score:3, Insightful)

    by splattertrousers (35245) on Friday March 05, 2004 @03:13AM (#8473174) Homepage
    Figure out where all the APOTAS* are and learn how to meet** them. Spending a summer doing that will be far more rewarding than any crappy business you can put together in 3 months.

    * APOTAS == attractive people of the appropriate sex :)

    ** meet == screw :) :)
  • Take your money, and hire an attorney. Then proceed to sue everyone you possibly can for copyright infringment. You don't even have to have a decent case. If you sue the right people, their enimies will pump money into your legal fund. Just skim a few million off the top of that, and it is a summer well spent.
  • set up PVRs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DrEasy (559739)
    Recycle old PCs into PVRs! Install MythTV, the right hardware, charge for an arm and a leg and you're cooking! Minimal investment, a bit of tinkering, and a lot of fun too! Start with family and neighbours, and the word of mouth should spread quickly. The uninitiated will be impressed.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday March 05, 2004 @07:41AM (#8473867)
    ... i've not seen an spam filter that is 100% effective, you could offer a personalised manual spam filtering service!
  • Go around to flea markets and buy things cheap that look interesting. Then hawk them on Ebay for a slight markup. You'll make some money, I know of two people doing this locally to suppliment their incomes. Interesting is in the eye of the beholder, but it's one idea that doesn't involve mowing lawns.

    Another one is to walk around offering to do oil changes on cars in people's driveways. Buy a GOOD jack and jackstands, a torque wrench to properly tighten the drain bolt, brand name filters and oil. Most peop
  • Go to work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lewp (95638) on Friday March 05, 2004 @09:26AM (#8474239) Journal
    Most any business you're going to be able to start is going to have startup costs equal to or greater than what you'll make over a summer. Not only that, but running your own business generally means you're going to work your ever-loving asses off.

    Unless you're dead set against it, why not just get a bullshit food service or retail job? Remember, you're in high school. This is the summer. One of the last ones you're going to get.

    Think of it like this:

    • If you're only going to pursue this for the summer, you're likely to make more money working for someone else rather than trying to get a business of the ground.
    • You'll learn what it's like to work for someone else. If you don't like it, it'll make you that much more motivated to come up with a viable business idea. A "bad" job increases this effect over the typical $10-12/hr high school kid IT job. At the absolute very least you'll figure out why you don't want to wash dishes for the rest of your life and it'll motivate you to study and/or work harder after school.
    • Everyone can get one of these jobs. If you're dealing with summer, you've only got twelve weeks. You can get one of these jobs in one day if you can speak passable english. In the process you'll get some great zero-pressure interview experience. Remember, the interviewer is likely to be fucking ecstatic that a clean, bright teenager is applying.
    • Cute girls get lame part time jobs in retail and food service. If you don't already have tons of these hanging around (you're reading Slashdot, sue me for assuming), don't underestimate the value of being side-by-side with actual ladies every day for three months. You'd be surprised how crappy labor != bad job when you've got a hottie to admire while you do it. Couple this with the fact that low-wage coworkers tend to bond together quickly and tightly, and you've got a recipe for success.

    I was blessed with amazing jobs I got through family contacts my last two years of high school, but I worked in a grocery store my sophomore year. It didn't really teach me anything, and the pay was right around minimum wage, but I also got invited to some pretty cool parties I would have missed if I didn't know my coworkers. I was actually rather sad when school started again and my extracurricular commitments forced me to quit.

    Hell, to this day I'm thankful for that job. The people I worked with there are, by a wide margin, the largest group of people who didn't leave town after graduation. Gives me people to hang out with when I have to go home to visit the parents.

    I work in IT, and make a pretty damn good living now with great job security, but I still look back on wasted high school summers fondly. Unless you are the type who is just miserable in high school, then maybe you would too.

    • Re:Go to work (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Glonoinha (587375)
      There is exactly one job where women line up all day every day, one every three minutes or so, give you their undivided attention, describe their home life, eating and spending habits, then hand you a piece of paper with their real name, home address, phone number, and picture id to verify that they are over 18. Grocery cashier.

      I spent 5 years (my last year in HS, and all through college) working at the big grocery store in my little college town and although the pay wasn't great I scored one quality cont
  • enjoy your summer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ajw1976 (542188)
    You're just a kid. Enjoy your summer. The time of few responsibilities will soon pass away as you enter adulthood.
  • Horse shit (Score:3, Funny)

    by mcmonkey (96054) on Friday March 05, 2004 @12:53PM (#8476304) Homepage
    1. Get contracts with local stables for cleaning services.
    2. Sell the 'proceeds' from the stables as fertilizer
    3. Profit!
    4. When busted for not paying tax on the fertilizer, point out taxes were paid on sale of the hay the horses ate and exclaim, "We're getting taxed at both ends!"
  • by gobbo (567674) <wrewrite AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 05, 2004 @04:17PM (#8478489) Journal
    1. Window washing residences and commercial storefronts. Pros: startup costs approximately $300 for a good ladder, promo materials, and proper Ettore squeegee gear; once you get in the groove, it's a great job for an active mind to roam. Cons: not as easy as it sounds, you need to learn some tricks to get your speed and quality up. Most storefronts already have windowwasher contractors.

    2. Landscaping. -1 redundant, 'nuf said.

    3. Document prep: I used to do wordprocessing on my rare and ubermodern Atari. That morphed with time and tech into desktop publishing, a universally needed and generally badly done activity. Pros: Once you get some design principles down, not too hard to float above the scum. Cons: everyone thinks they're a designer, and only the good get paid well; as well, the client will always revise things at the last minute.

    4. Databases for small business. It blows me away how many retail and service businesses use crappy data management. I did this in Filemaker because it's good at interfaces (incl. web-based) and flexible form queries (good for users, challenging for developing) as well as cross platform and cheap (at the time). Perfect for that segment, fast to develop in so good cash. Nowadays I'd do it in MySQL with a browser interface when possible, ymmv. Pros: only a few of these contracts needed over a summer, so you can market F2F, and it's a great ladder up to other IT as it often requires some basic networking too. Cons: clients can really take you for a ride through feature creep and not knowing what they really need.

    5. Oh, I can't bring myself to admit to this one.

    6. Tutoring. -2 Redundant.

    7. Sell stuff over the 'net. Set up a website with shopping cart, go nuts marketing (short of spamdammit). Good way to do this is to find a distribution problem (eg. partner with some local craftspeople who're good but not getting their stuff out there). Or work ebay, work it hard, hit all the estate sales. Pros: flexibility, no F2F with nutty clients, decent $ opportunity. Cons: risk of a serious bomb.

    8. Sell souvlaki on a nude beach. OK, you may not have the opportunity to do this, but hey! what a great entrepeneurial summer job that was. Mind you, I cashed a good portion of my profits on the all-too-available cold beer supplies at same beach. Pros: who cares if it doesn't go on your resume... ;-) Cons: sand in everything, and moldy pita bread.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday March 05, 2004 @06:15PM (#8479788) Homepage Journal
    Here's what I would do:



    I just got done installing dotproject open-source groupware for Opera Columbus. After some tough negotitation, I won the contract (no contract really, they just hired me). They already have hosting with another provider. The provider wanted X to developed web-based project management; I serisouly undercut them with an application suite that was already ready. I had to do some user training, but that's about it for the hard part.

    What I recommend is taking very little of your $1000, buy some cheap web hosting, and setting up some open source groupware. Spend a little bit more of that $1000 on printing manuals or throwing together a nice presentation -- charts and graphs, with binders, etc. Physical things, such as paper, will show people that you have an investment in what you are doing, and aren't just talking. They will have it to refer to later when they can't remember what you said. It shows stability and lastingness, that you will be there.

    Be selective with the open sources packages, find the stuff that's 1. finished, 2. polished, and 3. easy to use for a non-techie. I highly recommend dotproject [dotproject.net]; the only problem is that it lacks printing.

    Then, setup free demo accounts for users. Give them 30 or 60 day trials. Expect to spend some time training. Offer to do the initial setup, such as user accounts, etc. The people who use it and like it will gladly pay for the setup.
    You can charge either
    1. recurring fees for stuff you host. If you chose this, be prepared to go the extra mile for support when the thing crashes in the middle of the night.
    - or -
    2. a larger, one-time setup fee for setting it up on their hosting providers. Be sure to specify rates for future support of the application if you do a 1x set up fee. Here is where you clean up when they need you.

    Pick a minimum price you want, and always present something higher. That gives you room to negotiate. Geeks hate negotitaion, business people love it. Be prepared for it. Be prepared to walk away from deals where they want too much; those people are users and they will expect you to work for them 24/7 for way too little money. It's just not worth it.

    • One thing I forgot to mention: I put together a quote for them for installing MS Project with 10 users. Even with the non-profit discount, it was still $4k. (They needed to upgrade from NT to 2k, purchase Project Server, licenses, etc.).
  • by toygeek (473120) on Friday March 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#8480848) Homepage Journal
    Well, When I was 17 y/o I went and got a job at an office supply store. Staples #134 in Palm Springs, CA. I was the snot nosed kid who worked the computer section at the time. After I was there a few months, I started getting a good reputation with customers and staff, and got LOTS of side business doing things like:

    - installing parts I sold
    - setting up peoples new computers
    - migrating peoples data to new computers
    - teaching them how to USE their computers
    - general tech work

    Of course I had to make sure that the general manager was OK with that, and he was cool with it as long as I wasn't constantly pimping myself. I usually let people ASK if I knew anybody who could do such and such and I'd say "I know *just* the guy". I'd ask for THEIR contact info, and I'd call them after hours (or before if I was working 1-9 like I did often.)

    I charged $25/hr, with a 1hr minimum. I'd go through their computers and make sure they were running good, THEN I'd start teaching them. I made thousands and thousands of dollars this way. It could be hard work but I'd take the stuff that other area consultants wanted $75/hr to work on, or just plain wouldn't do.

    It gave me a good base, and you know, I STILL do lots of that stuff on the side, but these days I charge $45/hr and most of the work is web design work that I bid per job, flat rate. Yeah, I'm cheap, but I'm not out to make a killing. I'm out to make a *living*.

    The OTHER thing I used to do alot was to find a computer shop online that would wholesale parts to me, and I'd price out uber-cheap computers that were custom built. Then, I'd advertise it in the paper at a really good price, cheaper than most places. Very little profit margin, if any. If they ordered, I'd buy the parts, build it, and deliver. Then if they wanted extra help with it, no problem. $25/hr.

    If you want to figure out how to get customers to spend money, go to a pet shop. See those cute fish for 10 cents? Bowl, $5. Pump, $10. Food, $3, rocks, $2. There, now you just made $20 on a 10 cent fish.

    The moral of my story? People are sheeple. You need to learn how to lead them into buying from you, but it has to be their idea. Wanna sell $20 of fish supplies? Find the cutest 10 cent fish you can, and sell the heck out of them.
  • Technical Youth (Score:2, Informative)

    by Krezel (91860) *
    Here in the Detroit area we have a company called Technical Youth [technicalyouth.com] that hires up high school and college techies and farms them out as temp work. Looks like good money.
  • Here's what you should do, assuming you can solder, which you said you could.

    Set up a home business modding peoples Xboxes and PS2s over the summer. You're the right age to know a bunch of people who will have them, and will probably have a couple hundred bucks they could throw your way if you hotrod them.

    Charge them the cost of the modchip (cheap, like $30) the cost of a hard drive, and 100 bucks for yourself.

    Just don't run afoul of the authorities when you do all this, they will think you're cyber-ter

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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