Start a micro business this summer! Part 1


It’s summertime and  that means it’s a great time to start a micro business-especially for teenagers.

Listen to this episode of the Dollar and Sense podcast as host, Carol Topp, and her guest, teenage micro business owner, Rachel Coker, explain the best type of businesses a teenager can start this summer.

Listen to the podcast

Here are some micro business ideas Carol and Rachel shared:

Business Ideas: Products

Crafts, clothing, sports-related shirts/towels, bracelets, pet food, baked food/candy/cakes, jewelry, books, ebooks, CDs,  iPhone/iPad apps

Business Ideas: Services

Tutoring, Childcare, Music lessons, Editing papers, Web design, Pet Sitter/Dog Walker, Bookkeeping, Event planner, Virtual assistant, Writer/Author/Blogger, Lawn care, Cleaning/Clutter control, Writing coach


Check out the Micro Business for Teens books and videos

For more ideas visit the Micro Business for Teens Pinterest page.


If you found the podcast helpful, please leave a review on iTunes. Click on “View in iTunes” to leave a review. Thanks!

Summer micro business idea: Flip Flops

Summer time means flip flops! Try decorating them in unique ways as a micro business this summer.

Get inspiration form Pinterest, Etsy or Madison Robinson, who had the idea to turn ordinary flip flops into extraordinary sea-themed fish flops with battery powered lights.

Madison’s Fish Flop shoes have now gone on to sell more than 60,000 pairs and have made her more than $1.2 million dollars! Fish Flops are now sold in Nordstrom and Macy stores nationwide. You can read more of Madison’s amazing success story here.  This story is courtesy of Forbes.

Warning! When decorating flip flops don’t copy any professional sports teams logos or you’ll be in hot water!


Make sure to take time this summer and learn more about business. Starting a Micro Business is a great place to begin.

Carol Topp, CPA

Summer micro business idea: Snow Cone Truck

© by Sean Loyless

Looking for a job one summer, 17 year old Iowa teen Austin Moss, stumbled across a snow cone business online.

Austin borrowed money from his grandparents to buy a truck, took a few financial classes, and then got a permit from his city for ASM Shaved Ice

He ran a successful shaved ice business during the summer! As a mobile business, Austin sells shaved ice from his truck and also has worked for companies and private parties.

You can start a micro business just like Austin! Read my book series, Micro Business for Teens, to get started.

Carol Topp, CPA

We’re Not Raising Children! (or maybe we are!)



Are today’s parents guilty of micro managing our teenagers?  Or being helicopter parents?

This episode of the Dollars and Sense Show podcast is part 1 of a two-part workshop Carol Topp presented at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati last year titled, “Were Not Raising Children, We’re Raising Grown Ups.”

Carol discusses the topic of sheltering our children too much and for too long so that they are ill equipped for adult life.

Listen here

Grab your handout here

Mentioned in the podcast:

  • The Self-Propelled Advantage Joanne Calderwood
  • Parenting for the Launch Dennis Trittin
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Amy Chua
  • Setting The Records Straight Lee Binz,
  • Phil Vischer podcast at

In Part 2 Carol will share important life skills your teenager needs to know, such as: career choice, money management and living independently. She will share tips on how to impart important lessons in a natural way and share resources to help you raise a grown up!

See you in Cincinnati!

Convention floor

I’ll be at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati this weekend, April 9-11, 2015. I hope you’ll come by my booth #1420 and say hi if you’re there!

I’ll be speaking on:
Real Life Skills Learned by Running a Micro Business Friday at 8:30 am
Career Exploration for High School Students on Friday at 2:30 pm

and I’ll have copies of my new book, Career Exploration for Homeschool High School Students for sale-hot off the presses!


Think like your customers in order to find them!


In the classic movie, Caddyshack, Bill Murry deals with a pesky gopher. He tries to think like a gopher and says,

“I got to get into this dude’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.

Who’s the gopher’s ally? His friends. The harmless squirrel and the friendly rabbit.”

To find customers for your micro business, you must think like them.

You should ask yourself a few questions to think like your customers:

  • Where do they live?
  • Where do they shop?
  • Where do they spent time?
  • What do they read?
  • What website do they visit?
  • When are they home?
  • Where do they go for information or products?

Here’s an example:

My daughter, Emily, wanted to start teaching piano lessons to children. She knew that she needed to reach a child’s parents, specifically the mother, with her advertising. She knew that many mothers communicated with each other on-line and thought that would be a quick, low cost way to advertise.

Facebook is a great tool, but wouldn’t really work because Emily was connected with her friends there, but not mothers. Instead, she went to where the mothers chatted on-line. She put out a post on our local homeschool e-mail list. Within a few weeks she had three students and then word of mouth took over. One student’s mother told another mother and soon Emily had seven students and was turning away more interested customers.

So think like your customer in order to find them!
Starting a Micro Business for Teens BookMore tips on starting a micro business can be found in Starting a Micro Business. Available in print and ebook.



You might also enjoy this podcast on Creating a Customer Profile.  Carol Sue and Phillip Priddy from  share their expertise on creating a marketing plan and a customer profile for your micro business.

Carol Topp, CPA

Word of mouth in a digital world

What’s the best kind of advertising for a micro business in a digital world?
One that doesn’t cost anything and brings in a lot of customers.

Many people say that word of mouth advertising is the best type of advertising because it doesn’t cost you, the micro business owner, anything.
But, there are a few problems with word of mouth advertising:

  • It’s unpredictable.

  • It’s hard to get started

  • No control. You have no idea of what people are saying about your micro business!

One way to kick start word of mouth marketing is to ask customers write a nice review about you and to tell all their friends.

True Story: My friend, Dave Huff, started a Mac support business, Mac Home Support, ( He’ll work with anyone needing help with their Mac or Apple products. We called him to help my daughters and I straighten out our iTunes library after I accidentally deleted all the music on my iPod.

We don’t have a Mac, but we did need help with iTunes. Dave spent an hour hour in front of our PC answering our stupid questions like, “What do the blue circles mean?” and “What do the check marks mean?” Then he showed us a neat feature called smart playlists to help get us organized.

When I asked what we owed him, he said, “I want you to tell everyone you know about my business.”

So I did. I put it on Facebook that evening and now I’ve told all of you about too.

That’s how word of mouth works in the digital age.

Try it! Ask your customers to tell everyone about about you. They can pin, post, review, like, etc…


Lately, on my Dollars and Sense podcast, I’ve been asking listeners to leave a positive review in iTunes.

That’s digital word of mouth.


Carol Topp

Homeschool Heartbeat: Help your student start a micro business

I was pleased to be interviewed by Mike Smith of HSLDA (Home School Leader Defense Association) on their Homeschool Heartbeat program.

click image to listen to the program

Here’s a bit of the transcript:

Mike: Carol, how can young people take something they enjoy and turn it into a business?

Carol: Well, they do what most business owners do—they find a need that they can fulfill and they meet that need, and someone will pay them for it. So they might meet needs with any talent or skill that they might be good at or better than somebody else.

Mike: What’s a practical first step for starting up a small business like this?

Carol: Well, I think you start with thinking about, obviously, what you’re good at. So kids don’t always give themselves credit, but sometimes they’re better at some things like algebra, Spanish, piano, pet care, pet cleaning. And you start thinking about what could I do to offer these services or offer my talents or skills to somebody else. I call it creating a mini-market plan, where you just think about, “Who could I help? How could I charge them? How can I find them?”

Read the rest of the transcript.


In the interview I mention a public television program Starting a Micro Business. Watch it here.

How to pick a good idea for a micro business


I listened to a podcast given by a Harvard MBA who gave 50 things to consider when evaluating a business idea. 50! It made my head hurt.

Micro business should not need 50 things to consider. How about five? Here’s five things to think about when picking an idea for a micro businesses.

1. Do you really like the product or service? Do you use it yourself? You need to be enthusiastic about what you are selling so that people to buy from you. Hopefully, you have used the product yourself and can tell customers how great it is from your personal experience.

2. Is it profitable? Do a cost-benefit analysis to calculate how profitable your business could be. Don;t know who to do a cost-benefit analysis? It’s all explained in Starting a Micro Business.

3. Is there a need? You can’t sell ice to Eskimos-there’s no need,  but you can sell ice in Florida! Evaluate if there is need for your product or service carefully. Try doing some surveys of potential customers or test your product on a few customers first.

4. What are the start-up costs? Micro business should not need a lot of start up money. If your idea takes a lot of money just to start, it is too risky for a micro business. Think about launching another, simpler micro business first to raise the start up money for your second venture.

5. Is it manageable for you? You may have a great idea, but it might consume all your free time. Save that idea for when you have more time and launch a simpler micro now to learn the ropes.

Those five questions are enough to help you determine if your idea would make a good micro business.

Starting a Micro Business for Teens BookMore tips on starting a micro business can be found in Starting a Micro Business. Available in print and ebook.

Carol Topp, CPA

Five tips to keep your customers happy

If your customers are happy, you’re happy.

Here are 5 tips to providing customer service as a  micro business owner:

  1. Smile: Learn a lesson from Wal-Mart and greet your customers with a smile and a friendly “Hello.”

  2. Dress well: Make sure your work clothes and hands are clean, even if you are hired to do dirty work like landscaping. Wear dark pants that don’t show the dirt and change your shirt between customers if it gets sweaty or dirty.

  3. Say “Thank you” every time they hire you.

  4. Follow up with a handwritten card to new customers. A card is so old fashioned, but that’s why people love hand written notes. It shows you made an extra effort. Simply write, “I appreciate your business and I hope that you will contact me in the future.”

  5. Be on time: Arrive a few minutes early if you can. If you will be later than 10 minutes, call and explain that you have been delayed.


These are just a few tips on serving your customers in a micro business.

There’s more in my book, Running a Micro Business.


Carol Topp