Micro Business Idea: Sign Spinning

Here’s a unique idea for a micro businesses: Sign Spinning.


Have you ever seen a group of kids advertise their youth group’s car wash by holding up a sign on a street corner? It’s a pretty good way to get attention.  Two teenagers, Max Durovic and Michael Kenny, were hired to be teenage sign holders.  But they got bored and came up with stunts where they spin and throw their signs like batons, strum them like guitars, paddle them like canoes and ride them like horses.  Sound like fun?  Maybe, if you are part clown, athlete and actor! It’s like earning money doing an extreme sport.

“Sign spinning is a lot like ballroom dancing, except your partner has no life of its own,” Brown says. “Giving the sign its life and personality is a spinner’s true task.”

Check out the successful website the boys have here: AArow Advertising.com There are even a few videos so you can check out their technique.

There are also several videos on You Tube if you’d like to see even more.

It’s no longer a micro business. AArow Advertising now has 36 franchises (copies of the business in other cities) all over the globe, and thousands of employees!

I think that you could find a local restaurant or store that needs some more customers. See if they will hire you to be a sign spinner for an hour or two and you are in business!

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My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on running a micro business.

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens.

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What Should You Charge Customers?

Many micro business owners struggle with what to charge for their services or products. If they charge to much they may never attract customers, but if they charge too little they may not cover their costs or make a decent profit.

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Here are some tips for setting a price that you and your customer can live with.

  • Market survey-Ask your potential clients what they are willing to pay. You may be surprised at what some people will pay for your unique service or product.
  • Competitor price-Learn what your competitors charge. You can ask them directly or ask customers what they have paid in the past. A teenager giving piano lessons asked several other teenagers and parents about the going rate for beginning piano lessons to help her set her price.
  • Cover your costs-You must know what your costs are and then add more to cover taxes and your desired profit. One unlucky micro business owner only charged enough to cover her costs and forgot about taxes and making a profit to grow the business, let alone paying herself.
  • Don’t forget taxes– Work with an accountant to calculate what you will owe in federal, state and local income taxes. As a micro business owner you will also be paying self employment tax to cover social security and medicare. CPAs frequently tell small business owners to allow for 25-35% of their profit to pay for taxes.
  • Value your time-Some micro owners charge by the hour they are with a customer (such as tutoring by the hour), but fail to realize that they spend many hours outside of customer time. Travel time and preparation time should be considered when you set an hourly rate.
  • Adjust when needed-Adjust your prices if your costs increase, or if you find you are seriously under priced compared to your competitors. Also increase your prices if you find your product or service is in demand.
  • Adjust as you gain experience-An experienced worker is more valuable than a new one. After a few years of doing bookkeeping, a micro business owner made a plan to increase her rates for current clients over a three year period, but she charged new clients the higher rates from the start.

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My book, Money and Taxes in a Micro Business will help you understand taxes!

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens

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Why You Should Be a Sole Proprietor

Most books on starting a small business start with a chapter on deciding your business type. Sometimes they are called Choice of Entity chapters and they cover the major types of business structures in the United States today. Those types are:

  • Sole Proprietorship (one owner)

  • Partnerships (more than one owner)

  • Corporations including S Corporations and C Corporations (owned by shareholders)

Business guides tell you that making a decision on your business entity is a serious decision and must be made before you begin your business. You are told to do extensive reading and are advised to consult a lawyer. It can stop you in your tracks before you get started!

These guides are well intended, but are overkill for micro businesses. Micros are sole proprietorships (meaning one and only one owner) and here’s why:

  • Quick to start

  • No partnership agreements

  • No corporation status needed. Corporations need to file with their Secretary of State, pay a fee and usually abide by some reporting requirements.

  • Easiest to close. Partnerships and corporations are sometimes more work to shut down than to start up becasue of legal entanglements. But a sole proprietorship closes down when the owner decides he or she wants to move on.

  • Easy to understand. Partnerships and corporations usually need a lawyer to draft contracts with legal language t0 protect all the people involved.

  • Simplest tax structure. A sole proprietorship uses a two page form, Schedule C Business Income or Loss (or the simpler one page form , Schedule C-EZ) and attaches it to their personal tax return. Partnerships and corporations require completely separate multi-page tax returns and additional forms added to the owners individual forms.

  • No lawyer needed. Lawyers might be a good idea if you are signing a lease or applying for a patent, but most micros work from home and never invent anything new, so they can operate for years without needing a lawyer.

  • No accountant needed (but recommended for an initial consultant and for tax preparation).

  • You keep the profits. Partnerships and corporations distribute their profits to partners or shareholders.

  • No investors to keep happy. You, the micro owner, need to be happy with your business’ progress, not outside investors or partners.

So don’t get bogged down with deciding a business entity before you launch your micro business.  Simply start as a sole proprietorship.  If you become phenomenally successful, then look into S Corporation or C corporation status to see if it might be beneficial.

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My book, Starting a Micro Business discusses more reasons why you should start your micro business as a sole proprietor and avoid partnerships.

 

 

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens.

From a 17 Year Old Author on Self Publishing

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Vanessa Van Petten, author of You’re Grounded!, wrote and independently published her own book when she was only 17. In this blog post she shares eight steps to self publishing a book.

How and Why to Self-Publish Your Book

by Vanessa Van Petten

My Quick Story: I finished writing the book almost completely when I was 17 and did not even think about publishing it until it was all done.  When I thought I would publish it, I contacted a few literary agents that my family knew, who explained to me the steps and issues below, and I made the decision to not even try to get into a traditional publishing house (see why below).  I hired an independent editor I found online and contacted a few different companies to self-publish.  I chose iUniverse and have been very happy with them.  I now have a literary agent at Endeavor Talent Agency and we are working on a few new book proposals and possibly getting my first book, “You’re Grounded!” re-published with a traditional house because my sales have gone so well.

Read the rest of Vanessa’s article here.

It’s a short description, but enough to get you started if you have a book idea.

I self published my first book, Homeschool Co-ops How to Start Them , Run Them and Not Burn Out using Aventine Press, a print on demand publisher. Check them out.

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My book, Business Tips and Taxes for Writers, contains more helpful information for authors and self publishers.

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens.

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Is the Term “Micro Business” Demeaning?

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The New York Times Small Business section opened a discussion:

Is the Term ‘Small Business’ Demeaning?

Do you consider yourself a small-business owner? Or does that phrase make you cringe? Often, the terms entrepreneur and small-business owner are used interchangeably — but that’s not quite right either. Clearly, not all entrepreneurs are small-business owners and not all small-business owners are entrepreneurs. Still, there has to be some way to distinguish big businesses from, uh, … not big businesses.

Is there a better term? Does anyone have a suggestion?

Here are some of the comments:

Does it really matter what people call as long you are getting satisfaction from what you are doing and you are convinced that you are making a significant contribution to the economy?

When people ask me what I do, I do not say I own a small business, I say I own my own business. Nobody really cares if you own a small or big biz, they only care what you can do for them on a personal level.

the term small business is not demeaning; I think many people would rather be self-employed. I think society would be better off if there were more small business owners.

Entrepreneur in French has 2 meanings:1) It means being “un chef d’entreprise” or the head of a business. 2) It defines somebody who undertakes. From the verb Entreprendre.So all business owners are Entrepreneurs both by being business owners and undertakers.

I also agree the term is just way too broad. I suggest a new name for really small businesses (say, self-employed or freelancers up to 5 or 10 employees) be referred to as micro businesses.

I really like that last comment about micro businesses!

No way is the term micro business demeaning!

Most people admire you when tell them that you started and run a micro business.  They will probably ask you how you did it. Be sure to send them to send them here!

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My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on running a micro business

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens

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Never Say These Things to Your Customer

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Adapted for teenage micro business owners from:

15 Things Retailers Should Never Say

Negative Customer Service Phrases to Avoid

By Shari Waters, for About.com

Shari has a great list of 15 things to never say to a customer.  Most apply to a retail business, like a store in a mall, so I pared down her list to those that most apply to teenage micro business owners.

1. I Don’t Know

Customers don’t expect retailers to know everything, but when it comes to answering a product question or other inquiry, they do expect the salesperson to be confident enough in their knowledge of the business to provide an answer.

Better: “That’s a good question. Let me find out for you.”

3. Calm Down

There may not be a more infuriating phrase in customer service than this one. If a customer has reached a boiling point and is ranting away, the best thing to say is nothing. Let the customer finish. Once he or she has gotten everything out, they will begin to feel better and may be more receptive to a solution.

Better: “I apologize.”

8. I Can’t Do That

This is another negative customer service phrase that should be banned from all store staff.

Better: “What I can do is ___.”

14. I’m Busy Right Now

Have you ever said, or heard, the following? “If it weren’t for customers, I could get some work done.” If you are in retail, chances are you’ve at least thought it. The truth is, without customers retailers wouldn’t have a job.

Better: “I’d be happy to help you.”

 

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My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on serving your customers.

 

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens

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10 Commandments of Customer Service

Jordan Budd, business owner of OBX Seafood

I love these customer service tips and I have edited them a bit for teenager’s running a micro business (that’s why there’s not 10!).

The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service

From Susan A. Friedmann, for About.com

Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service.

Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel.

Identify and anticipate needs.
Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

Make customers feel important and appreciated.
Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Thank them every time you get a chance.

Know how to apologize.
When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done.

Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
  • What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
  • What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy?
  • What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?

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My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on serving your customers.

 

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens

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Why a Business Might Fail (but yours won’t!)

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Meredith Curtis discusses why a business might fail. She offers straight talk that some people may not like, but she speaks from more than 10 years of experience in running her own small business and backs up her observations with several verses from the Bible.
Three things cause businesses to fail.

Lack of Self-Government

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28 NIV).

A business owner without self-control will not be able to run her business effectively. Self-government is simply the ability to run your own life well, control your emotions, manage your time, manage your money, maintain healthy relationships, and follow through with personal plans and goals.Without the ability to manage yourself, you will not be able to manage a business.

Lack of Scheduling

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV).

Hard work is required to get a business off the ground. Hours and hours of work must be scheduled into your life without taking away from the priorities of family, church, and time with the Lord. If you cannot prioritize and schedule your life, you might let important things in your life and new business fall through the cracks.

Lack of Administrative Abilities

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV).

Bookkeeping, accounting, record keeping, and other administrative tasks have always bored me, but I realize their importance in a successful business. You not only risk trouble with the Internal Revenue Service  (IRS) and other government agencies, but you can find your self in trouble with customers, employees, and vendors if you are not careful.

 

How about you?  Are you self controlled, in control of your schedule, and able to handle administrative tasks? You may not be perfect in all those areas, but running a micro business can be a great way to learn those skills!

The lessons you learn by running a micro business will help you  later whether you open another, larger business or work for an employer. So, don’t be afraid to start if you lack some of the skills mentioned.

My Micro Business for Teens books will get you started running a micro business and learning important skills while your still a teenager. Just think how much father ahead you’ll be in 5 years!

 

 

 

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens books.

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Micro business workshops in Cincinnati and St Louis

I’ll be speaking about starting a micro business at homeschool conventions on back-to-back weekends,

MBizIdeas2016In Cincinnati at Great Homeschool Conventions Friday April 1, 2016.

 

 

StartMicro2016In St Louis at Greater St Louis Home School Expo April 8 and 9, 2016.

 

I hope to meet several of you there!

Can’t make either location? Listen to one of my podcasts on starting and running a micro business.

Here’s a few podcast episodes

Here is a list of podcast episodes:

Carol Topp

Would the Micro Business for Teens books be helpful for adults?

I was just wondering if this curriculum could be used as a starting point for an adult who is interested in starting a micro business? Also, could the tax information be used as well?
Alicia

Dear Alicia,

Yes, the Micro Business for Teens books are frequently read by adults. One adult who has owned micro businesses in the past told me she learned something new.

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The Money and Taxes book book will be helpful to adults as well. It covers creating important financial statements, cash flow, how to increase your profit, sales tax, hiring and paying workers.

The chapter on taxes applies to adults and teenagers, because the tax code is the same for teenagers and adults, so it should be helpful to you.

 

Carol Topp, CPA