Boys Small Business Ideas
Boys Can Be Entrepreneurs
Boys can always use small business ideas. I was introduced to my need
when I was about six or seven.
I approached Dad one day with a complaint.
“My friends are getting an allowance. I want an allowance too.”
Dad said NO. He had a better idea. He introduced me and my brother Paul
to the idea of owning our own business. To get this fledgling business up
and running, he made the critical contribution of the family lawnmower.
We got instruction in how to gas it up, how to start it, how to shut it off,
and safety tips so we didn’t lose a hand or foot. He got us our first job:
mowing the grass on an empty lot owned by the lumber yard he managed.
And amazingly, other jobs came pretty quickly. A lot of people didn’t have
power lawnmowers in those days, and they were happy to pay a modest amount of money to us to get the job done.
This is the early 1950's. “Modest” meant anywhere from a buck fifty to as
much as four dollars for a big lawn or high grass. We would push the mower
down the sidewalks to our jobs, and take turns running the machine.
Keep in mind, we lived in small towns where a small business idea might
be small on more than one level.
What some people might call lawns were often hardly worthy of the name.
The vegetation might be half grass, half weeds of all kinds, and often littered
with assorted trash like wire, rocks, bottles, string, dog bones - you name it.
Paul and I would toss a coin, and the guy who lost walked the area ahead of
the mower to remove the junk that could damage it.
Wire was the worst. It would wrap itself around the blade under the mower
and kill the engine almost instantly. Now we had to raise the mower and
with a pliers cut and pull the wire to free the blade.
Sometimes there was a little adventure mixed in. A mouse or horned toad
might break and run in front of the mower, and any passerby might marvel
at a boy racing with a lawnmover across a freshly mowed patch of grass.
We were consoled by the idea that the critter didn’t suffer.
Given the boredom and the hot sun, a diversion was always welcome.
Some customers took pity on two young boys out in the summer heat,
and would bring out some ice tea or pop. The business did have its
Most people were pretty good about paying on the spot after we finished.
We took the money home and stashed it in our piggy banks.
Sometimes the job would require some trimming around shrubs or the
foundation. Sometimes the trim work paid better than the mowing.
Once Paul got a job from a neighbor up the street who had some hedges
that were getting shaggy. She showed him the tools and the basics, and
he worked two or three hours. She was happy with his work and paid
him seven and a half dollars.
When I found out about this, I was green with envy. This was BIG bucks
and I wanted in, but it turned out he had a corner on the market there.
At the end of the summer, we would lay the money out on the bed and count it.
Sometimes we had over a hundred dollars, which was quite gratifying.
We were early on introduced to the idea of saving for the future. Dad
would have us set aside half of our earnings, and this he put into our
“college fund”. By the time I was 18 and ready for college, I had saved
about a thousand dollars. Teach ‘em young!
Small Business Ideas For Fun
Another source of sporadic income for us was gathering beer and pop
bottles. As I recall, we got a penny for beer bottles and two cents for
We would walk the streets on the edge of town and check out
the roadside ditches. Sometimes the bottles would be pretty dirty, or
even half-filled with mud. We sacked them all, but when we went
to the little grocery store to collect our money, we got scolded more
than once for dirty bottles. So we had to find a hose somewhere to
rinse them off before turning them in.
When we first started doing this, we would take our new money and
amble over to the penny candy counter. It was pretty amazing how
much candy you could buy with 40 or 50 cents. When Mom noticed
our diminished appetites at supper one time, she found out why.
After that, we were under strict orders to buy only a little candy
(don’t muzzle the ox that treads the grain) and bring the rest home
to our piggy banks. Even at our tender ages, I think we recognized
the wisdom of that, and we followed orders.
Gathering Fish Bait For Money
Some of the cities in Oklahoma depend on reservoirs for their water supply.
Being much larger than farm ponds, often covering several square miles,
they offer lots of fishing for the locals. Small stores catering to fishermen
had sprung up at these lakes, where sportsmen could launch their boats
or rent boats, buy fishing tackle and fish bait and other supplies.
Fish bait - that’s where boy entrepreneurs could come into the picture. When
our family lived in Watonga, there was a neighbor who sold specialized items
for fish bait to the fishing stores on Canton Lake.
He contracted with boys in our town to gather bait for him. So Paul and I
learned how to make a little spending money rounding up fish bait.
In the spring, one small critter would make an appearance in large numbers.
These we called sand toads. Whether they truly were toads, or just small
frogs, I don’t remember, but on cool evenings after dark, they would come
out and we would go bait hunting. You could walk down the dirt country
roads with a flashlight and see these little critters jumping all over the place.
You had to run them down and catch them in your hands. Not easy,
but certainly fun. Dad stepped in and showed us a way to make the process
a lot more efficient. The old ‘36 Plymouth had big front fenders and head
lamps. Paul and I would sit up front on the fenders, clutching the lamps
for security, and Dad would cruise along maybe ten or fifteen miles an
When the road ahead was jumping with toads, Dad would stop, we would
pile off and go chasing. As long as they stayed on the road, they were
spotlighted in the car lights and we could catch them, but when they
hopped into the bar ditches, they were in the shadows and we couldn’t
So with each stop of the car, we would catch a few, then move on down
the road a little farther for the next go. In this way, we could gather
a nice bunch of the little guys.
The optimum size, according our bait boss, was about the size of our
thumbnails. For these, he paid us the princely sum of five cents apiece.
The others brought a couple of pennies apiece, I believe. A minnow
bucket of critters could bring several dollars, good pay for having
So why were these good bait? My theory is that when we had heavy
spring showers, these little animals would get washed into creeks
and reservoirs, where hungry catfish and bass waited with open mouths.
Fishermen had long known that sand toads provided an enticing target
for fish at the end of their lines, and they were willing to pay good
money to get their hands on them. This was a win-win for everyone -
except the toads and the fish, of course.
Putting our small business ideas into practice was a really great way for
my brother and I to learn valuable lessons about earning and handling
money. There is the pride of ownership, and the pride of providing
services to others who need them.
And my experience back then stuck with me. I have spent forty years of
my adult life running my own business. It’s been a great ride!
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