Cashier, lifeguard, caddy. Referee, patty-flipper, camp counselor. All common jobs held by Western New York teenagers.
But what if you're tired of the rowdy soccer moms, unhappy diners, grease burns and crazy campers? And the long hours and minimum wage? How could any sort of occupation avoid these all-too-common factors?
There's a new employer filling up the tanks, paying for the pizzas and footing the everyday bills of local teens: you.
Entrepreneurship gives teenagers an opportunity to avoid the issues of screaming bosses and strict deadlines. By being your own employer, you can also work as little or as much as you want, a rare thing in the work world of a teen.
"I liked computers, and I wanted a job," says Scott Florentino, 18, owner and co-founder of Clarence Computer Solutions. "I figured it would be good to do it our way, and get some good experience. I liked computers and that's what I was good at."
Scott co-founded the company in September 2008 with a friend, but since then has taken over the company's operations because his business partner left for college at Rochester Institute of Technology. Scott is a freshman at the University at Buffalo this fall.
Think you've got what it takes to be your own boss? Try using the following hints from real teen entrepreneurs to get your business rolling.
> Find your niche
Think of things you like to do -- for instance, if you like to bike, start a bike shop or bike repair service. If you like to cook, sell some cakes or cookies. Or, if you like to read, sell books. Anything that you're fond of could be the next big business idea.
Or it could just be a silly idea. Just ask Hart Main.
Hart is a 14-year-old entrepreneur from Marysville, Ohio, who founded Man-Cans, a company that sells candles with masculine scents, such as Bacon, Fresh Cut Grass and Grandpa's Pipe.
"I started it because I guess I had an idea," says Hart.
"I wanted money to buy a bike for the triathlons that I do, and I thought this would be a good way to raise money to buy the bike."
> Locate a headquarters
It's important to have a hub of production, whether it be a dorm, a bedroom or even just a computer table. Still, it's important to have an HQ. This is a place where you can keep papers, supplies and other items that may be important.
"I base it out of my house," says Scott. "But it's still a service, so instead of having people drive all the way out here and drop off their computer, I'll just go to their house and work on it."
It all comes back to having a customer-first mentality, a necessity for any aspiring entrepreneur.
You can't have a business without customers, whether you're selling a service or a product, so it's important to get out there and spread the word.
"I bought some business cards from Office Depot, made some up on the computer, and printed them out," says Scott. "When we have parties, I usually put them out for people to look at. When I finish a job, I'll give a couple to clients for them to pass out for friends, but it's really by word-of-mouth. It's important to do a good job."
But sometimes, if you do a well-enough job, you'll get your story publicized for you. Hart's Man-Cans product was featured on CNN, "The Doctors" and was featured in the September issue of Entrepreneur magazine.
"We were also featured on 'The Lopez Night Show,' Ohio magazine and Esquire magazine," says Hart, a freshman in high school.
Obviously, all the publicity has helped Man-Cans' bottom line. Hart reports that the company has sold at least 8,000 candles.
"There was one point where we had 1,400 orders in 48 hours," Hart says. "And another time, there were 9,000 people on the site at one time."
> Work, work, work
Both Scott and Hart are busy students right now -- leaving little leftover time for their business ventures -- but both find a way to make it work.
"A lot of it is time management, because you need times to relax, hang out with friends and also work on your business," says Hart, who also runs on his high school cross-country team.
"Me and my parents together probably put in about 30 hours a week," he said.
Scott is an honor student at UB, majoring in computer science, so most of his time is eaten up by his studies.
"During the summer I'll probably spend some more time on it," he says.
And he brings up a good point: You can work a hundred hours a week or an hour a month, but either way, you still have the experience of owning your own company and making business decisions for yourself. But it's still important to get some relaxation time.
Hart has found time to relax even as his company has become national news.
"On the weekends, I get to spend a lot more time outside with my friends," he says.
> Reward yourself
Spend those profits!
Whether it be a pair of sneakers you want, or some new video games, it's important to reward yourself for your hard work.
"I've bought some computer stuff, and I've gone out to eat," says Scott. "And I've put some in the bank. I've used it to fill up my car, small stuff like that."
Hart tends to prefer a different approach.
"A lot of the money's been reinvested into the business. Most of it goes there," he says.
It could be computers or candles, but whatever it is it's important that you like it. Some important assets for an aspiring entrepreneur?
"I would say you have to be creative," says Scott. "And hard-working. You have to make sure the job gets done right every time."
If you need help with your idea, see if your school has an entrepreneurship club or business club. You might be able to find some help there.
For more information and advice concerning entrepreneurship, go online to www.entrepreneur.com, pick up an Entrepreneur magazine or visit www.teenbusinessforum.com to talk to other teenage entrepreneurs. You can order Man-Cans online at www.man-cans.com.