My parents have had their own “part-time” business for as long as I can remember. In the 90s, handcrafted home decor items were really in, and my parents made everything from wooden display shelves to decor designed with antiques to floral arrangements.
(My parents still have this business and it’s grown dramatically, but it’s transitioned to much more of a “home decor” focused business rather than handcrafts. My mother still designs amazing floral arrangements, though.)
At that time, the primary way my parents marked their goods was at arts and craft shows. Late summer and fall were the busy times for these shows, and I often accompanied my parents to these events. From an early age, I was learning how to run a business: setting up the displays, helping with customer service, creating marketing materials, attending the booth when my Mom needed to step away, and even running the cash drawer.
My mom insisted that I counted back people’s change to them: “Your total was $57.53 and you gave me $60, so here’s 57.54, .55, .65, .75, 58 dollars; 59, and 60 dollars.” (This was a relatively easy skill to learn when you weren’t allowed to use a calculator for math.) I was shocked that the cashiers at Walmart didn’t seem to know how to do the same thing.
I made and sold my own products at my parents’ booth, too. At first it was simple things, like a fabric candy cane pin that my mom designed and I would cut out, sew, and stuff. I remember making Christmas “wreaths” from old puzzle pieces that we spray painted green, glued together in a circle, and used the top end of a sewing pin to make little dots that looked like holly.
Amazingly, these items sold and I made some money! People must have bought them because they thought I was cute, or else there were a lot of people that liked junky crafts in the 90s.
Eventually, my dad taught me how to use a band saw, and I would cut out simple shapes for my own crafts, as well as my parents’. I remember designing a nativity set on my own – the first project that I remember being more than “little kid cute”. We sold quite a few, at a price of around $10-12 each, I think.
I learned quickly that we priced everything at $x.95 because it appeared to be less to the consumer – so items were $9.95 instead of $10. This gave me some awareness of this price tactic as I made my own purchases, too.
I used plenty of my mom’s supplies for making these crafts, but also had to purchase some of my own as I actually started making significant items. That was a fabulous way to learn about using money to make money.
My parents’ willingness to let me (and my siblings) take part in their business was a huge boost to my education. The opportunities to learn business principles, develop new skills, and be inspired to be creative were priceless, and it’s one of the things I value most about my education.