Advice for Teenage Entrepreneurs

Category : Entrepreneurship was created to help young people get jobs. We have job advice for teens, interview tips, a resume builder, etc. But the one thing we can’t help you with is changing an employers mind. What if he just wont hire someone younger than 16? We often get questions from younger teens about what they can do when they’re too young to land a ‘real job’ and we tell them to start their own businesses; mowing lawns, babysitting, or setting up lemonade stands.

When we heard about 13-year-old entrepreneur Jason O’Neill, we just had to ask – what did you do? And how did you do it? He was glad to answer our questions, and our conversation is below.

What’s been the hardest part of starting your own company?

People don’t always take a kid seriously with a business.  Many of them think it’s just something fun to do like a hobby.  It takes a lot of work which is another hard part about having a business.  I’m just like most kids.  We usually want to play more than work.  There have been a lot of times I wanted to quit.  Thankfully, my parents keep me motivated when I need it because in the long run, I know I don’t really want to give it up.

What’s been the most fun part?

I’ve won a lot of awards and received national recognition which makes me feel really good.  But the best part is speaking at schools, organizations, businesses, and other events.  Because I started out early with public speaking, I really like it and I’m not as nervous as many adults I know.

Have you ever had a ‘real’ job before?

Well, when you’re only 13, you can’t really have a ‘real’ job.  I had my first business when I was five with a lemonade stand two summers.  Then one winter after that, I had a hot chocolate stand and by the time I was 9, I also had a neighborhood recycling business.  Then Pencil Bugs happened and I’m still doing that and making it bigger all the time.  I actually don’t plan on ever working for someone else if I can help it.   My motivation for all of my businesses was money but the funny thing is, I don’t spend much of it because once I get it, I don’t want to give it up that easily.

Do you think the experience that you’ve gained from starting your company will help you in the future?

My parents have taught me that everything we do in life will help in one way or another.  I’ve been really lucky because I’ve had opportunities and experiences that many adults never get in their life.  One of the things I try to do with my business is to inspire other people to try their own ideas.  I tell them “You can’t get anywhere by sitting on your ideas.”   I also have been donating part of my money to help kids in foster care and hospitals and encourage others to do whatever they can to help.   I say even the smallest thing can make a difference in someone else’s life so do what you can.

Would you recommend starting a company to other young teens?

Yes.  I think this is one of the best experiences anyone can have in life.  Schools are good for teaching the basics but there’s only so much you can learn from textbooks.  Sometimes it’s good to have practical experiences.  You just never know what you can learn once you get into it.  Just know that when you’re a kid, it’s going to mean a lot of work if you have a business.  I haven’t met any kid yet that has been able to do it alone so hopefully you’ll have some adult to help.

Do you have any suggestions for young teens who are too young to get ‘real’ jobs?

Try something even if you think it’s too simple or silly.  Sometimes the simplest things can become successful.  One of the big advantages of being a kid is that we don’t have to earn a living at whatever we try.  So it’s a good time for trial and error.  Find someone that is willing to support your ideas and help.  You just might find that your simple idea is the next big thing.  But if you don’t at least try, you’ll never know what you could have accomplished.

Also, be sure to check out Jason’s company! Pencil Bugs are colorful, bug-like pencil toppers that come on stop of a standard #2 pencil.  Unlike many pencil toppers that are permanently attached to the pencil, Pencil Bugs are removable so you can still use the eraser or even put them on another pencil, pen, or marker.  They come in eight different characters, each with a Certificate of Authenticity which gives their birth date, given name, and care and training instructions.  They make great teacher gifts, student incentives or rewards, stocking stuffers, birthday favors, and some kids even use them as finger puppets because they wrap around your finger easily.   Pencil Bugs are fun for people of all ages.   They are “Made by a kid but not just for kids!”

There’s always something new on his website and blog.   Check it out at