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Help readers dream up money-making summer businesses

May 28, 2014

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Competitors at the All Women Lifeguard Tournament in Sandy Hook, N.J. Photo: Shawn Perez

Headlines say “Teens still face a tough jobs market,” and other reports over the past couple of months have advised high school & college students – and anyone seeking seasonal employment this year – to apply early and often.

I’ve seen more “Now Hiring” signs this spring than in several years, but some procrastinators may find that go-to positions like lifeguard, camp counselor, landscape laborer and other seasonal posts are filled already.

To help the post-Memorial Day job seeker, consider a story about offbeat positions or novel approaches to making money in the summer, whether the job seeker is a teacher on summer hiatus, a senior citizen saving up for next winter’s Sunbelt vacation or the traditional teen and college student market.

Focus on small service businesses with low start-up costs; my area has a lot of recreational lakes, for example, and last year I heard of a floating hot-dog stand – a pontoon boat equipped with grill and other tools that motored around a chain of lakes selling lunch and cold drinks to famished swimmers and sunbathers.  Love the chutzpah!

Here’s an About.com post,  “Create your own job,” about summer opportunities from selling ice-cold water bottles at public venues to tutoring and pet setting.  I love the mobile car-detailing idea; who wouldn’t want to leave work and commute home in a shiny, fresh-smelling vehicle?  Note the format of the article which includes bullet points about start-up costs, licensure/regulation and other useful information.

Scrap metal collecting and junk hauling are profitable small businesses that can be implemented with a pickup truck and a free Craigslist ad. Providing food for busy working families might be a niche, combine it with housekeeping services for the total package.  Here’s a map of the cottage food laws in every state.   Estate sale operators, professional organizers, craft and art fair promoters – all are industries that do require specialized knowledge but might also be hiring casual labor for peak season.

Lifeguard on duty
Lifeguard on duty in Seaside Heights, N.J. Photo: Tony Fischer

Spin suggestions for readers off popular ideas:  Instead of baby-sitting, how about baby and kid photography?  Instead of pet sitting, job seekers can start a dog-waste-pickup firm or a litter-box changing service (especially helpful for the elderly.)  People who have computer skills could offer digital organization services  to whip those family photos into shape, scan and shred important documents or debug and clean up bogged-down computers.

TaskRabbit is an interesting concept; the company connects consumers with human “gofers” who can take care of chores ranging from grocery shopping to handyman work.  I’m going to hire one soon to photocopy rare materials in a library 1,000 miles away from my home.  You can find local TaskRabbits to interview if the company serves your market or find others doing similar concierge services.

Don’t forget about temp services, too, particularly for college students (because most require job seekers to be over age 18.) I got some of my best summer jobs through the big agencies, from working in a cardboard-box factory office to being the local liaison for one of those self-improvement seminar companies; my job was to receive the workbooks via UPS and head to the hotel meeting rooms early to set up and sign in participants.  One temp post even led to a lucrative full-time position.  Check in with Manpower, Kelly and local firms.

CoolWorks.com is a site that features interesting seasonal jobs including entry-level posts at places like ranches and resorts; searching for local listing might turn up some quirky ideas for your region.

Speaking of offbeat approaches, this publicity stunt by the hourly employment marketplace SnagAJob might provide fodder for unconventional job-hunting advice: The company’s blogger Heath Padgett is setting out on an RV road trip, “Hourly America,”to shadow hourly workers at 50 jobs in 50 states.  Follow him @HourlyAmerica.  Might be kind of a cool idea to localize as the summer wears on – snare some summer job newbies right now and have them blog or Tweet about their work experiences.

Jobs sign
Teens should watch out for door-to-door sales jobs that come with a promise to win a prize rather than a salary. Photo: Waltarrrrr

The company’s 2014 Summer Hiring Survey offers some factoids; it says the average wage reported by its (admittedly small) sample of employers is $10.39 an hour; you could replicate the survey questions on a local basis to produce a similar snapshot for your area.

Another angle: Report from the employer POV instead of the worker; this Forbes piece exhorts “This summer, make it your job to support summer jobs,” and while it focuses on large-scale corporate grants and such that help with jobs preparedness for young people, you might look for local small and medium businesses with apprenticeships, seasonal jobs and/or a proactive philosophy about the responsibility for training the next generation of workers.

Here’s a tidbit of advice you can include in a tips box:  U.S. News & World Report says students should be strategic and  “Turn summer jobs into college scholarship opportunities,” by inquiring about eligibility for employers’ college cash programs; industries like fast food and retail make them available to part-timers.  Unions and other workplace-related groups may also be sources of money for school.

And for the contrarian view, here’s a Marketwatch piece, “American teens don’t want to work,” that quotes jobs market experts Challenger, Gray & Christmas to the effect that teen life is changing and not all of the lower teen employment rate can be blamed on the economy.



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