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|Thursday, February 27, 2014|
BY ERIC FRUITS
My son turns 16 soon and his thoughts are turning toward getting a summer job to earn some money. When I was a teenager, the summer job market for teens was bursting with opportunity. Back then, finding a fast food job, retail job, or amusement park job was simply a matter of filling out an application, putting on khakis, and not blowing a 10 minute interview.
Today, it’s much different. When was the last time a high schooler took your order at McDonald’s or rang up your purchase at Gap? Oregon has the second highest minimum wage in the country, with an “all in” hourly cost of as much as $15 an hour. Teenagers face huge hurdles finding the part time jobs that will give them much needed work experience. That puts them in a Catch 22: Without work experience, they face an uphill battle getting jobs that demand experience.
Because they have little chance of working for someone else, today’s teens need to be entrepreneurs. But, first, we must teach our teens that entrepreneurship starts small.
We live in a world where our ideas of entrepreneurship are skewed toward the grandiose. My wife was an elementary school teacher in a somewhat poor school district in Southern California. When she’d ask her students what they see themselves doing later in life, one said he wanted to be a professional poker player and another said he was going to play in the NBA. Today, I hear of my kids and their friends plans to make the next Flappy Birds—an insanely addictive mobile app that was reported to be bringing in $50,000 a month for its creator. Facebook offered SnapChat $3 billion and purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion. As the kids say, “That’s redonkulous!”
But, let’s be realistic.
The chances of our kids making the next Flappy Birds or WhatsApp are only a little bit better than their chances of joining the NBA or making a living on the professional poker circuit. Entrepreneurship is about finding the small spaces in the market and exploring the gap. Many entrepreneurs see those spaces and fill the gaps. In many cases, entrepreneurship is about small ball, not the NBA.
Last spring, I was working at my dining room table when I heard a knock on my front door. It was a middle aged man, dressed in work clothes. He explained that he had been laid off and had to raise money to pay his rent. He remarked on my out of control wisteria and overgrown shrubs around my side porch. He was right: The vegetation was out of control and overgrown. The man reached into his pockets, held up some pruning shears and declared, “I can take care of that for $50.” I offered him $40. Two hours later, he had $40 in his pocket and I had some cleaned up shrubbery.
Did I exploit Pruning Man by shaving $10 off his asking price? No, because he accepted it. There are about 1,800 houses in our neighborhood. If he didn’t like my counter offer, he could have stood fast to his $50 offer or moved on to the next house. But he didn’t and $40 it was. Remember, for every worker who claims he or she is underpaid, you can probably find a job application where he or she asked for that job at those wages.
About once a month, a woman walks through our neighborhood dragging a red cooler, shouting, “Tamales!” Her English seems to be limited to “Five dollars” and “How many?” They are pretty good tamales. And the fact that she returns to the neighborhood indicates that she has pretty brisk sales in our part of town. With her limited English, I doubt she could find any employer willing to incur $15 an hour in labor costs to hire her.
The Pruning Man and the Tamale Lady demonstrate that entrepreneurship is not limited to high technology. They are an example for our job seeking teens (or anyone, for that matter). Here are some baby steps for the budding entrepreneur:
In my first year at college, one of my dorm mates had a really nice pick up truck. (I went to Indiana University, and “nice truck” is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a Hoosier.) I asked how he did it. He explained that, in high school, he started mowing yards. That turned into a landscaping business, and he bought his truck as soon as he turned 16. Then he sold the business after graduation and used the money to pay for his first year of college. It’s no Flappy Birds, but it’s real entrepreneurship. That’s what we need to teach our teens.
Eric Fruits blogs on finance and the economy for Oregon Business.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
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Thursday, November 13, 2014
BY RYAN CARSON | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
How do we skill up our future technology workforce in a smart way to take advantage of these high-paying jobs? The answer shouldn’t focus only on helping people get a bachelor’s degree.
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Friday, October 17, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
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BY OB STAFF
Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.
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