Summer jobs that inspired entrepreneurs

We heard lots tales of successful lawn-care businesses, car washes, and even one young entrepreneur who made money selling CDs of animal sounds to hunters.

We asked our Trends members, who include some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, what summer jobs inspired them to become entrepreneurs. Here’s a selection of their stories.

  • Christoper Smith: My friend and I started a lawn care company when we were 15. We created flyers and spent one Saturday taping them to every mailbox in the neighborhood. We must have walked (at a fast pace) for about 14 hours that day, but we got so many calls soon after. It was great to see such an instant reward for our effort.
  • Drake Dukes: I made around $1.5-2K when I was 12 by ripping animal sounds off the internet and looping them on CDs then selling them on eBay to predator/coyote hunters as hunting calls. It was insanity.
  • Karl Sakas: In high school and college, I ran a web design and computer training business (1997-2004). Largely through referrals, I went from charging $12/hour to $75/hour (~$105/hour today). And I still use those client service skills today in my current business.
  • Justin Kelsey: At 16 years old back in 2008, after a video of a little science project went “viral” on YouTube with 400k+ views, I started selling PC grow boxes (grow box disguised as a PC tower) on the earliest version of GoDaddy storefront builder. From there I sold them all across the US and the world, especially Europe, with some custom orders going all the way up to nearly $900. This, alongside a few other successful businesses in high school (e.g., car audio, beef jerky, video production) singlehandedly got me hooked on the idea of entrepreneurship.
  • Andrew Bledsoe: I ran a car wash that my dad owned at 14. We gave guests a coke and a moon pie gratis and charged $1.00 cheaper than the other guys. Ran it for two summers then graduated into building computers.
  • Sumukh Setty: Started my first company at 16 – grew to 2600+ students and 20 different courses, loved the experience!
  • Adam Walter Kropf: I used to buy pop by the case at the grocery store and carry it to school, and stand across from the pop machine and sell it for cheaper. Worked till the school shut me down because they got a cut of pop machine profits. The day I turned 16 I registered for my first business license before I got my drivers license. It was an online paintball store I did back in 06. Then did a summer Bayern’s growing, distributing and retailing sweet corn, then digital signage, all before I was 20.
  • Brent Hulderman: I used to take my allowance, around age 11 or 12, with my mom to Costco and buy blow pops, now and laters, etc and come to school with a backpack full of candy to resell. At around 13 or so started a lawn care business. My parents were big on me earning my way so bought my own mower and weed eater, had a weekly route around the neighborhood. I also dog sat and house sat for neighbors.
  • Ryan Sneddon: I made and sold stickers with my high school logo and state flag on the inside. Made enough money to buy some shoes. I also did sales videos for a couple yacht brokers. Another couple hundred bucks. Probably only made around a grand in high school from schemes. Wasn’t a great schemer. Hoping my luck will change.
  • Alex Kemple: My summer job spraying truck bed liners taught me early on that I am not cut out for manual labor — that’s when I realized I needed to get book smart otherwise I’d be SOL.
  • Anastasia Golovashkina: During a garage sale outside our home, a woman asked me about the price of a tricycle that was sitting nearby. I said $20. I have no idea whose tricycle that was.
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