Your Teen Can Own a Micro Business
How to Launch It in Ten Simple Steps
by Carol Topp, CPA
“I want to walk dogs; what do I need to do to get started?” asked a teen boy. I had inspired him to think about starting a micro business and he was ready to get going!

I encourage teenagers to start very small businesses—micro businesses. A micro business is a one-person business that can be started easily, usually without any up-front cash, using what a teenager already owns. Micro businesses are usually home-based and very flexible so a busy student can keep up with homework, sports and a social life.

Teenagers can use their skills to develop businesses such as teaching guitar lessons, doing web design or caring for children. Other teenagers have started micro businesses by offering services such as house cleaning, pet care, and lawn mowing. One easy-to-start micro business is tutoring. Some students tutor math, Spanish or computer programs such as Photoshop.

After your teenager has an idea, he or she can launch a micro business in a short amount of time with very little start up money. Share these starting steps with your teen:
  1. Conduct a mini market survey. Start by asking a few potential customers if they need your service and what price they are willing to pay.
  2. Decide on a price. From the mini-market survey, you should be able to set a fair price. You may get your first customers by undercharging the competition. One teenager charged half what other piano teachers charged and quickly had eight students.
  3. Volunteer a few jobs to practice your business skills and build a reputation. Use recommendations from these jobs in your future advertising. Sarah took senior pictures as a favor for a friend and received three other jobs from referrals.
  4. Launch your first advertising campaign. Try to use free advertising such as emails, Facebook posts and handing out fliers to friends and neighbors.
  5. Work your plan on a small scale. Start with one customer at first. Learn a lot from that experience and grow slowly.
  6. Evaluate, adjust and change. As you grow in experience, you may be able to charge more. You will probably need to create a payment policy. Sarah discovered that she needed to be paid up front and have a cancellation policy when she scheduled photo shoots.
  7. Pick a name and register it. Usually, you can use your own name, such as Cathy Smith's Babysitting Service, without needing a name registration. If you do want a business name, learn what your state or local government requires. This website is a good place to start:
  8. Open a checking account. Accountants usually recommend a separate business checking account to keep from mixing personal and business expenses. A teenager can usually get by with one checking account, if you keep good records. Usually a parent must agree to be a co-signer on a checking account for minors.
  9. Read up on taxes. You’ll need to file your own tax return, may owe federal or state income tax, and may be subject to self-employment tax also. Self-employment tax is Social Security and Medicare taxes for self-employed people.
  10. Learn about customer service, marketing and record keeping. Become a student of business and seek to be continually learning more. Read books, take a business class, find a mentor and ask a lot of questions.

Carol Topp, CPA advises teenage business owners through her Micro Business for Teens book series. Carol’s day job is accountant to business owners, and she enjoys teaching teenagers to succeed beyond their dreams. Students appreciate how she shares what they need to know in clear and helpful lessons. Her website is


Even if it’s only for one minute, stop awhile today and ponder the wonder of God. “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Photo by Mark Reed Butterfield, used with permission.

Will I Ever Get It Right?

“How come Daddy doesn’t love me? I’ve tried to do everything he asks, but he never seems happy. Will I ever get it right?” asked the little girl. Is that you? It certainly was me.

I grew up feeling I had to earn my father’s love. Often, it seemed I did everything wrong because no matter what I did, I didn’t get praised or hugged or even smiled at. But if I did something wrong, action was swift and unforgettable. As I child I learned “if I don’t get it right, I won’t be loved.”

I spent the majority of my adulthood feeling the same way about God. My head knew better, but often my heart didn’t. I was constantly performing to please God, but it seemed I either didn’t get it right or that there was always one more thing to perfect. Would  I ever get it right?

Then I read “Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:29, New Living Translation). How freeing that was for me. Oh, I still fall back into old habits now and then, and have to shake them off, but God is there to remind me, “Relax and believe.”

Have you had a tough issue to battle? Share with us how God helped you win the fight.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2011

Another Snow Day? Oh, No

We all enjoy that occasional snow day, but three days like we’ve had this week? Arg, by then we’re getting desperate to get back to normal. All my children are grown, but I still look forward to a snow day with the excitement of a 10 year old. Instead, I battled slippery roads on Monday morning on my way to school and again coming home. (I think it must take a disaster for colleges to cancel classes!) When I finally pulled into the parking lot at my apartment that evening, I was glad for the leftover homemade bean soup sitting in the fridge. On a snowy day, a bowl of hot soup is so satisfying to me. And even better, all I had to do was heat it.

What do you do with snow days? Do you have a favorite activity or recipe you save for just such days? Something the kids can do or help make while they’re enjoying their unexpected day off from school? Please share it with us so we can add it to our repertoire for next time.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2011. Photo used with permission.

God Has X-Ray Vision

“God, you have to love me. After all, I read my Bible every day.”

What motivates you to do you do the things you do for God? Is it so He’ll love you? So He’ll be impressed with you? So He’ll answer your prayers? Through the years, I’ve been guilty of all these motives.

God has x-ray vision. He pierces through our trendy clothes and freshly bathed and powdered flesh to look deeply into our heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7). He sees the wrong motives that reside there. We can spend a lifetime in service to God, but if we do it with wrong motives our work will be burned up like so much hay and wood (see 1 Corinthians 11-13).

Take a moment and examine your motives. Do you do what you do to ensure your salvation? To somehow force God into answering your prayers the way you want them answered? Or maybe you’re simply trying to make God love you. Spend some honest time with yourself to find the answers.

Seek relationship with God because you love Him. Serve because you want to, not because you have to.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2011 

It's All God's Fault, part 2

“God, I’m so angry at you.” I screamed one morning.

Does that seem like a bold move to you? God knows what is in my heart, so what’s the point in hiding my anger? Telling him about it kept me from taking it out on others around me, and my anger dissipated. I asked God for the strength to get through the battle and went on with the day. But during the months that followed, disappointment moved in and began to fester. Then bitterness took root in my heart. And it all happened without me realizing it.

The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (see John 16:13). And when He knew I was ready, the Holy Spirit revealed the bitterness in my heart. What a shock it was to me! But now I understood why God seemed so far away. When we are having difficulty with a relationship, we tend to pull away somewhat, even if we are deeply committed to that relationship. Unknowingly, I had pulled away from God because I was disappointed He had not answered my prayers the way I wanted them to be. I confessed my bitterness for the sin it was. My confession opened the door to God’s healing (see James 5:16).

Have you been angry at or disappointed in God? What have you done about it? It’s okay to tell him how you feel.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2011. Photo used with permission. 

It’s All God’s Fault, part 1

Last week during  our Sunday school class discussion someone made the comment about how people blame God when something bad happens. But then it struck me; how come these same people never say, “Wow! God made this happen” when something good occurs?

How about you? Do you see God in the good, the bad, or both? Enter your comments below.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2011 Photo used with permission.

Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50 Something Woman

Every 7 seconds, another “Baby Boomer” turns 50...
That’s a lot of “MIDLIFERS!”

And I'm one of them. The older I get the more I dread that yearly visit to the doctor. What ailment will he find this time and what drug will he foist on me as a treatment? Today we take a look at Dr. Sharon King's book The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50 Something Woman. Dr. King has taken this yearly doctor's physical we all endure and skillfully applied it to our spiritual lives. Her humorous description of the doctor’s prodding and probing is delightful. Yet, her application to our spiritual health is thought-provoking and accurate. Each chapter can be read in less than 5 minutes, but then comes the tough part: taking your spiritual pulse by working through the exercises at the end of each chapter. A marvelous little book for individual or small group study. --Debra L. Butterfield

Along with many physical and emotional changes, midlife can bring a deluge of spiritual questions:
  • Where am I at this major milestone of my life?
  • Where am I headed?
How do I prepare for “later life?”
Book Summary
Christian author and gerontologist Dr. Sharon V. King welcomed her 50th birthday asking these same questions. In the Introduction to her book, The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman, she writes:

“The view from my 50th birthday was quite different from what I had anticipated. As a Christian, I was ready to start cataloging everything from the first 50 years of my life for which I wanted to thank God—and all the issues I genuinely needed to discuss with Him in considerable detail. But, as the cataloging progressed, unusual items surfaced—doubt, regret, loss, resentment, disappointment—feelings that were far less rosy than the pink icing on my birthday cake.”

Realizing that thousands of other “50-something” women may have the same feelings about their official entry into midlife, Sharon set out to apply her knowledge of aging to her spiritual questions and help other women find their way through the midlife maze and, revive (or discover) the joys that come from a closer walk with God at this unique crossroads of life.

Organizing the book like a visit to the doctor’s office for a routine physical, Sharon presents 10 spiritual fitness “checkups” and exercises to help you take your own midlife “Spiritual Pulse Check.” You will learn how to:
  • Jettison unwanted spiritual baggage
  • View your midlife crisis from God’s perspective
  • Focus on forgiveness instead of anger
  • Conduct a spiritual lab test
  • Improve your spiritual stamina
  • Enhance your meditation time
  • Spiritualize your midlife self-image
These Spiritual Pulse Checks can be used by individuals or for group discussion points. It is Sharon’s hope that The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman will help readers adopt the same attitude toward their spiritual health as they do their physical health, and strive to maintain a vibrant relationship with God.

Author Interview—Getting to Know Sharon King

Your 50th birthday arrived the day after the 9/11 disaster, and resulted in a new way of thinking.
Please explain.
After the September 11th tragedy, I felt guilty celebrating a birthday as the rest of the world mourned the anniversary of this national disaster. Two family members also died on or near my birthday. I sought God’s help to understand these birthday tragedies. Soon, I saw my birthday as a time for thanksgiving. I realized that life and death come wrapped in the same package as gifts from God—both are surrounded by His love and mercy. I value life now as too precious to waste on the trivial things that clutter our day-to-day living. I fret less and celebrate more.

What’s so special about midlife as a time for a spiritual “checkup?”
Midlife is the best possible reminder that we’re not going to be around forever. We’re so consumed with the business of transitioning from youth (teens and 20s) to adulthood (30s), we don’t have time to slow down enough to ponder what it all means. We seek education, choose a career, find a mate, decide where to live, and raise our children. That’s fulltime work! We may forget to put God on our list of things to do. By midlife, we have more time to put on the brakes for a while to think more than do. God takes the initiative at this point to nudge us into deeper reflection about our relationship with Him, and He prepares us for a new stage of life.

There’s a ton of books for Christian women on the market. What makes yours unique?
When I compiled my thoughts to create this book, I considered the Christian women's books that appealed to me. I enjoyed books that were “light” as opposed to “heavy.” Books that helped relate Christian spirituality to contemporary living (with a touch of humor) appealed to me more than books that just “threw” the Bible at me. Another quality I enjoyed was brevity—easy to read yet loaded with spiritual insights to chew on. Finally, I enjoyed books that connected my spirituality with the seemingly mundane parts of my life, showing me that God didn’t wait until Sunday morning to show me how He fit into my life. I tried to incorporate those qualities into the Spiritual Fitness Checkup.

Publisher: Healthy Life Press
ISBN-10: 1453661182
ISBN-13: 978-1453661185
Released: July 25, 2010
Paperback: 64 pages
Retail: $8.95

Leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing 
for the opportunity to win the special giveaway:

Win a perfect Christmas or New Year's gift for yourself or a 50-something woman relative or friend, with a free copy of the The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman: Ten Steps Toward Midlife Spiritual Health. As a bonus, you also will receive services from the author's editing business, King's Ransom Writing and Editing Service, for up to fifty pages of double-spaced manuscript (book, articles, etc.). With this giveaway, you will receive more than proofreading. Sharon also offers writing assistance, tips, points out bad writing habits, etc. It's a writing analysis as well as editing. This has a value of up to $350. But wait, there's more! You also will receive a special discount editing rate of fifty cents per page (Some editors charge $5 to $10 per page!) if you sign a full manuscript-editing contract with King’s Ransom. Quite the giveaway!

Every Day Another Chance

Tell me, did you wake up on Jan. 1 and find all your problems had magically disappeared at midnight when the calendar rolled over to 2011? If they did, have you been booked on Oprah or Dr. Phil to tell the world your story?

Like many people, I spent some time last week contemplating the New Year. I found myself asking the same question I’ve asked for decades: Why do people view New Year’s Day with such enthusiasm?

For me, measuring my life in terms of years is a way to compartmentalize my memories. I can rarely remember what I had to eat for breakfast, let alone remember what kind of day January 6, 1974 was. But I can remember that in 1974 I graduated from high school, joined the Marine Corps, battled my way through boot camp, and then went off to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to begin my life as an adult. I remember that particular years had more bad events than good and vice versa.

But that’s where it stops. If I’m halfway through the year and it’s been awful, I’m not telling myself that next year will be different. No, I plan to make the next day better because every day is another chance to start fresh! I don’t wait for a new year to turn things around. January 1, 2011 offered the same opportunities that Dec. 31, 2010 offered or that July 1, 2011 will offer for that matter.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us in Lamentations 3:23, “ Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Have you started on them yet? Have you started and already slipped up? Maybe the best resolution you can make for yourself is to remember that every day is a new day!

Debra L. Butterfield © 2011