To Encourage or Discourage?

One of my sons is an enterprising sort. He comes up with schemes and plans to raise money – not necessarily just for himself. He has raised money for charities, collected soda tabs in the tens of thousands for a local rehab hospital, and he has sold school supplies to his classmates at vastly inflated prices because demand was high.

He approached me recently to help him with his next endeavour. He wants to sell soda cans at school – Dr Pepper, Coke, Pepsi etc. He wants me to buy cases of the stuff, and he can take them to school and sell them for a profit. He said that the school rules don’t expressly forbid such sales, and anyway “the worst they will do is ask me to stop, they won’t suspend me”. Oh to be so young and sure of myself!!

So my issues are these: Do I allow him to set up shop without asking the principal and risk his wrath? Do I give him my blessing so long as the principal agrees? If I do indeed allow him to go into the soda selling business, and he repays me the money I have laid out – how much of the profit that he makes is fair for me to claim? I need to cover the expenses for the gas, mileage etc… and he needs to learn that the middlemen get paid too. Should he be concentrating on his learning, not improving his business sense? Should I encourage such enterprise being that one day he will be a grown up and needs to develop business acumen?

What are your thoughts?

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  1. Jess says:

    I think I have more of an issue with the fact that it’s soda. . I don’t think soda should be sold in schools, and kids should be discouraged from drinking it. (not that I’m one to talk because I drink so much of the stuff, but perhaps that’s exactly why I feel this way)

  2. shorty says:

    i’m kind of with Jess on this, the fact that its soda. I don’t think you should discourage him from doing these things, clearly he is interested in business. Perhaps he can do something with KOD?

  3. ilanadavita says:

    I agree with the other comments about selling soda, unless it’s sugar-free.
    Otherwise I’d make sure the principal agrees.

  4. Otir says:

    You are not giving us the age of this young enterpreneur, but his business plan looks pretty flawed to me. If your goal is to encourage him becoming a businessman, before indulging him in a potential loss, you should encourage him to learn how to plan accordingly: lay out the investment money (how much does he need to start his business, including the purchase of supplies he is going to sell and the cost of your time/mileage to go get it, getting the proper permissions to sell cans or whatever else it would be in an academic setting, this is called a licence, and learn about sales taxes too…)

    That seems like a more appropriate teaching business than just allowing something for his “profit” when he could do better.

    Making profit on soda sales works only if there is a very big quantity sold, once you have done the math properly…

  5. I vote “no” to soda sales in high school. If my child’s classmate started doing it, I would complain to the school immediately.

  6. ERICA says:

    It’s doubtful the school would ever allow it. They’re likely to have an express or implicit policy (which your son may not be aware of) preventing individual students from “setting up shop” and turning a profit by selling to their cohorts on school grounds. You should definitely check in to that. But I think his entrepreneurial spirit is great and should be encouraged (which you are already doing).

  7. sara g says:

    In Israel it is not allowed to sell sugar-filled things (drinks, candy etc.) at school. I am not sure all schools uphold this, but that is the law.

  8. Z! says:

    It worries me as he is so new to the school, the principal/teachers might just end up considering him a troublemaker. The other students could look at it two ways- it might be a great bid at popularity and acceptance, or they might get upset if he overcharges. He is such a great kid, and although he may see a niche that needs filling, he doesn’t need to be labeled.
    I would recommend him trying a different way to deliver soda to his peers off property.

  9. Our schools have soda vending machines, but rules against bringing/sharing “food of minimal nutritional value.” Perhaps your young entrepreneur could sell juice boxes or cans of flavored but unsweetened carbonated water and market them as a “healthier choice”? (I don’t not think sodas containing artificial sweeteners are a healthier choice than sugared sodas, and would rather my kids drank the sugar, frankly – so I’d discourage the selling of “diet drinks,” and some popular “energy drinks” are okay, but most brands – particularly those containing ginseng or caffeine – are not.)

    To properly encourage your young entrepreneur, you should insist that he do business ethically. That means asking the principal for the proper “business permit” (written permission, asked for by him and provided to you prior to your aiding him in obtaining supplies). You should ask him to make a business plan, as well: Where does he plan to keep the goods during class? When and where will he sell them? For how much? Of course your cut must be accounted for – YOU should set the price of the goods, and include time and transportation costs in that, explaining why, of course, so he learns about these things. Will you allow him to buy on credit, or must he invest in the first delivery up front?

    By the time you and he have worked through all this, he may have found something else he’d rather do. He may figure out that the profit margins are slim to none. That’s okay – challenge him to come up with a better plan.

  10. [Ed. note: "don't not"? Where did THAT come from? Ignore it, please. "I do not" sounds SO much better. Makes more sense, too.]

  11. Holly wrote: Our schools have soda vending machines, but rules against bringing/sharing “food of minimal nutritional value.”
    Sounds hypocritical to me.

  12. lady lock and load says:

    If the principal does not agree to having him sell soda, perhaps he would agree if this was only on special occasions (such as Rosh Chodesh).

  13. Mark says:

    I remember the cocoa caper from last year :-)

  14. I agree with nearly everyone else’s comments, particularly Holly’s comment that he should be taught to do business ethically – and this means asking permission to set up shop, not just asking forgiveness later. Another aspect of ethical business is the product – is encouraging his classmates to purchase sugary, unhealthy drinks ethical, particularly when such a large percentage of American children are obese? I think there are a lot of factors to consider here beyond what you’ve listed. I’d encourage him to come up with a better plan – and to actually plan it – before forging ahead with his entrepreneurial spirit.

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