KidVenture: Twelve Weeks To Midnight Blue
by Steve Searfoss
GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction
Chance Sterling launches a pool cleaning business over the summer. Join Chance as he looks for new customers, discovers how much to charge them, takes on a business partner, recruits an employee, deals with difficult clients, and figures out how to make a profit. He has twelve weeks to reach his goal. Will he make it? Only if he takes some chances.
KidVenture stories are business adventures where kids figure out how to market their company, understand risk, and negotiate. Each chapter ends with a challenge, including business decisions, ethical dilemmas and interpersonal conflict for young readers to wrestle with. As the story progresses, the characters track revenue, costs, profit margin, and other key metrics which are explained in simple, fun ways that tie into the story.
If anyone tells you that kids can’t start a business, don’t listen to them. They can. I should know, because I did. People sometimes ask me how KidVenture started and how it got its name. Well, I’ll tell you. It all started the summer before sixth grade. All I remember about that summer is that it was hot, so hot I thought I would melt. That and my sister Addison kept annoying me. You could say I was boiling and steaming that summer.
My dad told me he would pay me ten bucks to clean the pool. It was a pretty good deal. I’d take a net and scoop out all the leaves and dead bugs that had landed in the water. It took me about two hours to clean the pool so I 3gure I was making about 3ve dollars an hour. Not bad for a ten-year-old kid.
I thought it was going to be a one-time gig, but the following week my dad asked me if I wanted to clean the pool again.
“But I already did,” I said. He told me to go take a look. I couldn’t believe it. The pool was full of leaves and dead bugs again. I had spent all the money I made from cleaning the pool the week before on a slingshot, two comic books and an ice cream cone. I needed the cash so I said yes.
Next thing you know, I’m cleaning the pool every week and making an easy ten bucks each time. After a couple weeks, I realized I could save my money and buy that bicycle I had seen one time at that big sporting goods store on Wilson Street. The bike was super cool. When I looked at the sticker, it said the color was midnight blue. I didn’t know what that meant, except that it sounded dangerous and I liked that. I asked my dad if we could get it and he said, which is the grown-up way of saying No, but I want to let you down easy.
The bike, the dangerous one, cost $225. Which is way more money than a ten-year-old could ever hope to get. That is, unless said impoverished ten-year-old had a job, which I now apparently had.
“It’s going to take forever to save up for that bike,” I said, after I had just 3nished cleaning the pool for the second time, and my dad handed me a crisp ten dollar bill.
“No, not forever,” my dad retorted. “You’ll save up $225 in no time.”
“Not when I’m only making ten bucks a week.” I started to feel sorry for myself and walked away.
Then I turned around. “Dad, how long will it take if I save all my pool cleaning money?”
“You figure it out,” my dad said, and handed me a paper and pencil.
“But I hate math!” I protested.
“Well then you’re right. It will take forever,” my dad said and returned to reading his newspaper.
“Oh all right,” I sighed. “Hand me the pencil.”
I started scribbling some numbers.
“Twenty…Twenty-two…Twenty-three! No, wait. Twenty-two and a half weeks!” I shouted excitedly.
“How many months is that?” my dad asked.
“Ugh. More math? Seriously?”
My dad has a way with words. I began scribbling numbers again. “Let’s see, four weeks in a month, approximately, so that works out to…” I mumbled.
“Five-point-six-two-3ve months.” I said triumphantly.
“That’s right,” my dad smiled. “So about 3ve and a half months.”
“Wait…” I said dejectedly. “Oh no!”
“What?” “That’s 3ve and a half months, if I don’t buy any more ice cream.”
“Better call it six months.”
“Six months is not a long time,” my dad insisted.
“It is!” I scowled. “At this rate I might was well just wait till Christmas.”
A couple more weeks went by, and even though I dreamed of mint chocolate chip ice cream almost every night, I had managed to save all of my pool money. I had $30 tucked away in my bike fund when I suddenly had an idea.
I went straight to my dad and declared, “Dad! Dad! I have an idea.” He put his newspaper down slowly and raised an eyebrow.
I could barely contain myself. “How about you pay me $20 for cleaning the pool!”
“Yes! Yes! Twenty buckaroos. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. Twenty dollars for cleaning the pool instead of ten.”
“Hm….I like it.”
“You do?” I have to admit, even as excited as I was, I wasn’t really expecting the conversation to go so well.
“You’re negotiating,” my dad said. “I like that.”
“Great!” I exclaimed. “Wait, what’s negotiating?”
“It’s what you’re doing now,” my dad said. “Asking for more.”
“Great! Awesome. So, is that a yes?”
“But why not? I’m negotiating, just like you said.”
“Yes,” my dad said. And then he smiled. I recognized that same smile. It was the smile he had when he told me when I was three years old that Santa had made a wrong turn somewhere east of Winnipeg on his way to our house and there would be no Christmas presents that year.
“You’re forgetting that I’m negotiating too.”
My mom had her own smile. It was the smile that immediately told my dad to stop making the children cry on Christmas Eve.
“And I want to know,” my Dad continued, still smiling, “why would I pay more for the exact same pool cleaning service you’re already providing for the handsome sum of $10.”
I had to admit he had a point. Where was Mom? I could really use her help right now.
“You raise an interesting question,” I said, trying to sound as serious as I could. “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was thinking about what I could do that would be diDerent than just the same pool cleaning service I offered. What could I oDer my dad that would be of more value, so I could charge more?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I try to bring that same spirit of fun, curiosity and challenge to each KidVenture book. That’s why every chapter ends with a dilemma and a set of questions. KidVenture books are fun for kids to read alone, and even more fun to read together and discuss. There are plenty of books where kids learn about being doctors and astronauts and firefighters. There are hardly any where they learn what it’s like to run small business. KidVenture is different. The companies the kids start are modest and simple, but the themes are serious and important.
I’m an entrepreneur who has started a half dozen or so businesses and have had my share of failures. My dad was an entrepreneur and as a kid I used to love asking him about his business and learning the ins and outs of what to do and not do. Mistakes make the best stories — and the best lessons. I wanted to write a business book that was realistic, where you get to see the characters stumble and wander and reset, the way entrepreneurs do in real life. Unlike most books and movies where business is portrayed as easy, where all you need is one good idea and the desire to be successful, the characters in KidVenture find that every day brings new problems to solve.
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