Chicago business manager learns on the job

May 18, 2018 | GET MORE : Entrepreneurship

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Isaiah King is developing lifelong entrepreneurial and personal finance skills at a young age.

Isaiah King sounds like an old business pro as he rattles off the names of his employees, their job responsibilities and why he hired them. There’s Corissa, his main salesperson who’s experienced with kids; Chloe, who is trustworthy and has his back; Jason rounds out his sales team; and Javon and Janiyah work security.

Sounds like it could be any team at a small retail business, right? 

Except Isaiah is 14 years old and manages the Valentine Depot at Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club of Chicago in the Bridgeport neighborhood. His employees are all ages 12-14. No actual cash is exchanged; kids earn Valentine Bucks for good behavior. Once a week on Fridays, Isaiah and his team open for business so kids can redeem their bucks on everything from toys to freeze pops.

“The Valentine Depot is teaching kids how to save,” Isaiah said. Meanwhile, he’s learning how to run a business. 

U.S. Bank is supporting kids like Isaiah with our #MyFirstStartup booklet, available in branches or as a PDF download. It’s designed to help kids start a wide variety of first businesses, from lawn mowing to babysitting to dog walking.

Aimed at helping kids learn to manage money, the booklet covers getting started, branding, sales, accounting and more – all skills Isaiah has developed while running the Depot. 

“I like seeing kids being rewarded for doing good deeds,” Isaiah said. “That’s why I’ll sometimes extend the time we’re open. There are so many kids who want to shop.” Occasionally he runs 50 percent off sales and he even started a layaway plan – he’ll set an item aside and give kids two weeks to save before it goes back on the shelf for sale.

Isaiah has learned that running a business can be challenging. Will your employees show up? Will they do their job duties as expected? The store needs to be clean. Items stocked and priced. And customers can be impatient when they have to wait – his employees working “security” man the doors and monitor the line when the store is open. Plus, you can’t always get what you want: He’d like a cash register, but for now a desk drawer holds all the Valentine Bucks, which eventually get reused and put back into circulation.  

It’s clear that Isaiah has learned important skills as a manager that will serve him well in life: You’re not always going to be right; if you need to correct someone, talk to them when you’re alone and don’t call them out in front of others; and at the end of a stressful shift, call a team meeting to talk and resolve any issues.

“This is training me for a role in my future, to have more responsibilities and deal with coworkers,” said Isaiah. “Someday I want to run my own video game store because I like video games and I love my job at the Valentine store.”

Our bet is on Isaiah, and #MyFirstStartup has been designed for the many kids just like him who are going to take this world by storm.

Cassie Wagner works in public affairs and communications at U.S. Bank. Providing financial education and supporting entrepreneurship are part of Community Possible, which focuses the bank’s giving and volunteerism on closing the gap between people and possibility in the areas of Work, Home and Play.