It is not always easy for younger teens to find summer jobs – and at the present time those normal difficulties are compounded by COVID-19. Some local kids, however, are making their own luck by running their own unique businesses.
One of these is 13-year-old Frank Black Middle School student Ben Griffith, who recently started Lego Mania, a Lego rental service. Customers rent a set from his website (https://griffithben07.wixsite.com/legomania), keep the set for as long as they need, and then return it so it can be rented again.
The set comes to customers almost new as Griffith sorts the pieces in their original bags.
“I have lots of Lego sets from when I was a kid,” Griffith said. “We always wanted to put them back together, but it was too hard to find all the pieces. I established a Lego sorting system with a little help from my mom. Now, putting the sets back together is a breeze. As soon as the pieces were sorted I get to work building up a starting inventory. After that, I built my website, and Lego Mania was born.”
Another Garden Oaks teen is turning his love of baseball into a money maker. Rising St. Thomas High School junior Landon Croker plays on the school’s baseball team. One of his summer jobs is a mobile baseball camp with friend and Heights High School student Charlie Maddux.
“[We] host the camp at any park that the participants want, and we have fun for an hour playing games and reinforcing basic baseball skills depending on the participant’s experience level,” Croker said. “We have a Facebook page called Safe at Home Mobile Baseball Lessons where anyone can find our contact information to schedule lessons.”
Ella Lee Forest resident Kaid Nygren, who will be a junior at St. Pius X High School next year, is also an athlete who is sharing his lacrosse and soccer skills with area kids.
“I give an hour lesson no matter what skill level the player is,” Nygren said. “I promote it on Facebook.”
Natalie Denson, a rising sixth grader at Frank Black, takes lessons from Nygren.
“It’s not boring,” she said. “I had never played before and now I think I might want to play at school.”
Heights resident Lily Jordan will be a freshman next year at Incarnate Word Academy. Her summer business, Lily’s Summer Services (https://lilyjordan2005.wixsite.com/lilyssummerservices), encompasses a range of services, including math tutoring and swim lessons.
“The way it works is parents contact me through my website and tell me what service they would like me to provide,” Jordan said. “The website has all my information on it. It has my hours, prices and the different services I provide.”
For all these teens, their parents are helping them plug their endeavors.
“My parents helped me publicize it by posting it on Facebook and having their other Facebook friends post it,” Jordan said. “My parents made me think of my summer jobs. They helped me remind myself that I can help people in more than one way.”
Both Jordan and Griffith say the COVID-19 pandemic has given them more time to devote to their business – and added some layers to the way they work.
“I had intended to start it before coronavirus was widespread, but the additional free time during lockdown gave me the ability to start up faster,” Griffith said. “I have tried a few different approaches to keeping the Lego parts safe as they pass between me and customers, finally deciding the best tactic is to just let the parts sit untouched for a few days between customers.”
Said Jordan: “I would have definitely done this if COVID wasn’t happening but I wouldn’t have as much time. COVID has changed the way I teach young kids how to swim. I always wear a mask during my lessons, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done if we weren’t experiencing a pandemic. I have luckily had lots of parents contact me about swim lessons. I love helping kids learn to swim.”
For Croker’s baseball camp, the limited other options available this summer were a driver for the idea, and for the camp’s success.
“We got the idea because most large-scale baseball camps were being cancelled so we wanted to create a more personal experience that we could safely manage with COVID going around,” he said. “We may have tried to do this (anyway), although we feel that it might not be as popular due to bigger, more well-known camps being open. We have a lot of returning kids that keep wanting more and more lessons.”