Family Business: Where to Start

Micah's Swords
Micah (left) has quite a gift in making sparring swords out of yard sticks. He turns those gifts into products, and sells them for $10 each to his friends.

We love running our own show, getting the children involved, and monetizing our skills and talents. Business works well with a family, and I believe many families are called to start their own business. I’ve got 5 words to share with those who want to start.

1. Your Gifts

Business isn’t about making money, it’s about giving your time and services to customers. Business is walking, “Give and you shall receive” (Luke 6:38), not the other way around. You are best able to give when you know what you have to give!

You have to ask yourself, “What am I good at?” A better question, “What do others say I’m good at?” Or, even better, “What do I love to do for others?” The answers to these questions are where your gifts lie, and people often are willing to pay top-dollar for product and services that reflect your gifts.

For families, this can be a deep and difficult question to answer. The societal norm has Mom and Dad on separate career paths, and kids go to school to learn different skills. The separation is unfortunate. It has taken Wendy and I years to figure out what we’re good at together. We’ve settled on this: “Encouraging young couples to grow their families.” Hence, this entire blog and all our resources.

The exciting thing is this: As our children grow to discover their own gifts, they are encouraged to let those gifts blossom. I imagine my children to never trapped without an idea that could make them money, which is my next point.

2. Monetize Your Gifts

Gifts don’t sell very well. Products, resources, and services do! (Thank you, Ken Davis, for teaching this.) You and your family have to figure out how to turn your gifts into products or services that people will pay money for.

Take a look at what Wendy and I have done. We’re writers (a gift), and we’ve created several books. I’m a debate coach, and our debate camps are the best in the country. Wendy’s a fabulous cook, and her cookbooks sell like hotcakes. Children have gifts, too, and as they get older they contribute to the family business. Lydia’s a movie maker, Wendy’s a cook: viola! Wendy’s YouTube videos that enhance the selling of her cookbooks.

We’re constantly working on monetizing our gifts. There is no shame here at all (and shame on anyone who tries to make you feel that way). In fact, if something doesn’t make money, it is a sign that people don’t really want it. It’s then time to go back to the drawing board and figure out something else that will bring food on the table.

Micah is a perfect example of this. He makes sparring swords out of fiberglass yard sticks. They’re quite something, and a whole lot of fun! In the summer when Wendy goes to the park, Micah will bring a few of the swords he made and invite kids to spar with him. They have a lot of fun and he makes new friends wherever he goes. He doesn’t come home with many swords, because he sells them for 10 bucks a pop!

3. Embrace Technology

Back when I contemplated getting an MBA, I had a choice: Speech Communications (which was more my educational background) or Electronic Business (much more of a learning curve at the time). I’m so glad I chose the latter.

That was back in 2003. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it has been to stay on the cutting edge of computer technology and the Internet. It has helped our family business stay afloat, keep our name out there, and let everything work together smoothly.

I’ve seen businesses fail because they have outsourced technology or, they think, the Internet is just an annoying marketing gimmick. Even if your business is a local one, or you’re into widget making and you think you don’t need to be online, you and your business should. The Internet is where business is, and you need to be there.

4. Don’t Get Sidetracked

Get your mind off of getting rich. The get-rich-quick scams are a dime a dozen; avoid them like the disease they are. Same with these kinds of buzz lines: “Start today, work only 5 hours a week, and spend more time with your family!” The snake-oil salesmen promise the moon and rarely deliver, if ever. Their programs are usually pyramid schemes, encouraging you to call all your friends and annoy them to death, and ultimately leaves you pennyless and friendless.

Stay focused on points #1 and #2. Grow your gifts, create products or services (or both!) out of them, and keep working it out. I’ve seen very talented people get sidetracked into land deals that have soaked them dry, or they get dragged into business deals that take up all their time. Even if they do make a few bucks on the deals, the time is wasted on things that aren’t their gifts. Do what God is calling you to do, and don’t get sidetracked.

5. Keep a Strong Work Ethic

Family business isn’t about getting out of work; it’s about working your tail off at what you love. Get this into your mind: you will likely work TWICE as much in a family business. If that’s something that turns you on, then go for it. If you think, “Golly, I’d rather work 9-5 and get paid per hour,” then the family business isn’t for you.

And that’d be just fine. Family business isn’t for everyone. But for those entrepreneurial thinkers, a family business is the way to go!

I’d love to hear from other family business enthusiasts. Leave your comments below…

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.

  • JenT

    Wow. Great post. Thanks for the guidance, I can’t wait to hear more. I’ve already got a few ideas floating around. :)

    • Chris & Wendy

      I’d love to hear your ideas. If it isn’t proprietary or anything, post them here. If they’re top secret or something, email me and I can give you some pointers. I love helping other entrepreneurs.

  • Sarah Lownsbery

    My husband serves our country and in the process he is gaining valuable skills in an area that can be turned into a home consulting business :)

    • Chris & Wendy

      Thank you Sarah (and esp thanks to your husband!). Keep us posted!

  • Deanna Tonn

    Hi Chris and Wendy!! I’ll be sure to share this post with my husband. He is a land surveyor and currently works for the state (CA). This has an advantage as he has a desire for starting his own business. He can have clients and it’s not a conflict of interest for him to have side company…because of other competition. He already enjoys taking our children around our neighborhood and teaching them land marks and points of surveying. Our neighbors smile, or laugh..not sure, seeing our tribe dressed in bright orange!! It really is inspiring as some of our children have a real interest in this area of service. Thanks so much!!

  • JenT

    Well, it’s really no big secret. I’ve always like to do craft-y things and sewing is my favorite. Since I make mine and my girls’ jumpers and skirts I have plenty of practice. I didn’t have in mind clothes though (maybe later). I have an apron pattern using old jeans and I’ve been making aprons with potholders to match. I have some doll dresses that I’ve made for 18″ dolls (like American Girl dolls). I’ve made simple blankets for my children and I’ve made nursing covers for myself and to give away as gifts. I’ve also seen a few things I thought I could easily make. I also make my own jewelry, but it’s simple stuff.

    Now my two oldest girls (11 and 13) make Amish Friendship Bread and Amish Whoopie Pies. This past summer we were able to go as a family and get a family year pass to the Creation Museum in KY. Their profits paid for all of it (gas, the pass, food, and souvenirs) and they had some leftover to put into savings. (We were able to stay with my brother in Cincinnati, OH so that saved on a motel). The girls want to start that up again (we stopped when we went out to NM) and start their own business. We already have the starter going.

    I’m not sure what my husband wants to do, but I personally think he can make things from wood. When he was doing trim carpentry he would use the wood scraps to make things for the children. In fact, my oldest daughter made a simple wooden box last year to enter into the fair and won 2nd place for it. Our oldest son wants to build things too. He has a pretty good imagination and is also an organizer so I think he could do a pretty good job. I was thinking of things like toy blocks for children, small bookshelves, remote control holders, stools, small wall shelves, children’s size table and chairs, benches (my husband and second daughter made a bench for our table a couple of years ago; it’s really nice). Basically just small things that you can make with wood. He could even do custom cabinets, but there’s really not a market for that right now. He would have to probably get into remodeling.

    Anyway, those are my ideas. I understand that I would start small and I don’t even expect to make a lot of money. But we want our children to learn to work and to know how to run their own business. We want to work together as a family and learn to be a team.

  • Heather

    Thank you for this post! I had just left a comment on your “Quiverfull” post talking about my calling to be a mother. Long story short, I am about to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree and am worried because I now have to leave the home to get a job just to pay off all the student loans. I recently started sewing and do a really good job at it so I have been thinking about selling items I make from home, but am afraid I won’t make any money doing that. This post makes me think harder about things I may be able to do from home so I won’t have to leave my 6 year old and 16 month old sons to work. (Although the 6 year old goes to school during the day…) Anyway, I have added this site to my “favorites” and am probably going to comment on all the posts because I agree with everything I have read so far!!!!

    • Chris & Wendy

      Great to have you along with us, Heather! Keep us posted on how your business ventures go. We love to hear about how families manage to make it all work out!

    • Lisa Jones

      Heather- do you have federal loans? There is a program right now that bases your repayment on your income and if you work with a non-profit for 10 years the entire loan is forgiven. The website is:

      Not sure if that would be helpful or not, but it only applies to the federal loans not the private ones.

  • Katherine Wooten

    Thanks for this article. My husband owns his own Security Company “Excalibur Security”. The company has a FB page and our children are getting to the age they can learn and use their skills to contribute to the buisness at him! THANK YOU!!

  • Amanda McLeod

    Hi Chris and Wendy! I enjoy reading your posts. As you know, working on a family farm can teach anyone about work ethic, customer service, and how to save money. Even though I’m a school teacher now, I still help out on the farm. We have peaches, strawberries, and all kinds of other fruits and vegetables. I remember as a kid thinking that it was neat that I was able to earn $3 dollars an hour putting box lids on peach boxes. When I was older and working crazy hours in the summer, I was able to save enough money so I would have enough during the school year. Working that hard makes you think about how you really want to spend your hard-earned money. And, I could go on about how I learned to bite my tongue when Miss Sadie brought her own cup to the stand so we could fill it with ice-cream or politely informing a customer the difference between semi-free and freestone peaches for the millionth time :) Working with family is not easy, but I would not trade those summer days for anything! Hope all is well in Colorado :)

  • Heather Nations

    I commented a few months ago on this post and am back again! I am enrolled in a 4 week Principles of Entrepreneurship course at my university online and the professor wants us to start an online business! I am in a slight panic because I have been thinking about what I can do since I posted the first time and I have yet to come up with something concrete. I guess that taking this class was a good thing, since it is now giving me an incentive to get started on a home business, but I am still at a loss. I just feel like my talents cannot be used to make money, but perhaps I am thinking too much “inside the box”? I am very creative, so I am sure with enough thinking and research I will soon come up with a fantastic idea, I just wanted to keep you updated with my plans!

    • Chris Jeub

      Great job, Heather. Keep us posted!

      • Heather Nation

        I have started my business up! We created our website today in fact! I am creating custom pillows. My husband is a finance major so he is doing the “business” side, while I am creating the pillows. Since this was for a course I had limited time for planning and building the website so there will be many chances in the next few months for sure, but I am very excited to see how this goes. Thanks again for you blog. It is what first got me thinking that I could actually run my own business in order to be home for the family. I am linking you to my blog post tonight as one of my 5 favorite blogs!

        • Heather Nations

          I guess I forgot how to reply to a post with my information on it! Not sure if I can send you a link to my blog and website or not. Just let me know and I can post the link. I am still getting used to posting on sites. Sorry!

          • Chris Jeub

            Go ahead and post a link right here in your comment. It’ll have to get approved administratively (so it won’t be live right away). I’m curious to see it!

            • Heather Nations

              I am in the process of switching my website over, so it is not up and running right now. Hopefully it will be complete by Monday! I put the link for my website and blog in my previous comment.

              • Heather Nations

                Another update. It was just too much to try to start a business within the span of a couple of months, especially without a business plan in place! I am not sure why my professor did not even give us an assignment to create a business plan because my quickly thought up, poorly planned business wasn’t sustainable after the course ended. I was at a  loss.

                So I am taking the next six months to work on my business plan and figure out how much capital I will need to start out and what I should be charging per item and also what specifically I want to sell because I can make many items, but I need to research more on what the market is for each item. Then I will open my website back up and have a well-constructed plan.

              • Chris Jeub

                Don’t get too frustrated. Every “dead end” is really an opportunity to learn and adjust. That’s part of the fun of business…never a boring moment.