Nebraska Mom Promotes Youth Entrepreneurship in New Book

The compliment from a local banker was music to an Oxford mom’s ears.

He had witnessed each of Janita Pavelka’s four children in action at various jobs around town, and he was impressed with their superior customer service skills.

He asked, “How do all four of your children know how to treat customers so well?”

After she wiped a few tears of pride from her eyes, she explained how it must have been because they “started young.”

“Start Young, The ABCs and 123s of Owning a Business by the Age of Six” is the title of Janita’s first book. It shows parents how to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in their children and the long-term benefits of having that mindset.

All four of Janita’s children started their own businesses by age 6, and they have created and operated 36 businesses during the past 12 years. She shares those experiences in her book, which was released last fall.

The entrepreneurial experiences started when Janita’s oldest daughter, Rachel, said she wanted to save some money because the local bank (they lived in Bellevue at the time) was offering kids the opportunity to earn prizes for depositing money into savings accounts. Janita told her daughter she would have to earn the money.

Her children started with puppet shows, paper routes, lemonade and popcorn stands and selling flowers to neighbors. Their businesses grew larger as they got older into dog-sitting, dog breeding and jewelry sales.

Janita matched what her children earned, and a portion of their earnings was saved or given to charities.

Janita, who homeschooled her children, saw how owning a business was teaching her kids about saving money, loans, customer service skills, quality assurance, marketing, learning from their mistakes and making decisions – all important assets for future employees or business owners.

Three of her children (Rachel, Christian and Hannah) have graduated from high school and Amanya will graduate in 2018.

“They bought their own cars,” Janita said. “They paid for their own insurance and gas and their clothes.”

When friends started seeing the skills Janita’s children were learning and asking her questions, she decided to start teaching other kids entrepreneurial skills. In 2007, she partnered with the Omaha Homeschool Learning Center and area colleges and taught youth entrepreneurship using the 4-H ESI curriculum (EntrepreneurShip Investigation).

During the past decade, Janita has helped more than 400 children across Nebraska and California (at a friend’s request) start their own businesses. In 2013, she was honored as Nebraska’s Outstanding Entrepreneurship Educator by the REAP Women’s Business Center and the U.S. Small Business Association. The award is co-sponsored by the Nebraska Enterprise Fund and the Nebraska Entrepreneurship Task Force (NETForce).

Janita decided to further share her knowledge in entrepreneurship by writing a book. The first half of the book shares how parents can help their children start their own businesses. The first piece of advice, “Allow time in your schedule for your children as raising adventurous children takes time and attention.”

The second half of the book lists 34 businesses her kids have started and the lessons they learned from each one.

Janita’s companion workbook with specific instructions on starting a business will be released on May 20.

This summer, Janita is offering several entrepreneurship classes across Nebraska for children ages 10-14. For the first time, she will be using a curriculum that she designed based on her years of experience.

Holdrege: Starting May 23 with an Expo on June 1 in the evening at the Farmer’s Market. Partnering with the Don Sjogren Community YMCA, 4-H and the PK Partnership. A Mindset Matters entrepreneur class will be offered for high school students on those same days in the afternoons in Holdrege. (308) 995-4050 or

Kearney Community Learning Center: June 12-15 with an expo on July 6 in the morning at Hy-Vee. Contact Michelle Arehart, KCLC director, (308) 698-8053.

Lexington: Starting June 19 with an Expo on June 26 at the Lexington Wal-Mart. Contact Patricia Sanchez-Stewart, Lexington Middle School, (308) 324-2349 ext. 129.

University of Nebraska at Kearney: June 26-29 with an Expo on June 30. Contact Lisa Tshauner, (308) 865-8135.

Janita’s book is available at Gifts & Things in Holdrege, The Solid Rock in Kearney and Refind in Kearney. It is also available on Amazon.

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