How do minors legally start a business?


8

I am a fifteen year old Web and iPhone developer. I'm looking to get apps published on the App Store under a business name. So, this leads me to a few questions. (I already have a bought membership).

1) How can I legally start a company at this age, including setting up and trademarking the company name?

2) Is that legal? Is it legal to put apps on the App Store at this age?

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asked Jan 22 '12 at 14:24
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Crystal
51 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • Talk to your local government. The Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Administration are good places to start. – Dnbrv 8 years ago
  • You may want to see if you can find someone from SCORE (see http://www.score.org/) the Service Corp of Retired Executives. A SCORE mentor would love to work with someone like you. – Jordan 8 years ago

3 Answers


6

Read Apple's Terms and Conditions If there is nothing specifically in the terms and conditions that prevent someone your age from signing up as an Apple Developer, then you shouldn't be breaking any rules or laws. You may need help paying the fee; however, since you can't legally apply for the credit card you would need to pay Apple's developer fees. Since you've already done this, it sounds like that's not a problem.

In regards to Terms and Conditions, i'll use email as an example. It would violate Google's terms and conditions for anyone under the age of 13 to create an email address. Therefore, even a legal adult cannot legally create a Google account for children under age 13. If Apple's Terms and Conditions have any age restrictions in them, then you could have problems later on when it comes time to cash out your earnings.

As long as there is nothing explicit in Apple's terms and conditions restricting someone your age, you're probably okay. Probably...

Finally, it's worth noting that this is not a site for legal advice. I'm not really qualified to give legal advice. Nothing you read here will hold up in court. The best thing you can do is talk to an attorney.

Starting a Business - Contract Law In regards to starting a business, that is a completely different matter. You'll need to check with the laws of your state or local government. Most likely, you'll need a parent or guardian just because there are many contractual obligations that you will not be able to enter into because you're under 18.

UPDATE : You can enter into a contract. However, many entities may be hesitant or unwilling to enter into a contract with you since, by law, you as a minor can merely disaffirm it.

Do you really need a business name? Starting a business can be a very costly and time consuming process. So if you don't have any employees, then perhaps you should ask yourself if this is really necessary. If this is your first app or you haven't made any real money yet from your work, then I would suggest you focus more on that aspect of your business. In other words, make sure you're actually going to need to go through the process of starting a business.

Good luck on your iPhone App!

Disclaimer I'm not an attorney. You shouldn't rely on my advice in this matter and should talk to an attorney who specializes in matters such as this.

answered Jan 22 '12 at 14:37
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James Mortensen
363 points
  • don't worry, I realize this. From what I have heard however, I can legally enter a contract, but as a minor I can simply disaffirm that contract at any point – Crystal 8 years ago
  • @crystal - Right, I forgot about the disaffirm part. However, that means certain entities may be hesitant to enter into a contract with you. After all, why would I of sound mind and body enter into an agreement with you if you could just merely walk away? This is the main problem I see with you starting a business. You'll definitely need a guardian to open a bank account. I'm not sure about the other things you'd need to sign when starting a business. – James Mortensen 8 years ago
  • Well, In India, the position is well settled. For Age below 18, the contract entered is not legally binding. This is the disaffirm part. I do not think with such kind of regulation, you can enter the business domain on your own. Anyone having an obligation from you can not sue you and in such a situation why they will do contracts with you? – Natwar Lath 8 years ago
  • I would strongly recommend him to get some kind of limited liability business structure. In fact, being an LLC or C Corp, might help him get around some of the issues of being a minor. He can own the business, but have an agent to handle dealing with the rest of the world. – Jordan 8 years ago

2

Believe you're making this harder than it needs to be. In terms of "apps published on the App Store under a business name" - while it's possible Apple has changed this, my experience was the app publisher name is just a name, not a legal name. Besides, due to your age, you've got a lot of wiggle room, and companies/governments are not in the habit of taking on minors. Also, in my opinion for a startup, trademarking is over rated, focus on learning to make and sell great products.

Realize I'm discounting your requests for information, but point is there are a million things you might do to start a business, but in the end all that matters is finding a market you're able to enter and profit from -- which currently should be your only focus in my opinion.

I'd also suggest attempting to contact other people your age attempting to start companies, and ask for advice. For example, summly and naygames.

answered Jan 22 '12 at 19:51
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Blunders .
899 points
  • thanks! summmly is really vc and corporate backed now, so they handled all that, but I will make sure to check out naygames. – Crystal 8 years ago
  • and also, yes before (it couldn't just be a name) you would be fine with a DBA, but they don't allow those anymore. To register as a company w/ a name you will need to be a legal entity. I wish I could just focus on building the app, but I need to register as a company so the Company Name (not my name) appears by app, which adds a vast amount of legitimacy to the apps. – Crystal 8 years ago
  • @crystal: Well you could always be clever, and just legally change your name to sound like a company's name... :-) – Blunders . 8 years ago
  • As for summly, here's an interesting look into possibly how he used his age to get away with a lot... "[How I Made a 15-Year-Old App Developer Cry](http://gizmodo.com/5830076/how-i-made-a-15+year+old-app-developer-cry)" by Casey Chan, Gizmodo. After you've got an app up you might email him about it too... – Blunders . 8 years ago

1

I actually believe that you are on the right path working to get things nailed down formally. I have seen too many businesses screwed up down the road, because they did not structure things correctly and make sure to cross their t's and dot their i's.

As I suggested above, you should check out SCORE (http://www.score.org/) and see if you can get a mentor to help you.

Because you are a minor and can disown a contract on a whim, you will either need to have someone co-sign for you or have your business entity enter into the agreement. This might require an agent.

In either case, ensure you structure your agreement with the agent to protect you and your business. It should be a limited power of attorney.

I formed my first C Corp when I was 17 and it served me well.

answered Jan 23 '12 at 13:56
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Jordan
111 points
  • _ @Jordan: Curious about your last comment, that being, "I formed my first C Corp when I was 17 and it served me well", since it appears to be a possible center piece to your opinion. If possible, would you be able to better define how in the period before turning 18 that forming an "[C Corp](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_corporation)" was of value beyond the experience of getting it done. Thanks in advance for sharing! (Just to be clear, I'm not discounting your opinion, just curious how it was of real business value to a then minor.) – Blunders . 8 years ago
  • [email protected] - It helped me on several fronts. First, it communicated a level of seriousness to folks that helped me in discussions. When I set down with a SCORE Mentor, they were impressed and treated me with a respect that I would not have gotten otherwise. As noted above, I had an agent who could sign things for the company and this helped me in doing business more effectively. – Jordan 8 years ago
  • _ @Jordan: So, just a heads-up that the "[email protected]" is only needed by me, not you. StackExchange at point started automatically removing the "@name:" if the name was the name of the answer; which to me makes it harder to read the comments, since you're still able to just post a comment without a name, and that comment might be to me for example, instead of you. Anyways... – Blunders . 8 years ago
  • +1 @Jordan: Thanks for the followup! So, here's my take. Not knowing anything about the dynamics of the business you started as a minor, in the case of mobile apps, respect plays a very, very small role in the market. People using the app care if it's popular and of use; case in point, [www.naygames.com](http://www.naygames.com/). If you were starting a property management company for example, I'd completely agree, though market for apps is different in my opinion. All the time spent on forming a corp in my opinion would be better spent finding a market that's able to be entered. – Blunders . 8 years ago
  • The respect I spoke of was with advisors, bankers, etc. It was actually a software development consultancy I setup. Also, do not under-estimate the limitation of liability that a C Corp or LLC gives you. – Jordan 8 years ago

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