Should my 25 yo son quit his 40k/yr job to work for his mentor for free?

My son Jacob works as a manager at a movie theater and makes 45k a year and potential for growth in the next year to 50 -55k. He has a mentor that wants Jacob to work for him while he builds this already established business to a new city and will teach him ecommerce, sales, and ways to build the business while gaining new clients. The mentor is quite successful and is excited about teaching my 24-year-old son how to become successful in ecommerce and marketing. However, because it is just starting out, my son will not be getting paid for 6 months to a year, hopefully sooner, but no guarantee. Should my son quit his current job to join this adventure and the potential for 6 figure income and future opportunities from what he will learn? Jacob lives with us, his parents, and he has no bills currently accept car insurance. TIA

Will he receive any equity in the new company ?

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Actually, it is an already established company, but the mentor is bringing it to a new area, so no. I’ll edited the original post to mention that. Thank you

Here where I live, a movie theater chain closed a location or two. With the advent of ctreams (not the great theater experience, but convenient) has your Son seen a drop in attendence? That could spell a decline enouh to limit his pay or have the theater close down.

Certainly with an established business, he may have more opportunities like becoming a manage for his mentor.

Personally after careful evaluation, I took advantage of new opportunities and can’t think of any that I would not have taken again. In my case, having he drive to learn a new business and work as many hours as needed (never being a clock-watcher) made all the difference in my life.

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I should have asked this earlier, but is the business something that he has to “buy” into ?

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No, the mentor needs an assistant but is in the building stage like getting clients and obtaining a warehouse to store the material for the business. I think it is great opportunity for my son but working for a few months to a year practically full time without pay is the issue. He will be learning from a successful businessman and learning the tricks of the trade which is worth its weight in gold so I think it will be a great opportunity. Like I said, my son has no bills really and we love him being home too so that is not an issue.

So its all going to depend on how much of a risk-taker your son is…

Having virtually no expenses gives him some runway. Is there any way he can re-work his theatre schedule so that he could do both? Does the mentorship require a full 40-hr work week?

Me, personally, am not that much of a risk taker anymore. Being in IT, I’ve been through several small companies with lower salaries, but the allure of stock options turning into a future big payday. I can now wallpaper my house with the worthless stock options. Im all about cash-in-hand now…

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If he was getting paid something close to what he’s currently making I would say yes, go for it. Unpaid??? Huge red flag. May not even be legal depending on where you live.

Assuming he currently works full time, $45K translates to about $21 per hour. Not great wages to manage a movie theater but to be asked to go to zero is crazy and exploitative.

Tell your son to turn it down and let this guy know it’s.a great offer but he can’t work for zero pay. A perfectly reasonable response. I’d be curious if this guy suddenly finds money to pay him? If he doesn’t he was really just looking for free labor.


That is something he will be looking at. I think the theater will do a lot to keep him because he is great at it and motivated to move up in the company. Hopefully, they can work out a part time thing where he can still do a few days at the theater and the rest with the mentor. Thank you for taking the time to respond, it is greatly appreciated!

I originally had similar thoughts but not necessarily exploitation. Unfortunately, the business is not up and running yet and there is not income to pay. We are friends with the gentleman in question and am quite sure he has no intention of using him for labor and then dropping him when things get going. He is giving my son an opportunity to learn OJT and then hopefully, take over for him once things are up and running so he can move it to other areas. At that point, the potential salary will be 100k plus and plenty of room for growth. The mentor wasn’t a mentor to begin with but has turned into that title because all of the things he is teaching my son. I did look up the laws concerning an “unpaid internship” position but that is not what this is. It is merely a friend, who asked if he was interested in being his assistant in jump starting this business in the new city and surrounding cities.

Huge red flag. Your guard is down because of the friendship, when it should not be. Look up affinity fraud if you don’t believe me.

That said, I’d be looking for a way to get out of the movie theatre business if it were me. I don’t see that industry going anywhere good.


Good to know, thanks for your thoughts!

I didn’t know this part originally. I do not do business with friends. Full stop.

If you do move forward, I would still have some kind of contract drawn up about roles and responsibilities and the intent to hand over the business. I certainly don’t do business based on verbal promises or guarantees.

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Then it seems that this “successful” business man should be able to pay him, unless he’s successful because he’s done so at the expense of others. I’m not trying to throw dirt on someone you know and I don’t, but that’s what struck me when reading this. Taking a risk on a new venture that comes with some sort of pay or equity is one thing, but this just seems like blind faith that it will work out to me. I don’t disagree that getting out of the movie theater business would be a good thing, although it seems the theaters in our area are doing just fine right now. I like the earlier suggestion of working part time for him and keeping his day job.

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Sounds like an unpaid internship. Your son is young. If this mentor exploits his labor and gives him nothing to build a career ladder from, at least he will still be young and learned about real life…