I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. I guess that’s just how I’m wired. As a boy, I was always coming up with new services to offer the neighbors, from babysitting, to lawn mowing to odd jobs. As a teenager, I started a summer day camp for younger kids.
In today’s economy, it’s important to foster a sense of entrepreneurship in all of our children. The job market has changed and grows more competitive every year. A high school or college grad who has run their own business will be more attractive to employers and/or be better positioned than their peers to start a successful business.
There are so many ways for kids to operate a business today. In addition to babysitting, lawn mowing and the other old standbys, there are Internet-related opportunities. A tech-savvy teen can do freelance website design or coding. Creative kids can sell jewelry or decorative crafts online using a platform like Etsy.com. I’m currently helping my kids sell baseball caps they designed via Shopify.com. (Wet Moose. Remember that brand. It’s gonna be bigger than Abercrombie and Fitch, my kids assure me.)
Forbes magazine agrees with the importance of teaching kids about entrepreneurship, and recently offered some great ideas for turning your home into an incubator for baby business owners.
1. Talk about money.
If your child is interested in money, nurture that curiosity. Answer their questions and use teachable moments to explain financial concepts, including saving, spending, budgeting, borrowing and, yes, how businesses operate. Talk about purpose of the ads they see on TV. Explain how your employer generates the money to pay your salary. Have these same conversations with both your sons and daughters. Research indicates that money conversations with girls tend to focus on spending and domestic finances, as opposed to bigger picture economic topics.
2. Teach “Effort Out, Money In.”
Help your kids understand the direct connection between work and financial reward. Make their “allowance” more of a “salary” tied to the successful completion of set tasks and responsibilities. Encourage that kid who is always responding to chore assignments with “How much will you pay me?” Agree to pay him/her (perhaps in lieu of an allowance) and encourage him/her to engage in an informed negotiation on the pay rate. Use this process to teach market rates, the value of time, and why skilled labor earns more. It’s especially important to teach girls to negotiate. New data shows that 68% of women accept the first offer from an employer, as opposed to 52% of men, according to Forbes.
3. Encourage problem solving.
Problem solving is at the core of entrepreneurship. And employers are looking for staffers
who bring them answers, not problems. When your child comes to you with a challenge, try not to give them the answer. Instead, help them to come up with their own possible solutions. Then, brainstorm possible business ideas that might come out of those answers.
4. Get them to think globally.
Encourage them to identify problems they see in your community and the world at large. As you watch the news or read the newspaper, ask them how they might solve the challenges they learn about.
5. Don’t discourage big ideas.
If your budding entrepreneur comes to you with an epically out-sized idea, don’t dismiss it, roll with it. Be realistic in your response, but work with your pint-sized Richard Branson to find possible solutions. Maybe the over-sized objective can be broken down into executable chunks or phases. Or maybe there’s a similar smaller project that can serve as a gateway to World Domination?
By the way, Richard Branson launched his career at 16 by publishing a magazine that covered the music scene in his part of England. Three years later he started a mail order business called Virgin Records.
Branson is no doubt wired for entrepreneurship, but I’ll bet you anything he’s the product of both nature and nurture.