When I was a little girl, I dreamed of marrying a wealthy business owner, and when I got older, I dreamed of becoming a successful business owner, but teachers and family had other plans for me. They wanted me to attend university and have a career as a doctor or dentist. Helping people and changing lives appealed to me, but being around sick people or staring at teeth all day did not. When I finally decided to step out of the box and become an entrepreneur, I discovered all my years of schooling weren’t enough to fulfill my dream.
Employee vs entrepreneur
School taught me how to be an excellent employee. I went from obeying the teacher to obeying the boss, from taking six classes a day to working set hours. I performed according to expectations and job requirements, and challenged myself to leave my comfort zone when it meant a pay raise or getting fired. Having a job and a career were great – I really enjoyed my writing career after I graduated from university. However, it didn’t bring me any closer to fulfilling my dream.
Now that I have my own business, I’ve realized that there are entrepreneurship skills that school doesn’t teach you that are relevant no matter what career you choose for yourself. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs, including Richard Branson and Henry Ford, were not known for having a shining academic performance.
Students who are well behaved, complete their homework, and perform well on tests are praised by their teachers. Students like Branson who struggled with dyslexia, or who found schoolwork boring, or generally didn’t fit the good student stereotype, were given assistance so they could fit closer to this stereotype. A friend who failed in school (because it didn’t challenge him) now owns two flourishing side businesses. Perhaps, in addition to the current school curriculum, children should be taught entrepreneurship from an early age. Entrepreneur wannabees would benefit from these skills, but students seeking careers would benefit also.
Leadership and communication
Two of the most important entrepreneurship skills are leadership and communication. Children who lead by example and communicate effectively are known for their charisma and optimism. Peers are drawn to their ability to make decisions and have a clear vision of their objectives, such as making teams and establishing rules for a game. They are able to convince others why building a sandcastle would be a fun activity.
These leaders are the type of friend who will listen to your problems and show understanding, or offer advice if needed. I remember a popular girl in my grade three class. Everyone liked her. She was always smiling, and when you spoke to her, it seemed like you were the only person in the world.
I have never heard anyone say that they admire their bossy supervisor. But I’ve heard how much people admire leaders who get their hands dirty and treat their coworkers as part of a team of equals. That’s similar to a child who makes the extra effort to make the new student feel welcome, and encourages classmates to do the same.
An example of how leadership can inspire others is acclaimed speaker and author Adora Svitak. She advocated kids to take action about academic and environmental concerns and has also spoken for causes such as feminism and literacy. Her Ted Talk “What Adults Can Learn From Kids” has received more than 4 million views and established her as a prodigy by the age of 12.
The ability to sell yourself
Not everyone likes to sell or become a salesperson, but everyone should learn how to sell to be successful in life. Before the age of 18, children have done various jobs, from opening a lemonade stand to having a paper route, to mowing lawns, to baby sitting. These jobs are a way to learn about tracking sales and developing your sales skills. If you know what you’re good at, there is a way to sell it.
Moziah Bridges was 11 when he started to sell his bow tie creations on Etsy. He had learned to sew from his grandmother. He’s made more than $600,000 in sales and continues to grow his business with a seven figure deal with the NBA to make bow ties for 30 professional basketball teams.
Evan of EvanTube reviews toys and covers topics that interest other kids his age through the use of video recordings. He makes more than one million per year with his brand, and he’s not even ten years old.
Having the ability to sell can start at a young age, and be just as valuable when you’re an adult. If you can convince someone that you have what it takes to do a job, you will ace a job interview. If you can show someone that you have the personality and qualities that he or she is looking for, you will do well on a first date.
Teaching children about entrepreneurship includes teaching them about how to weather financial difficulties. If they would like money to buy a new outfit or video game, they will be unafraid to speak with neighbours, friends, and family members to make some cash by shovelling snow, painting a fence, or selling a toy collection they no longer want.
We can also teach children to see opportunities instead of problems. For example, if they receive an allowance, they may be seeing only the problem if they have only $100 in allowance money and the toy they want to buy is $130.
The creator of Nay Games, 14-year old Robert Nay, learned how to code through research at the public library. He programmed “Bubble Ball,” which received more than one million downloads. Nay Games now has games to help students with spelling and physics-based puzzles. Nay saw an opportunity, and followed through with it.
Learning problem solving
Children who learn about entrepreneurship also learn problem solving. They learn more than how to operate technology such as their iPhone or tablet to play games or message friends when their homework is done. They learn to find solutions to their problems by tackling the situation head on.
In the case of Cory Nieves, a six year old boy became the owner of his own business after he decided he was tired of taking the bus to school. He wanted to buy a car instead because it was too cold. He sold hot cocoa, and later branched out to selling lemonade and cookies to achieve his dream and save up for college. In 2014, when he was ten years old, he was making sales of a thousand cookies a weekend.
Busy vs productive
Time management is a valuable skill when you own your own business. You learn to be productive, instead of just busy. Children who are adept at time management accomplish more, and efficiently. Instead of taking two hours to finish a homework assignment with plenty of breaks, they can finish it in one hour and have time for other tasks.
Business mentor and coach Cameron Herold has spoken in favour of having parents and teachers encourage kids to be entrepreneurs. At a Ted Talk in Edmonton, Alberta, he speaks about how he was bored and failing in school because teachers did not identify entrepreneurial traits as worth encouraging. For example, at the age of seven, he was able to sell coat hangers at a higher price than originally expected, but negotiation was not a skill that he was taught.
Stories of successful kid entrepreneurs all echo a similar theme to Herold’s story: Child entrepreneurs who didn’t pay attention in school but became thriving business owners. Young teenagers who were told to set aside their business ventures until they were older, but instead continued to pursue their dream until they reached their goal or surpassed it.
My earliest brush with entrepreneurship was in grade five. One day, we were asked to bring some belongings we no longer wanted and place them on our desks at school. We walked around the class and looked for things we wanted to barter for, using our own items. A classmate had a pair of three inch tall glass boots I liked. I asked her what she wanted from my desk in exchange. Sadly, what she wanted was only worth one boot – she didn’t like the other items I had. To this day, I only have one glass boot in my display case, a reminder of my early attempts at commerce.
If you have a say in the education of a child, consider how entrepreneurship can provide them with opportunities to succeed as adults, whether they choose to have a job or own a business. One lesson that successful kid entrepreneurs have taught us is that we should never limit what we want to accomplish.