Encouraging Young Entrepreneurs

By Sallie S. Hyman

It is amazing the ideas that children and young adults come up with. Many of these ideas can become successful businesses if children are given a strong foundation upon which to build. 

It is extremely important for children to be taught the principles of what it takes to become an entrepreneur, for if we don’t prepare them for the future, who will become our next generation of entrepreneurs?

Very few people are born knowing how to be an entrepreneur. But it also doesn’t require having a MBA. There are some simple lessons that we can teach our children to help them catch the “entrepreneurial spirit” and to become successful in business, 
as well as in life.

Duane Spires, a national motivational speaker who focuses on training and inspiring young entrepreneurs offers the following lessons and how to go about teaching them. His advice does an excellent job in summing up what young children need to know about becoming entrepreneurs.

1. Teaching children how to set and accomplish their goals is 
a fun and exciting activity. Written goals are over 80 percent more likely to be achieved. 
How to teach: Ask children to define and write down their top 10 goals and then choose the one goal that would make the biggest positive impact in their life. That goal should be their 
main focus. Next, write down the steps necessary to accomplish this goal and encourage them to start taking action on those 
steps immediately.

2. Many people never meet their full potential because they 
fail to recognize opportunity. Teaching children to seek 
out opportunities and take action on them, will directly contribute to their level of future success. NASE member Marlene Cooper-Williams, Founder and CEO of Heritage Home Conservatory, a music school, in Thousand Oaks, California, has mentored dozens of music teachers throughout her career. Cooper-Williams tells her teachers, “Find a niche and figure out a way to do it.” She once partnered with piano dealers. She was able to help them sell more pianos by teaching customers what to do with them. A perfect opportunity taken!
How to teach: Praise children for pointing out small problems or setbacks in their lives that cause them distress such as: soggy sandwiches at lunchtime or not being able to reach items on a high shelf. Brainstorm solutions on how to resolve their troubles. This will teach them to focus on creating positive solutions, instead of focusing on the problem itself. This habit will allow them to create profitable ideas in their future businesses.

3. Selling is involved in every part of life. This one ability will 
last a lifetime because it is applied to all types of businesses 
and careers. From selling products and services to customers, to raising capital from investors, this skill is vital to the success of any business.
How to teach: Encourage children to start with small projects like selling their old toys, starting a lemonade stand, or selling handmade goods. Let them price their products, sell to customers, and facilitate the transactions when sales are made.

4. Financial literacy is a must. This is one area that we all 
could use help with. Teaching children about money at 
an early age will instill a financial foundation that schools often fail to teach.

How to teach: Give children the opportunity to earn their 
own money through chores, their own small business, and helping you in your business. Teach them about paying themselves first and then giving back. Educate them about investing and how their money could be used to create more money in the future. Help them set up a bank account and learn about how to budget their income.

5. Teaching kids about marketing is a great way to prepare them to attract customers to their future business. As you know, without customers, even the greatest business will fail. This is a very beneficial skill to learn while young. Gary Meddock, owner of AreoWorks Balloons, a hot air balloon company, in Madison, Wisconsin, says his children Jess and Jasper are the heart of his marketing team. Jessica has developed their website and Facebook page and Jasper does the photography for the company. Meddock says, “The kids bring skills of marketing and web/social media that I would never think of. It comes so naturally for the kids.”
How to teach: Motivate children to start observing marketing materials like billboards, promotional banners in front of businesses, printed advertisements in magazines, and television/radio commercials. Ask them what catches their attention about the message and also quiz them on how to identify things such as the headline, subhead, and “call to action.” Encourage them to create their own marketing materials for their business ideas.

6. In school we were all taught that failure is bad. In the entrepreneurial arena, failure can be a great thing if a positive lesson is learned. Allowing children to fail will force them to create new ways to accomplish their goals and learn from their mistakes. This will lead to confident children who know how to persevere when times are tough. Cooper-Williams follows this rule in mentoring her teachers. “Don’t be afraid,” she says. “If you fail, learn from it. Each experience comes with you into the next venture.”
How to teach: This lesson is simple. When children fail, don’t punish, but instead discuss what factors lead to the failure and brainstorm ways to prevent it from happening again in the future. Always seek to find the “learning lesson” in each adversity and encourage children to never give up.

7. Effective communication improves all relationships. Most children today are terrible at face-to-face and telephone communication because of the popularity of social media and text messaging. Successful businesses require that people actually speak to one another. Teaching your children to communicate effectively will provide them with the winning edge in business and in their personal relationships. Meddock is proud to hear his customers compliment him on how polite, respectful, and professional his children are. How to teach: First, lead by example. Teach your children to be polite and respectful. Most importantly, practice maintaining eye contact when speaking in person. When using the telephone, teach your children to speak slowly and clearly. A bonus activity would be to practice communicating to your children with e-mails. Do not allow them to abbreviate words and phrases, but instead, write grammatically correct sentences that flow together and convey a complete message.

8. The art of giving back creates happiness. Why start a business if it doesn’t support a greater cause? It is important for children to develop the characteristic of helping others. 
How to teach: When brainstorming business ideas with children, ask them to choose a charity or special cause to support with a portion of the income that they generate. Explain the concept that all great businesses contribute to improving the lives of other people.

9. Independence creates confidence. The entrepreneurial mindset causes kids to depend on themselves for their own success, which leads to well-rounded adults and future leaders.
How to teach: The next time children ask for money to buy their favorite toy, this is your opportunity to ask them to brainstorm ways to create the money through entrepreneurship. This will inspire creative thinking and it will cause the entrepreneurial juices to flow. Allow children/young adults to experience things they like or want to try. Jess and Jasper Meddock have traveled the world, teaching English in Korea, doing photography in New Zealand, among other adventures before returning home to work in the family business. They learned many skills while experimenting with these other careers.

10. Get the advantage by becoming a leader now. Children are taught in school to go with the flow and follow the rules. They are programmed to learn and memorize facts instead of becoming independent thinkers. Entrepreneurship forces children to think “outside of the box,” create unique solutions, and lead others. 
How to teach: Give children the opportunity to lead their friends in fun activities such as outdoor sports, book clubs, music practice, and small business projects. You can also encourage them to propose toasts and small speeches at family dinners and birthday parties to give them experience in public speaking.

Once a young entrepreneur has developed the confidence and skills to take on the challenge of starting a business or creating a product, it is very important to do some homework first. Make sure that no one has a patent on what you think is your great “discovery.” You can check with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Also do some marketing research or informal focus groups to see if there is a demand for your product or a glut of similar products or services already available in your area.

There are a host of organizations and networks that can help young entrepreneurs. Many are available through school, such as Future Business Leaders of America. Organizations like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4H also develop a lot of these leadership and entrepreneurial skills. 

Recent college graduates who are considering the entrepreneurial path but are hesitant due to high student loan debt can take advantage of the Income Based Repayment Program. Currently the payment is capped at 15 percent of a graduate’s income. The balance of the loan is forgiven after 25 years. And if the entrepreneurial pursuit qualifies as public service, the loan may be forgiven after 10 years. 

Young entrepreneurs will fuel the future and be the next innovators and job creators. It is essential that we encourage all children to consider entrepreneurship and to provide them with the best tools to get them started.

Sallie Hyman writes on small business issues and owns and operates her own small business in Purcellville, Virginia.

Read this article in PDF form here.

Courtesy of