Sparking the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Your Child!

  • Not everyone is cut out to start their own business, but many of the characteristics that make a good entrepreneur—tenacious, creative, collaborative—are good traits for any young person to develop. Following are tips and suggestions gathered from a number of resources and adapted for your review.

    Encourage your child to set (written) goals.
    National speaker and entrepreneur Duane Spires notes that written goals are more than 80% more likely to be achieved. He suggests brainstorming a list of goals with your child, then having her choose the one goal that would have the biggest positive impact on her life. Help your child determine the needed steps to reach her goal, then encourage her to take action immediately!

    Build a financial foundation.
    Tie an allowance to chores, and offer a little something extra for going “above and beyond.” You can suggest chores that need doing, but teach your child to be a self-starter by allowing him to use creativity in finding an unmet need in the household and doing that work for a negotiated fee. Remind your child that neighbors and friends might also be interested in having help with chores. Open a bank account for your child, and encourage him to “pay himself first” by putting away some of his earnings in a savings account. (A savings plan for a special purchase or activity might be one of those goals mentioned earlier.) Talk as a family about budgeting and investing. Financial literacy is part of the GCPS curriculum, and families can supplement that learning at home with a number of kid-focused websites and books.

    Help your child learn to recognize opportunities.
    Trying to market a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist probably won’t lead to success, but recognizing a problem and finding creative solutions could be the launch pad for a young entrepreneur. Being observant and creative can lead to potential opportunities. Parenting blogger Sue Scheff suggests that parents walk around the neighborhood with their child (or be on the lookout when doing errands together) and look for unmet needs… neighbors in need of lawncare or someone to play with a new puppy, or a favorite store that could use a website.

    Help your child assess her strengths and interests.
    Work with your student to identify her passion. What can she do right now to start a business in her area of interest?

    Encourage entrepreneurial characteristics like problem-solving, creativity, and curiosity. Help your child become independent and build confidence. Independent thinkers listen to ideas from others, but make up their own minds. Opportunities for leadership— at school, in scouting, or in sports— build important skills for entrepreneurs-to-be. Help your child be a risk-taker when it comes to pursuing his ideas. A calculated risk may end in failure, but it also could lead to success.

    Accentuate the positive in “failure.”
    It’s safe to say that not every venture your budding entrepreneur tries will succeed. The key is to learn from mistakes. Help your child brainstorm solutions. Resist the temptation to buy up all his stock or peddle his wares at your office. Letting your child fail will force him to come up with creative solutions in order to succeed. (Perseverance, tenacity, and confidence are intertwined.)

    If you’re in business yourself, share your own successes (and failures).
    Involve your child in your work, if you can. Demonstrate networking in action and model business behavior.

    Encourage teamwork and effective communication.
    Learning to work well with others is critical for any profession, including the entrepreneur. Kids who are polite and respectful, and who maintain eye contact when speaking with others will really stand out. Experts say that displaying good telephone etiquette (speak slowly and clearly) and knowing how to write a good e-mail (correct grammar and spelling) also can set young people apart from their peers.

    Show the value in giving back.
    Starting a business that benefits others—either directly or with some of the proceeds— can be gratifying and successful.

    “Play” at business and make it fun.
    Money-management and business-simulation games like Rollercoaster Tycoon can be fun and instructive. recommends three board games— Acquire, Tin Goose, and Amun Re— for those who want to branch out beyond Monopoly. Even young kids like to role-play “store.” Watch “Shark Tank” together for entrepreneurial inspiration. (Great idea? Apply to pitch your idea on the show!)

    Help your child find resources and pursue real-world opportunities to support his budding entrepreneurial interests.
    Help your student find a mentor. Encourage her to join a school club in a related area (for instance, DECA for marketing students). If a club doesn’t match her interests, suggest that she develop a proposal for one that does and recruit a teacher to sponsor the group. Encourage your student to get an after-school or summer job while still in school to get experience and exposure in her area of interest.

    Don’t overlook salesmanship.
    Whether selling a product, promoting a service, pursuing investors, or selling himself, salesmanship is a key skill for an entrepreneur on the rise and can be useful in any career. Entrepreneur Spires encourages parents to let their child have that lemonade stand or launch that lawn mowing service, but be sure your child does the work— setting prices, making sales, and promoting his operation. Making and selling a product (such as birdhouses, crocheted scarves, or artwork) to family and friends could be both a creative outlet and a business.

    Learn more about kids and entrepreneurship with the following articles: