We have all heard of the famous college dropouts who went on to build billions dollar companies – Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are the prominent examples.
These are even more interesting times when it comes to entrepreneurship. Thanks to technology, people can start businesses with little to no upfront costs or overhead, and new businesses emerge from all corners of the world. Additionally, as people do more and more work from their own home, the lines between work and regular life are becoming hazy. The barriers to building a successful startup are becoming lower.
Many experts predict the future working world to be full of opportunity, but with less security. There will be more flexibility and freelance work, but less of a regular job with a regular paycheck and insurance benefits. Sure, not every child will grow up to work for himself or herself, but many will, and they will be successful all the same. This is one reason why it’s important to encourage entrepreneurship in children.
Another reason is that teaching entrepreneurship to school students imparts valuable life skills so that they can not only become successful, but also productive members of society. Think about some of the skills and traits entrepreneurs possess: interpersonal communication, money management, self-confidence, open-mindedness, creativity, fearlessness, accountability, and a belief that anything (or almost anything at least) is possible.
So what can you do? As teachers and parents, what can you do to promote entrepreneurship in school students? Even if you aren’t in one of these categories, how can you help? Below are some tips that are geared towards parents & teachers, but that can also be helpful if you are a sibling, mentor, or even just a friend.
Writing down a goal makes it more tangible. If you can see it, even as words on a page, it exists and can be achieved. Have the child write down 5 or 10 goals, and define each goal. Then have them pick the most important one. Next, ask to write down the steps he or she will need to take to achieve this goal. Finally, encourage your child to take the steps. The goal setting and mapping out the path need not be solely for a business. Any small challenge is good enough to get them started – perhaps in the context of sports or even studies. Small successes lead to bigger ones, but the important part is that this goal setting process is how the fundamentals of strategy making get ingrained in their minds.
Play is essential to creative thinking. True creativity comes from spontaneity. It comes from removing the possibility of being wrong. You don’t want children playing in the street – that’s “wrong” – but if a child says teddy bear is a lion, maybe that’s not so “wrong.” These random connections are the birth of original ideas. If possible and if safe, don’t say “no” or don’t tell your child that he is incorrect. Let them explore the world and build their own opinions. This is what would later become the often quoted strategy of ‘thinking outside the box’.
Businesses are usually born out of curiosity. Curiosity leads to innovation. Parents everywhere know that the “Why?” question can be annoying, but it’s also kind of beautiful. A child’s willingness to understand things is amazing. As an adult, you can encourage curiosity by answering more “why” questions. As we grow older our sense of curiosity is often replaced by a feeling of resignation or not even bothering to find out. We tend to accept things as they are – but true entrepreneurs know that curiosity was always the driving force behind all inventions.
Failure Can Be Good
Children hate to fail. It probably has something to do with schools and the dreaded “F,” among other things. As a parent or mentor, you can explain to your child that failure is how people learn and move forward. Failure also makes the success sweeter. A more practical example: When your child falls off the bike, make sure she’s not injured and make sure she gets back on. Never stop riding for the day when the child falls (unless there’s an injury); always stop when the child is riding.
Allowance for Chores
“For Chores” is the key phrase. Instead of giving kids an allowance for nothing, tie an allowance to chores. Make them earn the allowance. This instills a positive work ethic. You can also add bonuses to this. If your child helps a neighbour weed the flower garden or cut the grass, maybe you can give extra allowance money. This is a great technique for fostering entrepreneurship and is used often, but in the wrong way. Parents tend to tie up rewards to not doing something bad, instead of focusing on doing something good. In such situations, rewards come close to bribing and don’t nurture the right mindset in children. Remember, reward positive behaviour!
Open a Bank Account
Let your child be involved in his or her money. Open an account together, deposit money together, watch the interest grow, and look at the balance after the child spends some of it. It’s a hard and necessary lesson for a child to learn that he doesn’t have enough money to buy something. Again, there is no better way to bring up an entrepreneur than by showing the child how finances work. Ofcourse, this does not have to be an official bank account – even a piggy bank serves the purpose of keeping a track of how money is growing. If you see the child interested, perhaps try and explain concepts like loan and return on investment – you will be the loan provider ofcourse!
We often think of entrepreneurship as an individual trait, but entrepreneurs must also be good team players. Encouraging group work at school and at home and playing team sports can help a child learn to depend on others while remaining accountable. Team activities will also teach a child how to communicate with others in order to accomplish a goal. This is often upto good teachers and incorporated in an efficient school education. However, you can also try out stuff like these among siblings or friends of the child – let them see how much difference a team & a combination of different skills makes.
Tell Them To Do It Themselves
As adults, you tell children what to do; it’s your job, especially if you’re a parent. But when it’s possible, you can tell your child to figure it out. Generic instructions can be helpful in many cases. Instead of saying, “Put your toys in the toy bin and your dirty clothes in the hamper,” you could try, “Clean your room.” The child will have to figure out where to start in order to get to the desired result, encouraging problem-solving and self-guidance. Later on you could explain if there was a better way to do the task.
These tips are just a few ways in which adults can promote entrepreneurship in children. No matter what a kid wants to be when he or she grows up, most of the traits of an entrepreneur can help the child find success. And not just monetary and career success, but also success in a deeper sense of the word; a kind of success that brings great internal satisfaction. This self-satisfaction is something we should want for all children.