In one of my previous articles, 5 Money Lessons I Learned From My Parents, I detailed my first entrepreneurial adventure of owning vending machines at age nine. This was far from my last romance with entrepreneurship and a sign of greater things to come.
My most recent venture, Her First $100K, has been my latest (and so far, greatest) flame, and I can’t see this one burning out anytime soon. Turning my desire for entrepreneurship into a brand that helps millions of women change their financial future is the hard-earned gift that keeps on giving.
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Almost every entrepreneur you meet will tell you stories of running “shops” out of their homes, selling handmade bookmarks or bracelets in grade school, or the classic –– running a lemonade stand on the sidewalk. Overwhelmingly, they all would say they were born with their propensity for business, but I don’t think it’s all that straightforward.
I think we are all born with the desire to do something great and impact the world. If anything, the influence of our family and friends growing up can help foster how we achieve that. Every field has some kind of entrepreneur –– from medical to technology to marketing to the arts.
So how can you, as a parent, or even a child’s mentor, encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in children?
Help them cultivate their interests
Life is busier than ever for the up-and-coming generations. We’re placing pressure on younger and younger children to pick one specific sport or hobby, but something I found valuable as a child was exploring multiple avenues of interest.
I was running my vending machine business and dancing across the stage in community theatre shows. My parents never forced a choice on me to pick one thing over the other, and I thrived because I was able to explore my interests freely.
My interest in theatre paid off as much as my developing business skills. I’m constantly in front of cameras and on stage as a public speaker and money coach and carry the confidence and communication skills I learned performing.
To quote E.V. Lucas: “Nothing is wasted.”
So let the kids in your life explore those whims and passions — eventually, they’ll narrow down in their own time. Even if they don’t, they’re likely building the skills that will make them standouts in their future market.
Another great way to help your children cultivate their interests, especially if it’s a field you don’t know much about, is finding a way to connect them with experts and mentors in their fields of interest.
This might be as simple as enrolling your artistic child in an art class at the community center or taking your musical child to a local concert and having them tell you what they’re noticing about the artist as they play. Local community and recreation centers often offer classes in everything from painting to coding that are accessible to multiple income levels, with some even offering scholarships.
If you’re unable to be the mentor or find one, having conversations with your child about professionals they can admire and follow can be a great way to expose them to what it looks like to be the type of entrepreneur they want to be.
Don’t shelter them from the hard stuff
You might be shocked, but some people are immune to even the cutest of nine-year-old business owners. For as many vending machine placements as I accomplished, there were just as many meetings where I couldn’t close the deal.
My parents never rushed me through or sheltered me from the pain of losing a sale or having a contract canceled. I learned a new kind of resilience and peace through these trials that I still tap into today. Hearing and accepting “no” is a pivotal part of an entrepreneur’s life.
Another area that many parents and mentors shy away from is conversations about money. It’s essential to help your entrepreneurial children understand how businesses work financially. As they begin to monetize their interests, make sure to include them in activities like purchasing supplies, counting profits, and even marketing.
It’s tempting to make your child’s first venture pain-free or shield them from the nitty-gritty, but it’s an important lesson to let them really take in both the highs and the lows.
Start ’em young
Inc. recently polled 119 business owners, and 93% said they all credited “starting young” as the secret sauce to entrepreneurship.
Though anecdotal, when you compare this sentiment with the statistic that our money habits are cemented by age 7, it’s no wonder that childhood entrepreneurs often become adult entrepreneurs.
So start young — encourage them to find ways to save up for things they want. Give them a few dollars for extra chores they take up outside of their regular duties. If they have a gift for painting, crafting, or building, help them find local farmers’ markets or neighborhood yard sales where they can sell their goods.
Most of all, when it comes to encouraging entrepreneurship in children, the best thing you can do is celebrate them. Positive encouragement can go a long way with kids forming their identities and finding their way in the world.
Letting them know that they have a support system always cheering them on will get them farther than any “entrepreneurial gene” ever could.
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