How to Boost Kids’ Entrepreneur Genes

I know a young couple who wants to start a food business. Good for them! They first experimented by running a hot dog cart as a side hustle and test their ideas. Great strategy. These entrepreneurs are thinking, researching, starting small.  I wonder if either ran a lemonade stand as a youngster?

Do you think your kids have an appetite for business? Many will show entrepreneurial tendencies around age 9-11.

Some kids want to start the traditional lemonade stand on their street corner. Others bug their parents with ideas on how they could charge money for something. Busy parents often see these creative brainstorms as annoying, or time consuming if the kids start to follow through.

Yes, recognizing and encouraging a young entrepreneur can be frustrating, or even difficult at times. But kids need encouragement to go beyond the ordinary. Rather than have your initial conversation end with, “Nah, we can’t do a lemonade stand in early spring when it’s cold…”, now is your time to step up and shine, parents!

Spring is actually a great time to think about how you can keep kids busy this summer and encourage budding business owners, especially ‘tweens. They understand the concept of working for pay, have time on their hands, and are probably ready to have some responsibility. But the under-14 crowd is virtually unemployable by typical bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Helping your kids start a micro-business might be just the ticket. Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur or business owner yourself, you can offer valuable input, consumer perspective, organizing skills, and maybe even some free labor. If you want a book to help illustrate some business basics, check out Entrepreneur Extraordinaire: Grandpa Helps Emily Build a Business.

Then use these five tips to get your entrepreneurs on the right path:

1)    Get going – with a good brainstorm session

Exploring potential is part of business planning, so let ideas flow freely and set goals. Perhaps your brainstorming will get started during a car ride or even a television commercial. Capture the moment!

There are dozens of businesses youth can start (many can get them off the couch) without much upfront investment. How about walking dogs, growing vegetables to sell, mowing lawns, weeding, repairing bicycles, and becoming a birthday party clown or mother’s helper. What do your kids like to do?

Did you say video games? Then why not transfer those skills into earning money? How about helping all those too-busy parents who take hours of video of their kids but don’t have time to create the “memory” book/video/keepsake?

2) Think big! But start small.

After the conversation gets started, hone in on some particulars. Be careful to point out realistic start-up needs for time and money. Remember, learning is as important as making money.

Learning how to make a budget is a good activity. For example, if your son is thinking about growing pumpkins for sale in October, now is a good time to look at seeds, price supplies and strategize on how and where to sell the produce. How about charting a timeline from now until harvest?

3)  Find a mentor – or several.

Two heads can be better than one. Entrepreneurs often find that others can lend some creative solutions, and some seem to be better at it or more interested than others.

Your kids might discover mentors among parents, family friends or relatives who run businesses. Help kids connect with local business owners you know. Make it a fun adventure and a chance to get to know someone. At a loss to find a potential mentor? Start with your local librarian.

4)  Build confidence – Talk ‘em up!

Kids, like most of us, thrive on encouragement and accolades. Recognize their ideas, out-of-the-box thinking and successes. Perhaps you can think of a “good work” award or a “you-can-do-it” treat as a reward.

The point is, you can build a budding entrepreneur’s confidence so easily. Self-esteem is a big part of an entrepreneur’s ability to succeed.

5)  Keep it simple and flexible.

Starting a business doesn’t have to get overly complicated for kids (or adults either, for that matter). Your kids’ lemonade stand might be open one afternoon or a few days over the summer, and then the sizzle may fizzle. Next summer, maybe it’s more lucrative to mow lawns, walk dogs or babysit.  Or maybe that drink stand becomes a food cart or eventually a food truck. At this stage, entrepreneurship is all about exploring the possibilities and learning.

6)   Everyone stumbles – no big deal.

Though it’s not easy to watch, it’s okay for kids to make mistakes. Failure often precedes success. Entrepreneurs develop resilience, tenacity, ability to evaluate risk, and a solid work ethic.

So what if no one buys the lemonade? Some of the fun is in the making.

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