Inspired living

5 ways to teach entrepreneurship to your children

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Ask some of the most successful Australian movers and shakers how they made their start, and they’ll tell you it began when they were still wet behind the ears. Billionaire transport tycoon Lindsay Fox sold newspapers and cold drinks at the footy as a child. Mike Cannon-Brooks, tech wizard and co-founder of software company Atlassian Corp, begged his family for a computer when he was a small child. And world surfing champ and founder of the Aim for the Stars Foundation Layne Beachley started out as a surfing grommet at age four.

Across Australia, there are scores of children who are turning business into child’s play. And many experts say it’s something we should be encouraging. After all, children are the future change-makers; their ideas, their passion and knowledge will shape the planet for generations to come.

Entrepreneurial thinking can pave the path for positive social change, and for ways to creatively respond to emerging problems in a rapidly changing world.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about money, either, or becoming a mini-mogul. Entrepreneurial thinking can pave the path for positive social change, and for ways to creatively respond to emerging problems in a rapidly changing world.

And those in the know say that encouraging your child to think like an entrepreneur isn’t really a stretch: they’re just doing what comes naturally. Gemma Alker, general manager of Club Kidpreneur, says kids are intrinsically gifted at entrepreneurial thinking because they see opportunities where others see roadblocks. “Kids are fresh and innovative. They have unique ways of problem solving and they’re resilient,” she says.

What can it teach?

Teaching entrepreneurship can educate a child about fiscal fitness, organisational skills and time management. It can also give them viable and valuable life skills so they’ll learn ways to connect with others and build self-confidence.

Psychologist Dr Julie Green, executive director of the Raising Children Network, agrees that fostering entrepreneurship can be a very positive thing for a child. “It creates ample learning opportunities for planning and big-picture thinking,” she says.

There are countless examples of kids who have dared to dream big. One shining light is the founder of Thankyou Water, Daniel Flynn, who came up with a bottler of an idea when he was still a teenager. He was overwhelmed by global poverty and developed a social enterprise through which sales of Thankyou body-care and water products funded life-changing projects in developing countries.

Having a go

There are even more good reasons to encourage children to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. Last year, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) released the report The New Work Order: ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for jobs of the future, not the past. FYA CEO Jan Owen says it showed that the future workforce will increasingly be affected by automation, collaboration and globalisation.

“Young people need an enterprise-learning education so they’re equipped to navigate and thrive in this changing world of work. This includes skills like project management, creativity, digital literacy, financial literacy and innovation,” she says.

Nurturing innovative minds

Entrepreneurship can also be super-cool. Just ask 11-year-old William Grame, who has type 1 diabetes. He designed a diabetes test strip disposal unit, a practical solution to a messy problem, which will literally benefit millions of people. “The idea came about because I kept getting into trouble for leaving my test strips everywhere,” says a very modest William. For his insight, William won a prize trip to NASA through Origin Energy’s Little BIG Ideas competition.

But are entrepreneurial dynamos like William truly gifted? Not necessarily. What sets them apart is that they dared to have a go; they believed they could, and they were supported by people who could empower them to make it happen.

A helping hand

Bella Tippen from Dubbo was just 11 when she started her own business Kidzcationz. She developed the business because she felt kids were treated as a bit of an afterthought. “I wanted restaurant owners to look beyond the chicken nuggets, and hotel owners to give fold-out beds a test run,” she says.

Starting up her own business has been a revelation for Bella. “I was surprised by how many people wanted to help me along the way, but I was astonished by how many people were quick to shatter my dreams,” she says.

There will always be the naysayers who think young minds can’t think big — but there are also those who truly believe they can be dragon slayers.

Pocket money can help a young child learn about the value of money, spending decisions and the consequences of those decisions.

Non-profits like Club Kidpreneur and the Foundation for Young Australians run programs designed to teach entrepreneurial skills. For example, FYA’s $20 Boss program will lend kids the start-up cash and give kids the tools they need to create an innovative business. And here’s the best part: not only do they encourage, educate and mentor children, they also teach kids to give back in a way that benefits society.

One of their top performers last year was a group of 15 students at St Albans Secondary College who set up VC Delights, a weekly alternative to the school canteen. Jan Owen says the youngsters worked hard to delegate team roles and develop a business plan, guiding principles and values, and a team agreement. “Their hard work paid off; together, they made a profit of over AU$4500. This covered the cost of all students attending school camp. They also donated money to the Lost Dogs Home and the Lung Cancer Foundation.”

Club Kidpreneur programs have also proven to be a success. One program, the CK Challenge, teaches financial literacy and basic business skills to upper-primary students. They learn to build a business from start-up, market and design products and sell them at a market day. The program also builds confidence.

Through the program, buddies Bailey Lucock and Luke Milburn designed a business called SPRAY’D, where kids spraypaint their own flat caps and T-shirts. Both Bailey and Luke have dyslexia and, although they’ve graduated from the program, they’re still in business. “Business is hard work, but having dyslexia is hard work as well, so we are used to it,” says Luke.

Starting the start-up journey

Teaching children about money at an early age is a step in the right direction. After all, all most preschoolers understanding of money is that it’s somehow linked to a little piece of plastic card! Adults rarely hand over cold hard cash these days, which can make it challenging for kids to understand the concept of money. There are loads of children’s books around that can help, though — even Dr Seuss gets in on the act with One Cent Two Cents, Old Cent New Cent.

Instil a sense of confidence in your child; let them know it doesn’t matter if their ideas fail: it’s persistence that brings success.

Pocket money can help a young child learn about the value of money, spending decisions and the consequences of those decisions. It’s also an opportunity to establish short-term and long-term savings goals.

Giving children pocket money for chores done at home also helps them to understand the correlation between work and money as a reward. Dr Julie Green is, however, quick to point out that giving children pocket money is a family decision. “Some like the idea of setting up a system around pocket money; other families have a different viewpoint,” she says.

Balancing act

While learning about money and the skills needed to earn it can be beneficial for children, some might say that perhaps it’s too much; that kids need to focus on just being kids. Are parents putting too much pressure on youngsters, encouraging them to try out money-making ventures that may or may nor not succeed, instead of allowing them to have fun?

Green says the key is balance. “A child’s main job is growing up, going to school and learning within the context of day-to-day life,” she says. “It’s important to find a balance between school, paid work, friendships, social activities and relaxation time, so keeping the conversations going at home around these issues is a very good thing.”

Never give up

Not all business ideas will be a roaring success, but it’s the lessons learned along the way that are important for pint-sized trailblazers. After all, as Gemma Alker says, not everything adults do always goes according to plan.

“One of the important aspects of business is experimentation; not everything is going to work, first time every time, and through failure you learn,” she says. “Look for the positives within the overall experience and celebrate the small milestones the child has made.”

Discovering that entrepreneurial flair

If your child has creative flair and enjoys crafty pursuits, or is a mini chef in the making, that’s a good place to start. Encourage your child to think about something they love to do, or a problem they could solve. Jot down things they do to help around home or at school. Get them to review the list and then hone their skill set. For example, do they love chatting to people? Then write up a business plan and get the word out about the business.

Suitable businesses

There are many potential business ideas: some involve selling things, others entail performing a service, some are profit driven and others … well, they’re all about doing what you can to make the world a better place. Sometimes it’s tweaking an old idea to make it better; other times it’s about taking a brand-new concept or getting totally creative.

Here are 10 ideas you can share with your child to get them started:

  1. Bake it. From cakes to cookies, lemonade to lamingtons, you can really get creative with cooking. Experiment with recipes; have fun taste-testing with your friends.
  2. Get arty. Unleash your creative flair with homemade candles, rejigged photo frames, craft and paint; try tie-dye T-shirts or work with wood, beads and baubles.
  3. Take Fido for a walk. Finding a reliable pet sitter can be a challenge, so offer to walk neighbours’ pets and feed them when they aren’t home. When a neighbour goes on holidays, collect their mail and put their bins in and out. Or make cat toys or doggie treats.
  4. Go green. Visit charity shops and rummage through for some cool clothing designs. Revamp pre-loved goods into storage boxes or wall art and enjoy the magic of retro design.
  5. Clown around. If you love putting yourself out there, learn some magic tricks or face painting, make homemade puppets, learn to juggle or dress up to entertain at kids’ parties.
  6. Tech tac. Technology is second nature to kids. Get acquainted with Google and learn to develop websites, tutor adults who struggle with technology or design business cards or flyers for others.
  7. Become a basket case. Gift baskets are easy and fun to make and sell at markets. Try fruit baskets, sweet-treat baskets, pamper baskets … the list is endless.
  8. Go a little potty. Pot up some seeds or seedlings of flowers or herbs, nurture them and watch them grow. Then you can sell them.
  9. Have a swapmeet. Do you have clothes or toys you’ve outgrown? Get together and swap them with friends, and donate part of your commission (and the leftover goods) to a favourite charity.
  10. Try a little rub, scrub and sparkle. Get together with friends and hire yourselves out as cleaning crews. You can clean windows or cars, and even do small jobs indoors, scrub outdoor areas, sweep patios, clean pool areas and rake lawns.

5 tips for encouraging kidpreneurialism

  1. Educate your child about the value of money by giving them chores around the home in exchange for pocket money.
  2. Encourage your child’s creative ideas, regardless of whether or not they have a business focus.
  3. Help your child understand the role of business in the community. Explain that there are people behind local business.
  4. Instil a sense of confidence in your child; let them know it doesn’t matter if their ideas fail: it’s persistence that brings success.
  5. If your child has an idea for a business, be encouraging and link them in with networks, ideas or education programs that will support them.

Source: Eamon Eastwood, Club Kidpreneur


Carrol Baker

Carrol Baker is an award-winning freelance journalist who is a passionate advocate of natural health and wellness. She writes for lifestyle and healthy-living magazines across Australia and internationally.