Note – the Clever Tykes books are not trying to create an influx of child entrepreneurs. They are simply teaching children to look for opportunities at an early age, in the hope that when they grow up they can see self-employment as a viable career option.
Entrepreneurs often credit their upbringing for their success or drive to own their own business. Sometimes, it’s that their parents had amazing work ethics; others, that they were simply encouraged from a young age to pursue their dreams.
For me, entrepreneurship was largely taught. I grew up in a home with two parents who owned their own business, and it’s not a big surprise to anyone that I wound up starting my own successful wedding brand, Rustic Wedding Chic and The Rustic Wedding Guide.
How do you encourage your kids to become entrepreneurial?
Now that I’m a mom myself, I look back on my upbringing and give it the same credit that many other entrepreneurs do — and I hope to pass the same qualities along to my son. From an early age, I was given the tools to build my own business. These are gifts you can pass on to your child whether you’re an entrepreneur or not.
1. Model business behavior. Just like we try to censor our language or model kindness to our kids, it’s important to show our kids how to behave in business by inviting them into our lives. I love making my 3-year-old son a part of my business. When bookkeeping time comes each month, he’s great at stacking up receipts, grabbing bank statements from the printer or just sitting with me. I get the chance to show him what I’m doing and talk to him about the numbers as I work.
2. Encourage creativity. In my first business, “Maggie’s Shell Shop,” I hand picked shells from the beach and sold passersby my collections. I was 5. Thanks to a generous set of relatives, I was hooked on becoming an entrepreneur and experienced success early on. Whether it’s play or a real small business, give your child the chance to experience success and see how rewarding it is to operate a company they’ve created. Start by giving kids play money and set up a store in your living room — it’s a great way for them to play and learn at the same time.
3. Foster curiosity. Every great entrepreneur knows that usually the first step in creating a business is to be curious about something: How is it made? Why does it need to be on the market? Who could it help? How can I make it better? The questions start from kids at an early age, and it’s important to help them explore and feel free to be curious. Eventually, they’ll start making something of their own. I love to watch my 3 year old take apart a toy or create new rules for a board game that he thinks work better. All of this “investigative work,” as he calls it, is helping to expand this thinking and curiosity.
4. Embrace failure. Grown-up entrepreneurs know that failure is part of the game — it’s why the rewards are so sweet. But even small failures can be devastating for a child. Help your child to understand that failure is not a bad thing and explain that often, our greatest lessons as business owners come out the failures. Help your child see that there is always a version 2.0 — which, as we know, is always better than the first one!
5. Make it fun. Everyday activities can become a little lesson in how to become an entrepreneur, even when they’re not business related. My niece and nephew are big into helping with dinner thanks to shows such as “Chopped” and “Cupcake Wars.” These 8- and 6-year-olds now pretend they are on one of these shows as they help with dinner prep. Instead of asking for help setting the table, tell the kids they’re the chefs for the night. Develop a menu, tell them to create a “vibe” and turn the kitchen into a restaurant. Allowing them to create something and see it through will not only help make mundane tasks more fun, it will give them a huge sense of accomplishment.
Raising kids with an entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time or money — it just takes a different perspective on your everyday life and the willingness to let your kids into what you do and why you love it.