5 Ways to Teach Kids to Become Entrepreneurial

Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO of The NIIC

Ask a kid what he/she wants to be when they grow up and they might rattle off a list of professions. “Small business owner” is not likely to roll off their tongue, and it doesn’t appear in the PSAT career wheel either—and that’s a shame. But these same kids will say they want the independence and freedom to do what they want. They plan to work for themselves and others at the same time. Educational futurists believe this next generation will have 13-17 careers (not jobs but careers) in a lifetime. How exciting is that?

Our economy depends on the next generation of entrepreneurial thinkers and leaders to step-up and address challenges on a multitude of levels. That said, there are qualities you can teach children now that will set up them up for success in entrepreneurship or in thinking more entrepreneurially later (the entrepreneurial mindset is extremely valuable with today’s employers and can set you apart from the pack).

Problem-solving coupled with opportunity recognition skills

Problems are a part of business and life. Behind every solid business is an answer to a problem, whether large or small. Discipline expert Amy Morin recommends teaching children problem-solving skills by:

·      Identifying and discussing the problem at hand

·      Coming up with possible solutions

·      Listing the pros and cons of potential solutions

·      Confidently taking action

·      Allowing them to experience the consequences of their decisions—whether good or bad (experimentation is critical).

Experimenting with Enterprises

Kids appreciate the money they’ve earned versus cash they’ve been handed. Whether it’s earning a few dollars for yard work or selling lemonade, such activities instill character and a desire to work toward one’s financial goals. What’s more, it’s teaching them how to speak eloquently, overcome the fear of rejection, and to use persuasion techniques to close a sale. When I was a kid, I started the Ship’s Main Galley Restaurant when my relatives would come to visit every Sunday.

Honing their creativity skills

Creativity is not just for artists and performer types. Innovators are always tweaking their product or service until they find it meets the market’s demand. You can encourage creative thinking in children by allowing time for unstructured play and to support finding multiple right answers to a problem or opportunity. Most of our creativity can be learned. Embrace non-linear thinking. Intentionally nurture this habit daily.

Discovering your leadership voice

Behind every successful business is an effective leader. Leadership is more than just calling the shots. Level 5 leadership skills (humility + will) can come from a variety of sources – such as sports, team or group activities like Future Business Leaders of America and Scouting are ways to cultivate this trait in young people.

Building a “trusted advisor” and support network

We are social creatures by nature. People do business with people they know and trust. To that end, having a wide network can open up doors for entrepreneurs in the form of advice, leads and general support. in that same vein, children can be encouraged to connect with people “in real life”. They need to be comfortable enough to sit down with an adult and have a conversation. They may be shy at first, but in time he or she will hone the skills necessary to forge a connection. Young people need to seek out mentors who make them better and who can impart their wisdom and experience. Throughout my professional career, I have always tried to surround myself with someone in my network who is 20-30 years older than me (this is getting tougher as I age!)

NIIC’s Student Venture Lab provides the practice field for aspiring entrepreneurs. Our program is like an internship in starting your own business where you are the boss. Check out our program and how it immerses students (high school and college) in the key elements of starting and growing a company. By practicing, students will gain insights and learn how their passion or dream plays out in real-life. If you know of some young people who could benefit from our program, please refer them to us.

What experiences in your youth shaped you to become an entrepreneur later on in life? What are some ways we can teach kids to be more entrepreneurial?


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