Photo: The Oregonian
As parents, we’re always on the lookout for ways to pave a happy, healthy, and successful future for our children. Whether it’s fretting over pre-school options and after-school snacks, focusing on homework or sports, both my husband and I consider the long-term implications of each decision we make.Then we realised that without even trying, we were already teaching our kids one of the most essential life lessons…and that’s entrepreneurship. My husband Phil and I have been business partners and happily married for 14 years. We sold one of our first companies to Intuit back in 2005, then launched a series of ventures, and are now running our second online legal filing service company. Over the years, we may have been building our businesses, but more importantly, we were showing our children what it means to create your own path in life.
And sending that message of entrepreneurship is more critical today than ever as the next generation will need to create their own opportunities in an age of uncertainty.
In the past, parents may have shunned the entrepreneurial lifestyle, preferring their children opt for a stable and secure job at a large company. However, in today’s reality, few jobs are 100% safe and secure. And gone are the days when a college degree is a guaranteed ticket to a great career. The key to tomorrow’s job stability may just be raising savvy entrepreneurs who can confidently think and act in a rapidly changing and uncertain world economy.
To spawn a powerful entrepreneurial movement in the United States, we need to instill the mindset in our children early one. It’s just like learning a second language…the earlier you learn, the better.
Having an entrepreneurial role model is a powerful inspiration for kids. A 2010 Kauffman Foundation survey found that young people who personally know an entrepreneur showed the strongest interest in starting their own business. Among youth who know an entrepreneur, almost half (46 per cent) would like to start, or already have started, businesses, compared to only one-third (31 per cent) of young people who do not know a business owner.
Phil and I are fortunate that we can give our kids a first-hand look at running a business. But that doesn’t mean that parents who work for others should despair. You can introduce your child to an ‘entrepreneur mentor’ – perhaps an uncle, aunt, or close friend who has their own business. Or, just show interest in entrepreneurship and look for resources at the Kauffman Foundation and other organisations.
All parents (myself included) should think about ways to encourage their children’s natural entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it’s the traditional lemonade stand, selling handmade friendship bracelets, a dog-walking business or movie making, these early ventures teach children self-reliance, marketing, and communication skills. And even if these activities don’t turn into a business right now, your kids will still carry those crucial lessons with them to adulthood.
In our household, I encourage my children’s online projects – which currently entail a blog and YouTube channel (with proper supervision, of course). Technology is rapidly changing the business world, with new tools emerging on a seemingly daily basis. It’s critical for young people to embrace these technological advances and thrive in this new online-oriented landscape. Kids by nature tend to be more accepting of change and can adjust quickly to new technologies. Why squelch this curiosity?
I also believe in teaching children the financial side of owning a business. Sound financial skills aren’t typically taught in schools, and many parents are reluctant to discuss money matters at the dinner table. As a result, too many young adults never learn how to properly handle money. If children are taught about responsible money management from an early age, they’ll be better equipped to manage their budgets and finances later on in life.
Most importantly, I want my children to know that whether they choose to follow in our footsteps as business owners or become fantastic employees in someone else’s company, my husband and I will back them 100%. The key is to find something that is personally fulfilling to each of them. When we follow our passions, we’re more likely to be happy, hopeful, and healthy. We’re more likely to believe that we can make a difference in the world and our community.
I always tell clients that it’s never too late for them to follow their passion. And it’s never too early for my children as well.
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