Entrepreneurial success begins in childhood.
All it takes is an astute parent to mentor and guide the child to discover they can make money using their talents. Since my last Business Tips article, based on the book “Young Bucks, How to Raise a Future Millionaire” by Troy Dunn, I’ve been searching my memory bank for examples. I’ll share those examples as well as explore some Dunn has identified.
As a child, I was by and large the best at making fudge. I knew exactly how to test the “soft ball” stage, how long to let it cool once I’d added the butter and vanilla, and how the sheen on the fudge indicated the precise time to stop stirring and pour it into the buttered dish. My mother taught me all of this, but it was our neighbor, Mary Campbell, who bragged the most.
Every time I made it, I would deliver a few pieces to Mary. Every time she complimented me it made me want to do it again. Had my parents been exposed to the ideas Dunn writes about, I very well could have become a millionaire making and selling fudge. Unfortunately, I didn’t parlay that talent into a million-dollar business, but I definitively know a great piece of fudge.
The second idea that could have made me rich was the use of a backpack as a book bag. Again, my mother had taught me how to sew. Using that knowledge, combined with a need to carry my books while riding my bicycle, I designed and sewed a book backpack complete with my initials on it. In the early ’70s few high school students owned cars, we used bicycles. If my parents had encouraged entrepreneurship, I might be running my own factory producing Peggy’s Packs.
The common thread in each of these examples is the “want.” I like fudge therefore I wanted some and learned how to make it. I wanted a way to carry my books on my bicycle therefore I learned how to sew a backpack.
Give your children and grandchildren the “Gift of Want.” Dunn says it best, “Giving them everything they could possibly want, and more, is no gift. All they could learn from our over generosity is to ask for more and appreciate what they had less.”
Dunn challenges us all to create an opportunity for our children to “figure out a way to pay for what they want.” If we exercise restraint in giving them everything, encourage the opportunity to create a business, then we are teaching them to “learn to earn.”
Allowance without responsibility attached teaches children to depend on us for their income.
“Children need to learn as soon as they are able, that money is not a gift but a compensation for work done.” They will in turn learn, “that earning their own money gives them the freedom to spend it any way they like,” Dunn writes.
Dunn identifies ways for children to earn money. Even the youngest child, 5 and under, can learn to earn. Once I watched as my daughter stacked dimes on the corner of the kitchen cabinet. Each time she told her son to do a simple chore, she’d check to be sure it was done then the child was able to pick a dime off the stack. Instant gratification is important at this age.
For children ages 6 to 10 a simple lemonade stand can teach them to learn to earn. The younger child will only understand the simple math, but the older child can do the math to determine the cost of what is being sold. Personally, I never pass up a lemonade stand and I never pay more than asking price. Other tasks such as sweeping driveways for neighbors, picking up the neighbors’ papers if they leave town or even taking care of pets can teach children about earning money. I remember an aunt who paid my brother and I five cents for each bag worm cocoon we picked from her evergreen bushes.
Children from 11 to 14 will most likely have their own ideas for a business. They may create “spirit” items to sell to their school friends, tutor younger children, and learn to fix bicycles or water container plants for a family friend on vacation.
The older group of children ages 15 to 18 will be ready to possibly launch a business. They no longer are satisfied with the simpler possibilities they had early on in their history of business. They may learn how to copy VHS tapes over to DVDs for a fee. Other entrepreneurs may create holiday wreaths or baskets or even detail cars. Explore their talents and help them turn that into a business.
Entrepreneurs fuel our economy. We all need to be doing what we can to assure the spirit of business ownership continues to prosper by encouraging children to “learn to earn.”
“Business Tips” was written by Peggy Rosser, Rural Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at Peggy.Rosser@angelo.edu.