As an entrepreneur myself, I see in hindsight how my childhood provided the proper soil for me to pursue creativity in adulthood. My ideas were always encouraged by my parents, which helped them to flourish and increased my excitement around them. More young people are becoming entrepreneurs than ever before, which expands not only to recent college graduates choosing their career paths, but to quite young children too, such as Alina Morse, founder of Zolli Candy, who came up with the idea at seven years old.
Parents play an instrumental role in encouraging their kids to be more entrepreneurial. Here are a few ways to introduce the principles of entrepreneurship into your household, and instill confidence in your children around their entrepreneurial capabilities.
1. Set aside time for creativity and brainstorming.
Those entrepreneurial ideas will be harder to come by without ample time for creativity. Get the right brain juices flowing by taking time every so now and then to be creative with your kids - set up an easel for an afternoon of painting, tell your kids to come up with a short story, or simply do a family brainstorm of ideas for a new ice cream flavor. These conversations and activities encourage unique and funky ideas, too - which is helpful for getting your kids to think outside the box.
2. Celebrate failure.
Since failure is an inherent element of entrepreneurship, celebrating early failures will be key in shaping how your children cope with failure in the future. Spanx founder Sara Blakely always credited her father for teaching her this way to redefine failure. He would ask at the dinner table every week, “What did you fail at this week?” The intention with this question was to open a conversation around how the children had tried something creative that week.
Once your children (or anyone) is open to failure as not only a necessary part of life, but a necessary part of learning, they’ll run headfirst towards it rather than creating ideas along safety lines.
3. Encourage them to earn the money for large (unnecessary) expenses.
Many of today’s youngest entrepreneurs came up with their lucrative ideas in response to a common problem: they didn’t have the money to do something, and had to make it somehow. 10 year old Ava Kelly came up with business Ava’s Cookie Jars when she wanted the funds to travel to see a theatrical performance of The Lion King. Seven year old Chloe Smith came up with Chloe’s Teacakes when she wanted to buy an electric scooter.
The next time your child wants something that’s a bit expensive that you typically wouldn’t cover - may it be a cotton candy machine or a trip to Hawaii - challenge them to raise the money themselves, and offer ideas on how.
4. Share examples of other entrepreneurs close to their age who started out early.
Few tactics are more encouraging than simply sharing stories of other entrepreneurs of similar ages who successfully built businesses, which you can find from a simple Google search. Take this strategy from an empowering perspective - “if they did it, of COURSE you can!” That way, age will never be a reason they tell themselves for why not to get started.
5. Emphasize their unique talents.
Because ideas are so often tied to what a child believes they can do talent-wise, make sure to encourage your children in their talents often. Do they write vividly? Tell them. Do they make an irresistible batch of blueberry muffins? Tell them. Do they come up with incredible ideas for social impact? Tell them.
Pair the emphasis on their talents with comments on the talents’ value, too - “I bet you could sell these muffins for $4 a pop at next week’s bake sale!” or “I bet you could easily raise $200 to benefit our city’s homelessness - imagine how much of an impact you could make.” In addition to bolstering their confidence in their talents, getting them to start to imagine the monetary value of their talents inevitably encourages entrepreneurship.
6. Invest in their ideas.
Finally, one of the most empowering things my own mother did for me was invest in my nonprofit idea. She donated the funds to get my paperwork done and my website up and running, which was all the encouragement I needed to go after it. But, you don’t have to open your wallet to show your children that you care about their ideas.
Invest time in helping them perfect their product or brainstorm details, find other entrepreneurs in your local community they could speak with, and sign up for entrepreneurship events that may help them with the execution. This will ensure they continue to value their ideas and pursue them.