The wind ripped my son and daughter’s sign in half almost as soon as we exited the car.
Undeterred, they taped the items they’d worked on for months to a table—the opportunity to sell their handmade products at the homeschool crafting fair awaited, and not even a cold, December wind was going to stop them.
This was our second year participating in the crafting fair, and I couldn’t believe how seasoned my kids seemed. Table set up and cash box at the ready, they worked for two hours, sometimes walking their products from booth to booth when business slowed. My introverted son came out of his shell to explain to customers how he’d designed his Perler bead creations before negotiating prices. It’s not just money kidpreneurs stand to gain when they start their own businesses, though revenue is a nice incentive.
Entrepreneurship can teach skills that stick with kids for life: creative thinking, learning from failure and financial literacy, to name a few.
Parents can help by asking the right questions and responding appropriately—whether their child succeeds or fails.
Former kidpreneur Charlie Gasmire credits his father with sparking his interest in entrepreneurship at a young age. “Dad gave me ideas to think about, and advice,” Gasmire says. “He introduced different activities.” For example, Gasmire had his own lemonade stand and shoe shining business as a child. Now he’s founded Boss Club, a company that offers advice and entrepreneurial starter kits so that kids can try their hand at business with guidance.
“Guidance” is the key word—Jan Murfield, president of Junior Achievement of Dallas, suggests that parents pose practical questions to their budding business owners while letting the kids lead: How much do you want to charge for your product? What materials and money will you need to get started? How are you going to advertise?
These questions force children to consider their options and choose the best path forward, honing their creative and critical thinking skills through a topic they’re already interested in.
DOING WHAT THEY LOVE
Lewisville elementary student Erin Malone was embarrassed by a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She was having trouble in school both academically and behaviorally and was dealing with constant negative self-talk. But her love for art never waned. So Erin’s mom, Sherrie Jackson, asked her daughter if she wanted to turn her creative interest into a business.
Now 8 years old, she runs a successful accessories business called Essentials from Erin. She chooses the items for her customers, packs them up and even helps manage the cash box at events.
According to Jessica Thomas, the director of education at Fort Worth-based Junior Achievement of the Chisholm Trail, handling their own money helps kids understand the difference between wants and needs, and they start to recognize the hard work that goes into maintaining a business.
Kidpreneurs start to view their community differently too, Thomas adds. They see local business owners as people just like them who followed a passion. “[They see that] they can make a living doing what they love,” she says.
Erin is saving for the art studio she’d like to open one day while also donating some of her profits to charity. Jackson believes encouraging her daughter to pursue something she already had a talent for helped banish the negativity that plagued her after her ADHD diagnosis. Months after opening her own business, Erin’s people skills have improved, her confidence is up and she is involved in helping her community—and Jackson recently watched her daughter accept her second perseverance award at school. That’s the purpose of Erin’s business, Jackson says: “to inspire kids and adults to never give up.”
NOT TOO SMALL TO FAIL
Not every kid-founded business will succeed though—and that’s a good thing. Entrepreneurship gives kids the opportunity to practice the art of failing gracefully, but the reverse is true as well: Learning how to deal with failure can encourage entrepreneurship because starting a business is always a risk. It might go well and it might not, but kids who have been taught how to handle failure are more likely to step out and try.
“Kids learn from the experience whether they succeed or fail, and that’s what you want,” says Murfield.
When things go south, parents should acknowledge the progress their children have made and stress that learning from mistakes is part of growing. Helping kids reframe a business fail is key: What went right? What went wrong? What would they have done differently?
Parents can’t just talk the talk, though—a 2016 study published in Psychological Science revealed that a parent’s attitude about failure largely impacts their child’s attitude about their own ability to succeed and grow. Kids watch how parents handle their own situations when things don’t go as planned.
Gasmire says his dad helped him see failure as a learning experience rather than a debilitating setback. “You learn more and apply it to tomorrow, win or lose,” he explains.