Can you raise a kid to be an entrepreneur? Is it possible to nurture an entrepreneurial skillset in your child early on?
As someone who grew up knowing I wanted to be an entrepreneur, wanting to run my own businesses, and now with two kids of my own, these kinds of questions intrigue me.
Growing up, I was lucky to have parents who were incredibly supportive of me. While I was failing math class, they recognized something different in me: the ability to become a great entrepreneur. And that was valuable. You have to understand (and I’m sure many of you do), it was different back then. Nowadays kids who pursue their own business are seen as geniuses; not so much when I was growing up. If you sucked in school, that was it. Done. That’s why I give so much credit to my parents: they saw my strengths and let me play to those.
In many ways, if you are a parent, seeing your kid become an entrepreneur and develop entrepreneurial skills could be very exciting. Being an entrepreneur teaches you so many valuable skills, including how to be tough, how to be scrappy and how to survive in business. It is important for us to remember it can be a great thing for a young person to experience.
But what really made me successful, and the way my parents pushed that success, has to do with seeing the difference between reacting and forcing.
Reacting is giving your kid the rope. If your child is selling some kind of trading card in school, or setting up a lemonade stand and they’re only 8 years old, all you need to do is react to the fact that they’re already entrepreneurs and give them a lot of rope. What I mean by that is freedom, support, acknowledgement and building up as much steam behind those actions as you can.
This is essentially what happened for me. I exhibited those tendencies early. My first gig was ripping up flowers from my neighbors front lawns, ringing their doorbell, and selling the flowers back to them. Sure that business in particularly wasn’t quite sustainable. But baseball cards? That was my first big gig. My parents reacted to those things. I got all the support I needed in those early days. My mom drove me to baseball card shows and I was able to flourish because of it.
It’s no different than if your kid constantly wants to paint, or play baseball, or dance; you notice they love doing something, and you want to support them in it.
But you can enroll them in theater class to get them interested in theatre. You can put them in violin lessons just for the sake of trying it out. So the question still remains: can you instill an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age?
For me, the answer is no.
If you don’t see those characteristics, be very careful about forcing entrepreneurship on someone who isn’t interested. Not only because, to state the obvious, you don’t want to force anything on your kid, but also because it is a difficult, long road to be happy in entrepreneurship. It’s lonely. It’s tough.
However, I do think that exposing kids to the concept of entrepreneurship is extremely valuable. And who knows? They might pick it up.
If there is a sibling, or cousin, or friend, or neighbor who exhibits those kind of entrepreneurial characteristics, or runs their own business, you can encourage them to spend more time together and get involved in those kinds of things. Learning by doing is still applicable here. From there, you will have the ability to storytell around entrepreneurship, show them the benefits. It’s all good exposure.
Mainly, though, it’s all about reacting. I, as an entrepreneur through and through, have absolutely no intention of imposing entrepreneurship on my children. But I am very happy that my parents noticed the gene in me and let it grow.