My sister Melanie Staggs and I have a golden rule -- never pass a lemonade stand without buying something. It's always been our inclination that if kids are excited to start a business, it's our responsibility to help them.
Over the last few years, I've bought lemonade, cookies, hand painted shells, slime, rubber band bracelets, paper weights and much more. And I always ask the same question when I pay for the product, "What's your profit on this sale?" My question is met with varying degrees of understanding from a quick "Ten cents" to "What's that mean?"
That's why Melanie, our friend S. Taylor, and I wrote the book The Startup Club. It's a fun fiction book for elementary aged kids about kids who start businesses. Our characters Claire, Janey and Noah come up with a great idea and then have to go through the same steps that all entrepreneurs have to deal with: Pricing, marketing, competition etc... Through the story of CJ Chainz (the name of their company), we subtly teach our readers the concept that when you sell a glass of lemonade, you still have to pay your parents back for the lemons!
According to the National Financial Educators Council, "About twenty-four percent [of students] and only twenty percent of parents say students are prepared to deal with the financial challenges that await them in the real world." Ultimately, this can result in varying degrees of financial difficulties from at the minimum some bumps in the road to extreme debt on the other side of the scale. The earlier we can get our kids comfortable with the idea of money -- how to earn it and how to manage it -- the better. We think of The Startup Club as a fun introduction at a young age.
In addition, no matter what career paths our children take, having an entrepreneurial attitude will serve them well. Being able to identify issues and think creatively about how to solve them is a skill that we need to be teaching our kids from a young age.
Since my husband and I both run our own businesses (he is the co-founder of Guerin Glass Architects and I founded the coupon company Goodshop), we try to use our own experiences to get our kids talking about business around the dinner table.
Here are five conversation starters that you can try with your kids:
- If you could open one kind of store around the corner, what would it be and why do you think it would be successful?
- Did the people at the supermarket today do anything to make you feel happy that you shop there? What would you do if you were in charge?
- What made you want to buy that fidget spinner (or any other toy, book or game they've received recently)? Was it word of mouth or an ad you saw or something else? Why do you think that worked?
- What is an annoyance in your day to day life that a new product or service could fix? What do you think it would take to make that thing or provide that service?
- Do you think this restaurant is making a profit? Let's do a quick back-of-the-envelope estimation of all their expenses and how much we think they might make in revenue each night. (This is a fun way to get them thinking about all the things business owners have to pay for -- supplies, staff, electricity etc..).