My twin daughters set up their first lemonade stand when they were eight-years-old. It was well-staged with artful signage, colorful tablecloths, and a four-foot teddy bear in a rocking chair. With such an eye-catching display, sales were outstanding--but only for two days. On the third day, unbeknownst to their nanny, the girls engaged a new strategy. They would sell not only lemonade, but the warm cans of beer from the garage.
When a cranky neighbor came knocking later that night, the news of my children's law-breaking behavior certainly came as a surprise. Still, it took a considerable amount of discipline for me not to break into uncontrolled fits of laughter. Turning to my children in feigned shock I said, "Do you know that if a police officer saw you selling beer I could have ended up in jail?"
To which they responded, "But mom, a police officer did drive by."
Oh-oh. "What did he do?"
"Well, we said, 'Miller Light, just 25 cents a can,' and he just smiled and waved."
During their little business endeavor (the first of many) Kim and Lauren learned and employed valuable skills that would continue to serve them well for years to come. Today, one of my daughters is the co-founder of a business that's quickly approaching seven-figures--you just can't argue with success.
While I don't condone the underage sale of liquor, encouraging your children to start a business or get involved in yours, will instill many values and skills. These will better prepare them to navigate life through adulthood.
Here are some examples and thoughts about valuable teaching moments and how you can support and nurture your child's entrepreneurial spirit.
When sales dipped, my junior entrepreneurs took a closer look at the marketplace. Who drove by the house at the end of the day? Tired adults heading home from a long day at the office. Thus, the beer. They even determined the proper birth year for people who were of age to purchase liquor. Yes, they were prepared to card their customers.
Let your children do the thinking. When your budding entrepreneur comes to you with a question or problem, avoid handing them the answers. Instead, ask questions and challenge their thinking. Help them to see all sides of the equation, as well as the consequences of their choices.
It's my experience that seasoned entrepreneurs have elevated coping mechanisms. The unexpected twists and turns along the entrepreneurial journey force us to find ways to deal with stress. Your children most likely observe how you respond to stress and will emulate your behavior as they develop coping skills of their own.
Challenging situations present great teaching opportunities. Discuss examples of the problems you face in your business and ask your kids how they would respond if they were in your shoes. Explore the benefits of a healthy response, but don't diminish anyone's right to feel hurt, anxious, or angry. Instead, acknowledge that these feelings are normal; it's how you manage them that matters.
Having a business of their own will help your children to gain an understanding of finances and to manage money better. When my daughters set up their lemonade stand I didn't just hand over the money to purchase supplies, I gave them a loan. We did a simple, hand-written spreadsheet with costs, gross income, and profits. I saw them make responsible choices (up until the beer event), step up the stand's creative image, and hustle for sales.
Help your budding entrepreneur to develop a budget for his or her business and it will translate to healthy money beliefs and habits in their future.
Entrepreneurs value freedom. They also value their customers and healthy relationships. A strong work ethic is yet another virtue that's shared by successful entrepreneurs. Don't think for a minute that your children aren't observing the behaviors associated with your values.
Avoid the temptation to step in and do it all when your child expresses an interest in starting a business. Let them take the lead, let them do the work. To help them develop the determination and commitment that it takes to own a business, discuss the rewards, such as a flexible lifestyle and financial benefits. As you encourage your child to talk to people about their product or service, they will learn to understand the importance and value of relationships.
The most important thing to remember is that the process of building and running their business should be fun for your kids. Children bring a delightful sense of curiosity and playfulness into the equation, don't squelch that by being overly serious. The experience of living in an entrepreneurial family will shape your child's future. Help make it a positive one, so they have the life skills to build their future dreams.