Parents, it's never too early to start nurturing entrepreneurial talents in your kids. As an active business advisor and angel investor, I'm convinced that we are rapidly entering a new age of the entrepreneur, and those who are best prepared will be the first to reap some big rewards.
You may think you need more entrepreneurial courses in school, or more advanced degrees, but in my experience it's more of a mindset, some good coaching, and learning by doing that separates the winners from the losers.
I continue to see stories of really young entrepreneurs, and I just met a really impressive one, Neva Lee Recla, at a recent Fast Inc. Network conference.
Neva is only seven years old, and she boldly proclaims that she has been handing out her business cards since the age of two. I was participating on a panel to assess about 20 two-minute startup pitches, and she thoroughly impressed everyone with her pitch and her story.
According to one of her two websites (how many of your kids have even one website?), she's now creating a bestselling book and offering businesses an opportunity to promote their brands by sponsoring her as a young entrepreneur.
She has already created or shared in at least three businesses, including selling bracelets, Hot Clothes for Kids, and creative drawings to benefit veterans and wounded warriors.
After meeting with her (and her entrepreneur parents), I'm convinced that the opportunity is ripe for all of us to learn from the youngest generation in the true entrepreneurial spirit. Here are some of the insights I gained from this interaction:
1. Experience is a better teacher than academic classes.
Memorizing facts is not fun, but making people happy is something you will never forget. Everyone also needs to experience failures, since these can teach more than success.
Neva won't forget some negative feedback on one initiative that "hurts a lot," but she learned to "keep on going."
2. As a coach, you can learn as much as your student.
I can certainly attest that my own efforts to coach and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs have taught me much about business and people.
Neva's parents, who are entrepreneurs themselves, also attest that they have benefited greatly from the coaching experience so far. It's a win-win opportunity.
3. You don't need a blockbuster idea to do good.
Results are a function of the execution and the commitment, rather than the idea. We can all think of many ways to improve the world, but too many aspiring entrepreneurs I know keep finding excuses not to start, waiting for that ultimate idea that can't fail.
For example, Neva recently used her drawing talents to produce 1000 sponsored handouts to honor veterans and wounded warriors.
4. Find corporate sponsors to reduce startup costs.
The key to success as a startup is finding like-minded people, and it can work on the front-end with sponsors, before you have back-end customers for revenue. Neva has learned early to focus on ideas with humanitarian, as well as commercial value, such that others are more than willing to help.
5. Sometimes it helps to not know what's not possible.
It's refreshing to see the unlimited creativity and curiosity of very young entrepreneurs. I see many aspiring entrepreneurs hesitating due to all the things they know can go wrong, to the point that they never start anything.
The lesson is that you can never succeed if you never start.
6. Startup pivots are best made early and quickly.
Based on my own experience, startup corrections are inevitable. No matter how certain you are that your idea will be a winner, you are likely wrong.
Young entrepreneurs seem to understand this, and have no hesitation making changes. Others can be very stubborn and charge blindly ahead.
7. You learn more by talking to people early, versus stealth mode.
Stealth mode entrepreneurs won't tell people about their idea early, or ask for feedback, for fear of the idea being stolen or copied. I watched Neva give her pitch, and talk to everyone who would listen, before too much effort might be wasted.
Real entrepreneurs are seldom paranoid.
Overall, the best lesson I heard from Neva for other entrepreneurs is "Don't be afraid to be yourself." She is doing what she loves, and you should be doing the same. That's the only way your passion and determination will get you through the business challenges and the market changes ahead.
Enjoy the journey, as well as the destination. Your future and mine depend on it.