Parents can teach a child to be an entrepreneur by giving them a chance to develop business skills. That happens best through trial and error.

I’ve just returned from a conference on blogging and how to share a creative message online.

The organiser of the conference was an entrepreneur himself, Darren Rowse. He’s built a successful online business called ProBlogger and the Digital Photography School. All the keynote speakers were also entrepreneurs too. They are people who have managed to develop incredible businesses, from ordinary beginnings.

The shared many of the things they’ve learned along the way. Lessons I think we can all pass on to our kids, so that they are super successful in this digital economy.

A parent's guide to teaching children with an entrepreneurial spirit.

A lesson in being an entrepreneur

Brian Fanzo told his story of leaving a government job to be more creative. He’s forged a business that teaches people to think like consumers and build community. His message is to add value into people’s lives rather than worrying about getting the business model right.

Later in the day there was the entertaining adventure of Daniel Flynn. He’s a founder of Thank You, a social enterprise that invests its profits in transforming lives in third world countries.

Then there was the message of Dan Norris. This man skirted bankruptcy to build a business that helps other share information online. He spoke about freeing our creative self and building trust.

And at the end was a curious speaker, Emilie Wapnick. She’s created a business around defining herself as a multipotentialite. Along the way she found a community of similar people who were willing to follow and learn.

I realised that the entrepreneurial spirit is an attitude, not an attribute. It’s a willingness to try new things, to question why things have to be the same way they always have. It’s a willingness to run with “good enough” until an idea’s confirmed. And it’s a learning mind that wants to understand, explore and grow.

An entrepreneur isn’t a super human. They still experience fear. But they also know that there’s opportunity on the other side, if they can just push through the doubt.

Entrepreneurs find ways to convince others that their creative ways are logical. They have an end goal in sight, however fuzzy, that enables them to push through the tough times. There’s an acceptance that many of their decisions involve risk, but might just pay off. But they also accept that it all could go wrong too.

Our children need this spirit of an entrepreneur

The world our children will work in, needs them to be willing to discard the way things have always been. They will need to be brave enough to hang on for the chance that something new might just work.

Gone are the days of a job for life. Our kids will be lucky to have a job that doesn’t lurch from one contract to another. With an anxious wait in the middle for confirmation.

They’ll need to adapt to changing technology and the rise of “disrupter” industries.  Think of how Uber and Air BnB have turned their part of the economy on it’s head.

This journey with Tweens2teen is requiring my own entrepreneurial spirit. The more I learn, the more I realise that we need to foster this in our kids too.

And I don’t think it’s all that hard.

Our children are born to try new things. Most teenagers live to question traditional ways of doing things. They will have a go at an idea based on their hopes rather than the experience of others. Daniel Flynn’s talk confirmed that for me. Three teenagers have developed a huge business by naively doing the unthinkable, based on the hope an idea might work.

Clever ways to teach your kids to be entrepreneurs

My study  of people who have made an idea successful tells me that there’s no magic formula to this. It’s not about following certain steps, finding the right market or having the perfect personality. In fact, the more adversity people face, the more successful their ideas seem to be. In the long run.

So here’s five things I think we need to do to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in our children:

  1. Let them experiment with making money. One of my friends has a son who has set up some bee hives to sell honey. Our daughter sells cupcakes at dad’s work to pay for her shopping sprees. Kids learn great lessons about the business world with these micro-businesses. And they don’t face the risks that would scare grown ups away.
  2. Don’t be a limiter. Our kids will get plenty of negative feedback from other people. But what if it works? Even if it doesn’t they’ll learn valuable lessons. Be an encourager and an enabler. Who knows, but they might just be funding a great retirement for you if it all pays off!
  3. Encourage them to persevere. I’ve written about failure and the importance kids learning to persevere. I believe that this is what separates those with dreams from those who achieve them. All the speakers at the conference talked of times when it looked like their idea wasn’t going to work. Dan Norris talked about his business going badly for 7 years, then going really badly in the 8th year. How many other people with a great business idea gave up in year 5, 6 or 7?
  4. Help them to connect with great teaching. Thanks to the internet, information is just a few clicks away. Most of it’s available for free. Adults love to mentor young people with a gret idea, so work your own networks. Help your kids connect with people who can help turn their ideas into a reality.
  5. Let it be their adventure. Often we can feel like young people are going to make bad decisions so we just step in and make them for them. This robs them of their independence and learning experiences. I wonder if Daniel Flynn and his partners had parents or mentors who at times thought of stepping in. But their business wouldn’t be where it is today without the learning experiences they have had to this point. Their confidence has grown along the way. Be clear what role you play in their lives and dreams.

Not everyone will create a million dollar business, but I don’t think that’s what it means to be an entrepreneur. I think the entrepreneurial spirit is more about creating something out of nothing. It’s responding to an issue that no one else could find an answer to. Is there an entrepreneur lurking in your house? Perhaps it’s time to fan the flames of those ideas.

Do you have a child that seems to think like an entrepreneur? What’s working for you?

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