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6 Tips on Raising an Entrepreneur

Raising an Entrepreneurby Karman Briggs
Director of Jobs & Business Development
Western Dairyland Women's Business Center

Raising a child with the skills, abilities and opportunity to be an entrepreneur can instill him or her with an enormous amount of self-confidence as they learn to successfully interact and negotiate within the community at large. Better yet, tapping in to the potential of your young Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey may be easier than you think!  According to a recent Junior Achievement Interprise Poll on Teens and Entrepreneurship, two-thirds of teens surveyed nationally would, in fact, like to own their own business someday.  This means that your child has likely already considered entrepreneurship as a viable and preferable career path.  So, what keeps this aspiration from becoming a reality for so many of our young people?  And, what can parents do to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit within their children?  

  1. Discuss goals:  A simple tool to use in your discussion is a hand drawn triangle on a blank piece of paper.  In one corner, list all of your child's self identified interests.  In another corner, list your child's current skills.  In the last corner, list potential markets or customers (neighbors, friends, family, etc.).  Wherever the three shall meet, therein lays an opportunity for your child to start a business.  For example, your child may have a strong interest in watching television, and be great at it!  However, there is no current market for such an interest/skill combo.  On the other hand, if your child has an interest in the outdoors, knows how to operate a lawn mower, and is able to identify an accessible market such as your own neighborhood, then you have a business idea worth further exploration.
  2. Provide Encouragement:  Fear of failure isn't just for adults! Somewhere between aspiring to be a race car driver and settling for a cubicle by the water fountain, each of us gains inhibition as well as an adversity to risk when faced with the reality of bills and other financial obligations.  But, you can encourage your child to pursue entrepreneurship by helping him or her to identify and safely calculate potential risks.  For example, what will be the back-up plan if your child is unable to mow lawns due to illness - sub-contracting to a friend, a sibling?
  3. Model Entrepreneurship:  The children of entrepreneurs are slightly more likely to consider entrepreneurship than other children.  Seeing entrepreneurship modeled first-hand cements the concept as a realistic possibility for many people.  However, even if you do not own your own business, you can easily model entrepreneurship to your child by seeking out a local business owner (preferably in your child's desired field) for your child to meet and possibly shadow.  Many entrepreneurs are more than happy to perform this service.
  4. Pursue Entrepreneurial Education: Anyone starting a business needs more than passion and skill.  They need business training and a business plan to be able to successfully bring their dreams into reality.  By seeking entrepreneurial education opportunities, your child will not only gain basic business skills, but have the opportunity to network.
  5. Assist with "Minor" Obstacles:  Although there is no minimum age for becoming an entrepreneur, some steps in the process are easier for individuals over the age of 18.  For example, your child may need assistance in setting up a bank account for his or her business.  Even though the business is your child's endeavor and responsibility, be willing to step in when these "minor" obstacles threaten to derail the entire venture.
  6. Financial Support:  Even Bill Gates needed start-up cash from his parents.  We've all heard that it takes money to make money.  However, there is no reason to provide start-up cash to your child free of charge.  If your child has a viable business plan, don't be afraid to loan him or her the start-up money.  Putting up his or her Play Station as collateral may be an excellent incentive to stick with it.

From lawn care to gumball machines, organic eggs to graphic design, teens, along with their parents, are seizing the opportunity to experience first-hand the educational and financial rewards of entrepreneurship.  Although these endeavors may be short range in scope and small in scale, each of these young entrepreneurs are learning skills now - while the risks are relatively low - that they will employ in all of their future entrepreneurial endeavors.  

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