My parents love to tell the following story at dinner parties: One summer when I was about 6 or 7 years old, my parents gave me the opportunity to make $5 by washing the family car. I was very excited and ran outside right away to begin working. Some time passed and my parents came out to see the progress. They were shocked to find me sitting in the shade giving orders to about 4 of the neighborhood kids who were scrubbing away at the car in the hot sun.
“Stella, what’s going on here?” they asked me.
“I’m paying the neighborhood kids $0.50 each to wash the car, and keeping $3 for myself,” I said smugly.
They should have known….however, at that time and I’m sure it continues to be this way at present, the only career opportunities available to a dreaming kid were doctor, lawyer, astronaut, actor, etc. It wasn’t until I was halfway through college that I began to see the light: I was meant to be an entrepreneur.
Cameron Herold does a great TED talk on how to foster a sense of entrepreneurship in children. He argues that by giving kids allowances and forcing them to get jobs (like a paper route) we are nurturing a dependency on a stable paycheck. Instead of giving kids a stable allowance regardless of their efforts, he encourages giving kids a chance to be creative, entrepreneurial, and think of ways money can be made around the house.
When I was 9, I started “The United Stella Service,” a service of doing chores around the house, with a price list taped to the refrigerator. I even gave my dad a membership card (which he still has). They should have known.
Moreover than giving kids an opportunity to be entrepreneurial is the importance of encouragement and recognition that new ventures are valuable and can be a vital future career. Being an entrepreneur should be as accepted as being a doctor or a lawyer. Society will play its part in squashing kids’ dreams and making them conform, so that kind of encouragement is vital in the home.
It makes me wonder, if I had seriously considered being an entrepreneur from an early age…what kinds of cool companies could I have started?