Entrepreneurship education is on the rise and we know why. Self-employment numbers are growing. Solopreneurs are able to outsource, automate, and optimize in unprecedented ways, keeping their businesses lean and efficient. Independent contracting has gained immense popularity through firms like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Current estimates are that over 40% of the American workforce will be freelancers by 2020.
The 13-year-old Millionaire
But do we need to get our children involved in the market so young? Should we let kids enjoy their childhood and not expose them to the stresses of life so early? Is it just a waste of time, money, and effort?
If you doubt the ability for children to run their own business, just look at Me and The Bees. Mikaila Ulmer was just 9 when she received $60,000 in funding on Shark Tank for her lemonade business. In 2016, she landed an $11 million deal with Whole Foods.
She launched the idea at Acton Children’s Business Fair in Austin, TX, when she as just 4-years-old.
Her success isn’t just a flash in the pan—and neither is Acton Business Fair and other programs like it. Junior Achievement has been preparing children for entrepreneurship since 1919. JA did a study on all of its alumni and found they are 143% more likely than the average person to go on to run their own business.
This doesn’t seem to be just self-serving statistic, either. In a study done in Botswana, they found that education in entrepreneurship was positively correlated with entrepreneurial activity later on.
An Old Model
This kind of targeted education may be the key to success for your child and for your nation’s economy.
“As a society, we still rely on kids learning business stewardship through trial and error,”
says Professor Mark Watson-Gandy, CEO of KidsMBA Ltd.,
"It is hardly surprising that so many promising new businesses fail.”
Watson-Grandy isn’t the only one who believes we need to focus on passing business skills down to the youngest generation. A lot of entrepreneurs have taken up the torch. Disillusioned with the current schooling system, parents are willing to pay in order to have their children build the skills needed to function in the 21st-century economy and beyond.
K-12 Education in most industrialized nations is based on the old Prussian model. This method was designed to make good citizens, good soldiers, and good industrial workers. The learning is passive and doesn’t teach the kind of flexibility, creativity, and responsivity demanded by today’s marketplace.
What they learn
This gap in the market is being filled by people offering opportunities ranging from 2-Day intensive courses to K-12 programs that begin elementary education with a “Mircosociety” and end with a high-school incubator where students compete for seed money.
Programs focus on a few key elements of running your own business such as pricing, sales, developing business plans, leadership, and customer service. They tend to use project-based learning curriculum so that children get the hands-on experience that they need. Faced with the possibility of setbacks and failures, there is a need for creative and critical thinking, team building, and leadership.
Valuing your child's time
Not everything in the world of entrepreneurial education is perfect, though. As with any program, you might enroll your child into, the question of interest turns up. A film runs through your head of the boy whose parents wanted him to become a doctor but who became a poet instead whenever you think of pushing a profession on your child.
To stop this cliché from playing out, ask your child if there is something that interests them about business. Being involved in the decision will make them more likely to stick it out and actually absorb the lessons from the program.
Learning VS Doing
Smaller pushes to teach kids entrepreneurship to have their own set of peculiarities. Mark Cuban’s book “Kids Start-Up: How YOU Can Be an Entrepreneur” has some fantastic lessons for people of any age: There is no such thing as a free lunch. Life isn’t fair. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good and don’t let good be the enemy of done.
The owner of the Mavericks and investor thinks to teach kids these lessons is essential because he grew up running his own business.
What he didn’t do was grow up reading books on how to run your own business.
Marc Cuban with daughter Alyssa Cuban
There’s a big gap between theory and practice and even with project-based programs and practical advice, emulation of the real thing is not the real thing. Especially for bookish children, be wary of any blur between learning and doing.
R & R
If you and your child do pursue these opportunities, make sure to take into consideration that this—like all things in life—has an opportunity cost. When you are learning about entrepreneurship in a classroom-like environment, you necessarily aren’t out there getting in the dirt.
Even outside of entrepreneurship, adolescents and teens are often overscheduled and given very little downtime. If your 15-year-old isn’t at school, they’re probably doing some of their homework which takes an average of over 3.5 hours a day. If they aren’t doing that, maybe they’re involved in sports or other extracurricular activities to bolster their college application.
But research shows that the brain needs downtime. High-performing athletes, artists, and scientists all experience the same thing: rest and relaxation replenishes attention, helps cultivate creativity, and strengthens our mind and body. We need to dedicate some of our time to not doing anything in particular, otherwise, we run higher risks for depression, anxiety, and general unease.
Is it worth it?
Ultimately, whether or not entrepreneurship education is something your family should pursue is something only your family can decide. If your child does show an interest in it, consider putting this in their schedule in place of something else. Don’t overcrowd their schedule. Whether or not they grow up to be a founder is beside the point—business acumen pays no matter what rung of the ladder you are on and having a solid base to start from will ease some of the tension as they move into the working world.