‘Entrepreneur’ is the new buzz word these days, right up there with innovation, sustainability and happiness. And everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon.
There are entrepreneurship clubs at schools, summer camps, enrichment programmes and workshops for kids that claim to teach your child how to start a business. One even says it can do it in a day.
These clubs and workshops apparently teach kids (right from the age of six) how to come up with business ideas, write business plans, source capital, manufacture and price their product, design company logos and draw up an advertising and marketing campaign. The kids are told that once they know more about entrepreneurship, it will be the next cool thing to be – a career to consider.
I think they are missing out a couple of critical components.
Firstly, that the kids need a grounding in personal finance with an in-depth understanding of credit and debt, budgeting, saving, investing, loans, and the myriad other topics that are crucial in knowing how to run a business. Running a lemonade stand or a bake sale for a day doesn’t qualify.
Secondly, that personal finance study should then be supplemented by lessons in selling, in risk management, in leadership and in embracing failure, all of which are crucial for an entrepreneur to possess.
I asked a couple of kids who were keen on these entrepreneurship courses why they wanted to be entrepreneurs or business owners, and here are some of their responses:
- I want to wear shorts to work
- I want to be my own boss
- I really don’t want to wear a tie
- I want to be rich
- I want to work only when I feel like it
Which brings me to my next and most important point: I think they are missing out on the very essence of entrepreneurship, which is developing an idea that solves an existing problem, to make the world a better place.
Entrepreneurship isn’t about being cool or wearing shorts to work – and it definitely isn’t a shortcut to being rich. These things might happen along the way but they’re just added benefits, not the core raison d’être.
The following definition of an entrepreneur is probably something we should share with these kids: Someone who has the job security of a day labourer, the financial woes of a chronic gambler and the social life of a recluse.
Teaching entrepreneurship to kids is fantastic and but we need to do it right and not gloss over the hard bits. We need to show them how to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set – to problem solve, to make mistakes, to be curious, to be fearless, to want to give back and be part of something bigger. Only then can they grasp its true meaning.