Want your child to be business-savvy at a young age? Read one successful businesswoman’s tips on teaching entrepreneurship to kids.
What can you read in this article?
- One mom’s experience on cultivating her daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit
- Tips on teaching entrepreneurship to kids
When my kids turned 9, I gave them each a box to put down their “I Want to Be”s at that age. Here is what my daughter wrote on hers:
Meagan’s “I Want to Be” box at 9
I was surprised that one of the things she wrote was to be an “entrepreneur.”
This might have come about because when she was 6, she really wanted to be a make-up artist. Then I suggested to her,
“Applying makeup is fun, but would you also like to create your own cosmetic line in the future?”
Then she started to use all those free toiletries I would get from hotels and make up her own “powder lotion” or “scented gels.”
She also loved fashion design at age 7. Since we produce children’s shoes, I asked her to help develop one. I also lined up all the shoes we were about to launch in one of our Fall/Winter seasons and asked her to rank them in order of which she thought would sell well. She got more confidence when she was interviewed in the TV program, Rated K for her involvement in this line of our business.
Seven is considered a milestone, and it’s usually the age where most kids have a big birthday party. Instead, I decided to spend the money to travel somewhere that would enhance her interest. I decided to take her to Europe because she was very much into fashion then.
We were lucky to have found a good deal then because we tagged on with a corporate package of a friend. In the streets of Milan and Rome, I showed her the big brands like Prada, Dior, Gucci, and the like. I did not emphasize the luxury of it, but instead, I asked her,
“How would you feel if one day you can work hard enough to have a brand of your own?” I saw her face light up then.
My daughter outside the Moschino shop in Italy
I think the primary step in teaching entrepreneurship to your kids is allowing your kids to be passionate about something, and leading them to work towards it with the most effort they want to.
I say this because being an entrepreneur is not easy. When my parents were starting a business, I saw multiple incidents when I felt sad and afraid for them.
And now that I run various businesses, I know how many facets one needs to look after as a business owner. I know from my own experience that if passion is there, one always finds the grit to push through.
So for my kids, whatever their “I want to be” might be at any point in time, I would allow them to immerse, expand and recognize the noble work involved in their chosen craft.
Today at 15, my daughter still wants to be an entrepreneur. She works hard in school because she knows that how she studies also slowly forms her future work ethic. I told her it is better to start her “10,000 hours” early. She continues to seek and push for her new passions like fencing.
She also finds time for information that would help her. There was a time in grade school, that she would just visit the library for a few minutes, just to check the newspaper for the current exchange rate. I did not also why exactly. She just told me she wanted to know how the Philippine economy was doing.
Many would say it is because I am an entrepreneur that’s why my daughter wants to be one as well. I think this is not the case. There are many business owners whose kids choose not to be one. In the same manner, there are many kids of employees, who choose a more entrepreneurial route after college.
At the end of the day, kids grow their dreams based on who they are and what they see. Any skill learned is a skill that helps their future. My son at this point sees himself pursuing a career in sports and I am okay with this. But I still expose him to the same entrepreneurial opportunities I do for my daughter.
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Tips on teaching entrepreneurship to kids
Here are some of the ways I build entrepreneurial spirit in my kids:
Pretend to play in their toddler years is always a good start. I find early exposure to role-playing allows your child to find “work” he or she enjoys.
My daughter would always ask me in our playtime, “What’s your order, Mom?” So by 4, she already started to cook with us and prepared meals for me when she was 6.
When we go out, I tell them to observe how any kind of business works – how a supermarket sells groceries, how SM sells shoes and clothes, and the like. Later on, it was natural for them to play “business”.
After I came back to my office from a meeting, my kids transformed it into their own airplane by lining up the seats and serving themselves their own beverages; Once I was about to go up our stairs and saw a sign, “This Way”. | Image from the Author
Early Exposure and “Business Adventures”
When I was a kid, many of my afternoons were spent doing “playful” work. I helped in my grandfather’s textile shop since I was 4. I worked in our company since I was 8.
From odd jobs of sweeping the warehouse floors, weighing spools of yarn, picking, packing, manually invoicing orders, to eventually doing sales calls, I really enjoyed learning new skills.
My parents would always warn us not to be picky with tasks. This meant that when there was a task, do it—because every task was bound to teach you a lesson. So, if the warehouse floor was dusty, get a broom and clean it.
If the person weighing the spools of thread needed a hand to pass the spools to her, then be that person. All these were performed without any reward waiting at the end of each. Slowly, I realized that the reward was the work itself.
This eventually became a great help when there were tasks to be done in school. Because I “practiced” work outside, a lot of the “work” in school became less intimidating.
Because of this, I performed tasks more quickly and was able to take on more responsibilities. As I took on more responsibilities, I learned more… and so a good cycle began.
Then upon our second-floor landing, here are my 2 kids’ hotel concierge, where they told me to stay behind the yellow and black line to check in. | Image from the Author
Kids today might not have the same obedience as we once had with our parents. However, one thing is true (at least while they’re young) – they love being with you. So I take my kids along in many of our “business adventures.”
Whether it’s a store check, photoshoot, or business trip, I take my kids with me. Meagan’s first buying trip with me in China was when she was 6.
Her first trade fair was the following year. I would let her sit beside me, give her crayons to draw, and told her to listen then feel free to ask me questions after my meeting.
It was so funny. After 3 days of going to shoe suppliers, by our last day, I did not notice she actually chose shoe designs and placed them in one corner to show me after my meeting.
Then after our trip, I would reward her by doing anything she wants. She would choose to have a bubble bath or visit a toy store or at times, I’d surprise her to go to the nearest theme park.
My daughter taking a nap in the bus on our way to a China factory outside the city, in her first trade fair, the reward for my daughter was a ferry ride in Guangdong China after a hard day’s work wearing a jacket that a supplier gifted her, my daughter and son joining me in my store rounds; My daughter, since she wanted to be a model back then, accompanying me in my photoshoot with a fashion magazine.
Introduce your kids to entrepreneurs early – it can be their godparents, your relatives, or if there is a chance, to very successful ones.
Tell your kids their stories about building their business and what it is today. Buy them simple or even cartoon biographies of successful businessmen like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the like.
My kids were very lucky to have had the chance to attend the wake of Henry Sy Sr. I was able to tell his story and I was surprised at how many questions both my kids had after.
Early “Business Practice”
I was lucky that when I was growing up, my parents would give us a lot of opportunities to practice. This step is vital in teaching entrepreneurship to kids.
I remember the company closed a deal with a branded drink in the 80s. Part of the deal was that we had to put a logo sticker on each of the products. To avoid double handling, we did this sticker procedure in their warehouse. It was summer vacation at that time and so I was sent there every day to perform this task.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed after seeing the number of boxes I had to finish. There was a lot of trial-and-error, but after a few days, I knew exactly which side of the master carton to open so that I could attach the sticker without having to take out each product from the master carton anymore.
In the end, I would like to say that building an entrepreneurial spirit in your kids is very beneficial and foundational for any of their chosen professions in the future whether or not they choose to be in business.
The passion, hard work, trial-and-error and creative solutions one can develop while being exposed to entrepreneurial work are great advantages now. Every company would like to hire people who would treat their business as their own.
I was exposed to entrepreneurial skills early, and I took them on, not because I always wanted to be in business. I went through also wanting different dreams at different points in my life (from wanting to be a painter, a human rights lawyer, a politician, a business consultant, or being in advertising), but what I am truly grateful for is that all the entrepreneurial skills I learned early on equipped me well enough to actually pursue any dream that I wanted to.