Today’s students, from pre-and post-teen ages, are being groomed in entrepreneurism through school and community programs.
Instead of directing students to fit into the construct of “good jobs” as their only option, this movement channels ideas, passions and dreams from childhood and teaches kids how to create businesses, i.e. create their own job.
It’s advantageous to develop young entrepreneurs. Our economy depends on it.
Small businesses, “employ more than 50 percent of the private workforce, generate more than half of the nation’s gross domestic product and are the principal source of new jobs in the U.S. economy,” according the U.S. Department of Labor.
And though 70 percent of new jobs created each year come from small businesses, the number of business deaths now exceeds the number of business births among employer firms for the first time since 1977, notes Gallup’s 2015 state of the economy analytics.
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Developing young leaders with the skills and strengths to start small businesses that are successful is one way to bridge the economic gap.
Whether you are an educator, mentor, coach or potential employer, you are in a prime position to tap into the natural creativity and fearlessness young students possess and develop entrepreneurial talent.
As you interact, keep these three qualities top of mind to foster young entrepreneurs.
It’s not easy to watch kids struggle, but the learning starts when they get stuck.
Educators and parents can help kids develop as problem solvers by encouraging creative brainstorming. Let them think their way through situations.
This may manifest as yielding the floor, allowing students to lead and take on the role of both the student and the teacher in the classroom.
For example, high school honor students at The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur run the Rubin Café, a gourmet coffee and tea shop run by the students without adult interference.
As their instructor, I watch them serve on the café management team and, when faced with real business challenges (where real money is at stake), I see the problems coming but do not intervene.
Rather, I let students experience roadblocks; it forces them to reassess not only their vision but also processes related to business functions like accounting, finance, operations and marketing.
In these kinds of problem-solving situations, students not only think critically, they learn how to apply innovation and demonstrate transferrable skills that serve them anywhere in life.
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Working in teams is an invaluable exercise for students: they have to navigate different perspectives, personalities, opinions and egos, negotiate, compromise and set boundaries.
The dynamic is similar to what they will face in the work world, whether it be for profit, not-for-profit, government or family business.
A way to further this type of learning is to pair different personalities for projects: rather than putting like-minded students together, challenge students by making them to work through potential conflict with others who think and operate differently.
Evaluate the group, instead of the individual, so that they must figure out a way to work together. This not only gives students the experience of resolving conflict, it strengthens interpersonal skills.
The hallmark of an entrepreneur is the ability to recover from a plan that didn’t work. In fact, research shows that repeat efforts lead to success in business. Many times it is failure that points us in the right direction and, ironically, creates confidence.
To develop the craft of business acumen, students need a safe space to fail. They also need support and the insight that failure occurs because something was missing from the plan, not because of personal deficiency.
If students are able to accept that failure is inevitable and part of the process to define the right solution, product, service or idea, they will be building their personal foundation as an entrepreneur.
As adults, we can help them understand this and practice recovery by being available after the mistake happens.
Take time to talk and help students reflect and process: break down and explore what went wrong, why, what else they could try and what outcome(s) those attempts might yield.
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Problem solving in this manner distances students from disappointment and engages their creativity. Handled this way, failure becomes an adventure, and a positive experience.
Adults carry enormous influence in creating young leaders. Whether the connection is by internship or mentorship, family and/or friend circles, or as parents and educators, we can encourage essential entrepreneurial skills.
By helping students think critically, resolve conflicts and fail gracefully and objectively, they will likely have a positive mindset and not always choose the path of least resistance.