You can help your kids by encouraging each one to be a child entrepreneur and developing small business ideas with them. The thought occurred to me that if more kids learned business skills at a very young age (I’m talking nine or 10 years old), maybe they’d grow up and run their lives like a business. They’d probably be happier. Far fewer would have the kind of financial challenges most of us face as adults.
If you have or know any children under the age of 10, think about it for just one minute. Close your eyes and have somebody read the next few lines to you…
Imagine you have a 10 year-old-daughter. Now imagine she is all grown up.
Poof…she’s 30 years old.
What kind of person does she become as a 30-year-old?
Open your eyes now. How did you describe your daughter in the future? When I went through this exercise, my daughter turns out to be smart, independent, self-confident, helpful, responsible and imaginative. She has integrity, she’s honest and she’s successful (according to her own standards). And of course, she has a good credit score.
I’m pretty sure that’s what we all want for our kids, right? Did I leave anything out? So I ask myself, what is the best thing I can do now to help her develop into this kind of person. Sure, I know I have to set a good example. I also know that I have to be mindful about who her friends are, make sure she focuses on school, etc.
But it occurs to me that maybe she could develop these qualities and skills with a lot less effort on my part if I simply encourage her to start a small business of her own with my help and guidance.
If you’re looking for business ideas, read my post on finding second jobs. The same principles will help your kids find great business ideas.
A wonderful example of this is Cameron Johnson, author of You Call the Shots. In case you don’t know who Cameron is, he’s an amazing young man. I had the pleasure of having lunch with him a few months ago. Now when I say he’s amazing, believe me, it’s an understatement.
Cameron started his first business at the age of nine, and before graduating high school he was recognized as one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the world. As a teenager he started a dozen profitable businesses, and at 15 he became the youngest American appointed to the board of a Tokyo-based company. How’s that for a remarkable young man?
More than all this, I can tell you that he is helpful, respectful, smart, funny and fascinating. In his book, he talks about all of the lessons he learned while running his first tiny businesses.
We can apply these lessons to business ideas for our kids:
1. You can start small.
Cameron’s first business was a greeting card company. His equipment consisted of a computer and a printer. He was 9 years old when he started it. He didn’t have a huge issue with finding small business working capital. His parents invested $50 in the business and that was the last time he ever took other people’s money to invest in any of his businesses. In a short time, he had more orders than he knew what do with. How do you think this 9 year old felt when he saw his business succeed? How would your child respond to that kind of experience? I don’t think a Brownie or Girl Scout badge would even come close.
What ideas can you and your children come up with? Dog walking? Delivery? There are millions of entrepreneurial ideas.
2. It’s all about money management.
As a scrawny 12-year-old, Cameron learned the importance of money management. He didn’t have budget tracking software like You Need A Budget, but he realized that he wasn’t in business just to make and spend money. He just loved being in business. For Cameron, it was art. An expression of his creative self. He wanted to manage the money he made so he could invest in new and other business ventures. As a result, he was very careful not to blow his profits on a night out at the video arcade.
He understood that money was a tool that could give him freedom. He also knew that if he didn’t act responsibly, he could become a slave to money.
To Cameron, debt is the worst four-letter word you could utter. How would you like it if your children had the same attitude about credit as Cameron does?
3. Look close to home for great ideas.
Young Cameron came up with his ideas by simply looking around and asking himself what problems other people have that he could solve for them. Do you think your kids would benefit if they started using their brain power looking to solve real problems instead of wasting time trying to get to the next level on Super Mario Brothers?
Is every kid a Cameron Johnson? No. I think he grew up with a very special talent that he expresses through operating businesses. But I do think that every child has a strong hunger to express themselves. We give our kids soccer, basketball, dance, violin and art. Why not give them business lessons too?
Not every kid is going to be drawn to this. Not every child embraces accordion lessons either…but some do. I believe that starting a very small business with your child or children could be a great way to learn and grow together.
Even if the business doesn’t make lots of money, it’s still a win for the entire family. You get to spend real quality time with the family. You all learn. You explore. And there is one additional benefit. You can’t be in two places at once. That means that the time you spend on your business is time you can’t spend shopping or wasting money in other ways.
Even if you don’t have children, you would benefit if more kids learned these skills earlier. Suggest this idea to friends who do have kids.
What do you think? How young would you start your kids on a business? Is it wrong to introduce kids to the cold world of capitalism at a young and tender age? How much should the parents be involved?