I continue to see stories of really young entrepreneurs, like this article on Business Fastlane, with kids as young as 9 years old who have successful businesses. This makes me wonder what sets that entrepreneurial drive in kids, and how early parents and schools should start teaching the basics.
There are already a couple of good books out there for youth entrepreneurs, such as a new one from my friends Adam and Matthew Toren, Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas. They assert, "It's never too early! Even children can be introduced to basic business principles and the rewards of entrepreneurship". Another one is The Little Entrepreneur by Michael H. and Jay Arrington.
Even if you are not sure that your child is a budding entrepreneur, there are several practical reasons to introduce him or her to the basics of business. Here are a few facts from the National Council on Economic Education emphasizing the need for more business training, starting much earlier:
- Only 34% of teens can balance a checkbook
- The average teen thinks they will earn $145,000 per year
- 62% of 18- to 24-year-olds are saving very little or nothing at all
- The average college student graduates with $27,600 of debt
- 79 percent of high school students have never taken a course on personal finance
As early as grade school, with parental guidance and resources like these books, kids can gain some valuable experience in starting, managing, and growing a successful business venture. The positives include:
- Learn to make money. Even young children (ages 5-10) can and need to understand the concept of: income - expense = profit. They need to understand that having money is not an entitlement, and not related to the volume of their demands.
- Start a summer business. The best way to learn is a "hands-on" approach like creating a simple business to sell lemonade or deliver newspapers. In this context, parents can explain how their own business works, and where the family income comes from.
- Bring the family together. All parents need to do things with their kids. A family that grows together, builds character and achieves financial success. The entire family can be active in the business venture.
- Understand how business works. A place to start may be a reality game like ThriveTime for Teens Board Game, where they will be faced with money and life decisions like buying cars, managing expenses, paying for college, using credit cards, buying stocks and starting businesses.
- Able to invest money wisely. Several companies, like Charles Swaab, offer programs like Money Matters: Make it Count, which teaches the financial basics to teens through Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.
If your child is old enough to get on the Internet, he or she is old enough to start learning business skills. Sites like MySpace already allow teens to customize their home base with graphics, blogs, and music to make it more attractive to their peers -- that's marketing. It's not a big jump to e-commerce and the costs and decisions of running a business.
We all know that technology comes naturally and early to this generation. Gen-Y is already showing us new ways to use it to grow and profit in business. I can't even imagine what the next generation will bring. You better start your business now, and have fun while you can, before we all are branded as ancient relics.