I'd like to think that I can say I launched my first business on November 26, 1988. It was the day after Thanksgiving, a cold, gray, day in Pittsburgh. My cousin Patrick and I were bundled up in late '80s fashioned fleece and goose down jackets, respectively. Our gloves were fastened to our jackets' sleeves with metal clips -- so we didn't lose them.
I was 5-years-old. Patrick was 3-years-old.
We were selling seashells on my grandparents' front stoop. When you're in Kindergarten, peddling empty shells of marine mollusks the day after Thanksgiving in blustery Western Pennsylvania feels completely logical. I grew our retail offerings about five minutes after opening to include rocks -- rocks which I falsely advertised contained diamonds.
I'm pretty sure we sold, maybe, three seashells -- and no rocks -- that day. Our customers were our family members who supported the entrepreneurial venture only so far as we didn't catch colds pursuing it.
Fast forward 24 years to 2012; my friend, Jamie Brown, and I are eating chicken burrito bowls in the Chipotle in Charlotte's SouthEnd neighborhood. We're brainstorming and building what will be our first business, "Bea is for Business," a book, website, curriculum -- platform -- designed to teach kids about business. As we're carving it out -- figuratively -- I think back to that girl sitting outside selling seashells in November.
I think there are more kids than we realize who are into business. And I think there are more kids than that who are curious about it. I can bet there's a kid out there right now who is maybe 6 or 7 or 8-years-old who is thinking about an idea laced with entrepreneurial spirit. And here are eight things he or she needs to know.
It's not all about the money.
There will come a time when money matters. It's not right now. You're 8. Enjoy that. Also, enjoy that the most important thing right now is learning and practicing what it means to think something through -- and then, actually do it. Even if it's just one time. Because that just might be one of the coolest feelings in the world.
Learning can be pretty sweet sometimes.
We totally get it. Learning is synonymous with school, and it's not always fun. But, here's the real deal -- learning can be fun and it can be helpful as you're figuring things out. So, ask A LOT of questions. Even if it's after-class with your teacher or at home with mom and dad; Grandma or Grandpa. The adults in your life can and will help you in this adventure.
Give it a shot!
I'm going to be honest with you -- this is scary. Trying something new and different when you don't know what's going to happen is always scary. I'm 30, and I still get scared trying something new. But, you've just got to try it. Following through with your own idea or helping a friend with one is no different. Just try it. You have nothing to lose.
If you think you might want to own your own business one day, start now.
Researchers have noted that determination is one of the main factors driving successful entrepreneurs. Some people try something and fail. But, here's what makes an entrepreneur different -- he or she will fail miserably sometimes, pick themselves up, and move on either to try again or to try something new. There's another lesson here, too: You don't have to win every time. In fact, it's pretty okay to lose sometimes. Because that means you're figuring out something for when you try again or you try something new.
There's bound to be a nay-sayer, a bully, a real... grump.
And that's okay. Just keep doing what you're doing.
Making a difference is always cool.
Business can be a means by which to make a difference. There are some business ideas out there that are built TO make a difference. But, know also that you can make a difference with most any business by donating a portion of profits to help others. And that's always cool.
The world needs problem solvers.
Some great business ideas come from someone just like you who saw a problem or a need and worked to create a way to solve that problem or need. So, think about it -- deep in the root of the problem lies a business idea. Do you see a problem or need? What can be done -- even something small -- to solve it?
Don't go it alone; bring other people in on it.
This will be a skill you'll return to many, many times as you grow up. You'll want to and need to get people excited about your idea. Because you're not going to want to do this alone. Maybe that's Mom and Dad; maybe that's your friend down the street. Plus, think about it -- it's just not as fun if you're doing it alone. And this should be fun. Business can be fun.
Through this process, you'll learn teamwork, communication, collaboration, and sharing what you know to help the next person. All habits I wish more adults practiced regularly. So, start now. You've got a lot to teach us adults.
Meg Seitz is a founding partner and co-author of "Bea is for Business", a platform dedicated to teaching young people (ages 5-9) business principles. Please click here.
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