Aaron was the type of kid who was very shy, introverted and quiet in class. He rarely spoke a word, and if he did it would be a "Yes," "No," or "Maybe," in response to your questions.
That was until he met Alex Pirouz, business advisor and mentor at Club Kidpreneur.
As Alex, 32, recounts the story, there's a glimmer of pride in his eyes, much like a father sharing for the hundredth time the tale of that one time when his amazing boy hit a home run to win the match.
In 2012, Aaron was one of twelve kids, aged eight to twelve at the time, involved in an eight-week course called Ready Set Go. The program was a pilot for underprivileged kids in Kingswood -- a low socio-economic area in Sydney's Western suburbs -- and the objective was to teach the kids how to create micro-businesses and offer value to their community.
On the surface, nothing had changed for Aaron throughout the eight weeks. To many, he was still that shy kid they had first met, but little did they know Aaron was growing in confidence week in week out. He demonstrated a strong work ethic, and unlike other kids in the program, he completed most of his work every week. The rest of them made excuses as to why they couldn't.
At the end of the seventh week Alex decided to take the kids out to the local area to prove to them that anything is possible even when you're starting from nothing.
As the group approached some shops, Alex called for a volunteer to share their story with the local community, and Aaron put up his hands. Aaron's challenge was to trade his hot-dog selling service for free bread at a bakery. Supported by Alex, and despite him being scared, Aaron was able to share his entrepreneur story with the shop owner, and asked if he could exchange his service for some bread.
Much to his surprise, the shop owner told him how inspired he was by Aaron's story and handed him some bread for free. Feeling more courageous Aaron was then able to repeat the process at the local supermarket and walked away with over $40 worth of meat and onions.
By the end of the afternoon, the kids' belief in themselves and what was possible was at an all-time high. For once in their life they realised that anything is possible if you are confident to go out there and make it happen.
With emotions running high, Alex decided to offer three months of personal mentoring to any kid that would write down 45 reasons why they wanted ongoing support, and why they were passionate about their business. They had one week to do it.
The following week, Alex was shocked to realize that out of all the kids, only Aaron had completed his reasons. Alex noticed that Aaron had only completed 44 reasons, so he asked Aaron's teacher if he could ask the student to finish it off, given that the deal was for 45 reasons and not 44.
At this point, the teacher mentioned to Alex that Aaron was diagnosed with Dyslexia and that would not be a good idea to push him, given the 44 he had written would have been a massive stretch already. Believing that it's important to set the right expectations and to follow through, Alex asked Aaron anyway, and the word that he wrote has stuck with Alex ever since... Passion.
The following week, Aaron out sold everyone at the markets by selling over 70 hot dogs in less then two hours, and made over $200. Soon after he had spoken in over 20 schools, was elected as part of his school leadership team and now advises his dad how to gain new clients for his mechanical shop.
All of this would not have been possible if Aaron did not find his passion and calling in life, and the commitment and persistence to improve himself and those around him. The guidance, trust and support of his mentor also helped to spearhead his confidence to go after his goals and dreams in life.
When asked why is it important that we teach young people entrepreneurship, Alex responded as follows:
The schooling system all around the world has been built around this belief that we all want the same or should go after the same dream. Get a degree, a job, a mortgage and a wife/husband. The truth of the matter is not everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer or scientist but because kids don't have any other avenues to explore their true direction in life and therefore they never really discover whats possible.
I for one never really liked school and found it hard to blend in and I believe a lot of kids are in similar situations. I understand that entrepreneurship is not for everyone, I would be foolish to say it is. But by providing the platform and opportunity for kids to find out for themselves you create space for magic to occur. The education and resources we provide our kids will ultimately determine the future of country and our planet as a whole. The last time I checked, businesses fuel the economy not governments so its paramount we give our kids the best possible shot for success when learning whether or not entrepreneurship is a good career path.
Club Kidpreneur Foundation is an Australian not-for-profit social enterprise seeking to encourage entrepreneurial thinking in primary-aged children on a national level. Their mission is to help kids start and grow their own micro-enterprises in order to spark an entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation. Learn more about their programs on their website.