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Encouraging Kids to Launch Businesses
Excerpts from The Lemonade Stand

Most parents who want to motivate their kids to start their own businesses do it for one reason: They feel that in the long run, their children will lead more satisfying lives by being self-employed. While this may be an honorable reason, your kids will not be swayed to start businesses by this logic. Take it from someone who has been advising young people for years on how to start their own businesses -- kids are not interested in the lofty goal of becoming entrepreneurs today so their lives will be easier five or ten years from now. Kids have a short-term view of the world and are interested in the here and now. They will want to know how entrepreneurship is going to benefit them in the short run.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to show your youngsters the significance of starting businesses now. These approaches abandon the intellectual arguments parents try to use to motivate their kids. Rather, they are tangible approaches that have proven effective in encouraging kids to try entrepreneurship.

ROLE MODELS. Your kids are bombarded daily, through the media and in school, with images of professionals who collect a paycheck. Television, in particular, glorifies the corporate life. It constantly parades corporate role models in front of your kids, and they absorb the message that being an employee is better than being an employer. Providing your children with entrepreneurial role models can counter the effect of this massive media brainwashing.

While the sources of adult role models have always been abundant in business publications, examples of teen and preteen entrepreneurs have been somewhat harder to find until the past five years. More publications are printing stories about self-employed kids. If you run into these stories, clip them or photocopy them for your children.

One parent of a 12-year-old girl once told me that her daughter was delighted to learn about child entrepreneurs: "Janet was really interested to hear about how young kids her age were running real businesses," said the father. "One particular article was about how a girl her age created her own card game. I couldn't really figure out why that particular article fascinated her. Then it dawned on me: In all the previous cases, it talked about young boys who were running businesses. It never occurred to me that I needed to give her examples of young girls doing the same thing."

There are other ways to present your kids with role models to motivate them to start businesses. You can seek out entrepreneurs in your neighborhood or in your family who can tell about the joys and problems of running businesses. Of course, not all children are going to be immediately inspired when they talk to entrepreneurs. But I can guarantee you that when your kids come in contact with real, live entrepreneurs, they will at least realize that starting a business is an attainable goal.

SHOWCASE TALENTS. Quite often, child entrepreneurs start businesses because they have talents or hobbies they want to explore. Sure, they consider the financial viability of their businesses, but money is generally an afterthought. Their main concern is to do what they love.

Mark Andelbrandt, 16, of Hinsdale, Illinois, began his catering service for school events because he loved to prepare delicious pastries. His high-school cooking teacher praises him for his culinary skills as well as for his food management talents. Mark plans to open his own restaurant after attending the Culinary Institute.

Mark was lucky enough to get encouragement from his high-school food teacher. However, many other youngsters who have highly developed skills are not so lucky. The problem I have found with some young entrepreneurs is that their parents did not value their talents.

When your kids consistently and diligently follow their hobbies or talents, pay closer attention. Do some research on their skills so that in your conversations with them, they know that you have taken a special interest in helping them further develop their talents. Seek out people who may be able to tell you if your kids are talented. For example, if your son makes pottery, you should take some of his work to a potter to get an opinion as to whether his work is good.

MAKING POCKET MONEY. Your kids don't have much of a choice when it comes to putting extra money in their pockets. They can either get the money from you or work for it. It's generally not a good idea to give your children money whenever they need it. For one thing, you may go broke. More important, a periodic allowance is the best way to teach your kids how to save and plan for purchases.

If your kids need extra money, they could get a job. However, child labor laws can prohibit young people less than 16 years old from working in many establishments. In addition, even if they are lucky enough to get a job, their hours will be severely restricted. If your kids are faced with these obstacles, suggest that they start their own businesses. One parent of a 14-year-old girl made such a suggestion. The girl started an unusual baby-sitting business. Instead of baby-sitting for the neighborhood parents, she became a baby-sitting broker. She matched up baby-sitters with parents and got a fee for the arrangement.

But the mere suggestion that your kids start businesses will not necessarily motivate them unless they see examples of how other kids have supplemented their allowances by working for themselves.

HELPING-HAND ENTREPRENEURS. The desire to help others is a big motivator for young would-be entrepreneurs. Their initial desire isn't making money, even though they may eventually turn a profit. Seventh-grader Aamir Raza of San Jose, California, invented an Anti-Sunburn Band Meter. This special headband tells kids when the sun is too harsh on their skin. Aamir said he came up with his idea because he wanted to help reduce the incidence of skin cancer.

No matter what motivates your kids to start their own businesses, the end result is that once the entrepreneurial bug bites, they will find that self-employment is infinitely more satisfying than working for others. The goal is to show your children that there are alternatives. The sooner your kids realize this, the better off they will be.

Emmanuel Modu is the founder of The Center for Teen Entrepreneurs, an organization that promotes awareness of entrepreneurial aptitude among families in all socioeconomic levels. Modu lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.

Reprinted from The Lemonade Stand: A Guide to Encouraging the Entrepreneur in Your Child
by Emmanuel Modu.
Copyright 1996 by Emmanuel Modu.
Published by Gateway Publishers.
Reprinted with permission of Gateway Publishers.
May not be modified, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted,
transmitted or distributed in any manner.
Available from or by calling 800 511-2394.



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