Like most teenagers, I had summer jobs and worked after school so I could have some spending money and save for college. I didn't really consider myself an entrepreneur, but I guess I was.
For the most part, they were jobs where I worked for a small business owner. Except for selling newspapers outside a subway station, I wasn’t an entrepreneur and didn’t work for myself. Even the newspaper gig required me to rely on a big company to provide the product I sold.
Being an entrepreneur and working for yourself — as I’ve done since being laid off as a newspaper editor in 2008 — is a job skill I’ve grown into and enjoy. I only wished I learned about it back when I was in school so that I could at least be a part-time entrepreneur during my working life. At the very least, it could serve as a backup or secondary income.
It’s a skill set that I think all children should at least have a taste of so they can decide if it’s something they’d like to do.
The first taste of entrepreneurship for most children is a lemonade stand. Even if their parents pay for the sugar, lemons, cups and other supplies, a lemonade stand can be an hourly lesson in how to set prices and make change, and show the importance of having a great location and product.
But after that, unless kids find the entrepreneurial bug on their own, they may lose the drive to work for themselves. Here are some ways to teach your kids to be entrepreneurs, or at least get started thinking about it:
Point out benefits of working for themselves
For children who don’t like being told what to do, this can be one of the first benefits worth pointing out to them about being an entrepreneur. By working on their own, they’ll be the boss and can determine what gets done when. No more taking orders from someone else.
Let them take things apart
If your child can build almost anything with Legos, or likes to take apart old phones, remotes or anything else you let them work on, it could be a sign that they could make a good entrepreneur.
It’s part of the process of learning new things — another skill important to being an entrepreneur.
Meet new people as an entrepreneur
A big part of working for yourself is talking to everyone you meet. Why? Because everyone is a potential customer, or you could help each other in some way with your businesses.
Help your child learn the skills to meet new people, and they could someday use them in the workplace.
Compare and set prices
One of the first thing a good entrepreneur has to do is set their prices for their service or product. This is usually done by seeing what the competition is doing.
One easy way to help kids learn how to compare prices is to take them to your local farmer’s market and buy a few things. Then go to the grocery store and buy the same things. Compare prices and do a taste test, seeing if the more expensive tomato tastes better than the other.
Give them chores
Household chores for an allowance should be a part of every child’s weekly duties, showing them the connection between work and pay. But that’s only part of the equation.
They need to learn what a dollar is worth and given the responsibility to spend their money on things their parents used to buy them. This can come in handy when they want something that costs a lot more than their allowance — such as a new computer tablet.
By doing extra chores and saving their money, they can learn how much work it takes to earn that tablet, and help determine if it’s really worth all of that work. Working for yourself really shows you the value of your time and if that new gadget you want is worth working extra for.
Open a bank account
Having your child contribute part of their allowance and any other money they get to a savings account will help them learn how to be a saver.
As any entrepreneur knows, there are good months and bad months, and saving for a rainy day is a smart move at any age.
Try out new ideas
One of the things I like the most about working for myself is that I can try new ideas without having to go through a boss. If they work, great. If not, then it usually wasn’t much work to try them out.
Let your children learn about entrepreneurship through trial and error, and let them try new ways to make money. If they want to start a website so they can subcontract out other kids to mow lawns, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to set it up.
A parent, just like their kids, should be open to trying new things and seeing what works. Helping your children learn the value of working for themselves is a gift they’ll hopefully enjoy throughout their lives.