With the era of working for a single company for 40 years—and then receiving a pension when you retire— generally behind us, the word “entrepreneur” has started commonly referring to the many who start small businesses, become consultants or freelancer.
It inevitably raises the question, “What makes an entrepreneur? Is it nature, nurture, or both? Can parents raise their children to be entrepreneurs?”
As the father of two teenage children—and at the start of a new school year—I have an interest. What will my kids’ future look like? What will make them the happiest when they embark on a 50+ year work career?
In my lifetime I’ve known a number of entrepreneurial folks, but there wasn’t anyone around them to encourage it—or, worse yet, people around actively discouraged their entrepreneurial thinking.
Colleges and universities now have educational tracks to try to teach it. National organizations—like Kauffman and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship http://www.nfte.com—address how to foster young entrepreneurs.
The Grommet recently launched three products developed by the under 18 set (you can find more of them in our Underrepresented Entrepreneurs category). We wanted to know, what did these kids’ parents do to help them—and what did the children find most helpful as they became entrepreneurs?
Teenager Robin Sydney and her mom, Marian Heymsfield, recently launched their Adult Coloring Posters coloring poster set on The Grommet. Robin and Marian color together to take a break from electronics and relax at the end of the day. They created detailed posters to encourage more people to get creative and unwind.
Mom Marian says, “Inspiring confidence is the most important. That and the understanding that what you do in creating items is important and helpful to both the consumer and the Retailer. That your role is very important to everyone’s success.”
“My mom always inspired me to be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do,” says daughter Robin. “When it came to creativity, I always had art projects, did coloring contests, and had craft kits all over my room. I loved it. We didn’t really watch TV and the arts was my true outlet.
“Robin continues, “My mom made sure to give confidence to my sister and I, so we would know that we could do anything we dreamed of—no matter the challenge. When we started our company, through her inspiration to me, I felt like I could do anything. I then instilled the same confidence she had placed in me in her and she realized that she, too, could do anything. My mom’s creativity sprouted. There are so many times my mom says, ‘I can't believe what we are doing together.’ It is so cool!”
“Honestly, I think in our situation my daughter was the parent in the teaching role and I was the child learning from her!” says Marian.
“I love working with my mom. I trust her completely. I am the dreamer and she is the realist. I say, ‘We should do this...’ and she is like, ‘Yeah, but…’ Together, it is perfection. Each of us comes up with ideas and together we work to make it feel perfect for both of us. We represent both the mom and the kid when approaching products. I think it makes it perfect for all ages and generations.”
Two Bros Bows:
Elisha is mother to sons and entrepreneurs Duncan and Hayden, who recently launched Kids Archery Set. The young brothers wanted to recreate the archery scenes from the movie “Brave.” With some help from their mom, they designed their own kids’ archery sets.
After developing their first bow and arrow prototypes, Two Bros Bows made a small batch to sell locally. It quickly sold out and the two young entrepreneurs decided to grow their business.
“I asked Duncan and Hayden how they thought I helped in assisting their entrepreneurial spirit and they said, ‘encouragement—teaching them perseverance and believing in them.’”
“One thing we like to do is to take road trips and go camping and just get outside and be in nature. I don’t allow technology in the car and, by doing so, we solve and discuss half our problems while driving to point A to point B. Every time I see a cool interesting video about anything that is unique, creative, out of the box, or cool I share it with them to help expose and keep their minds expanding and wondering.
“For us as a family it’s all about balance,” says Elisha. “We are constantly on the go, like everyone else, hustling between school, activities, and work. The hardest balance for me as active CEO is that Duncan and Hayden are kids first, and that is most important. I want to support them in whatever interests they have as they grow into young men.”
Teenager Adam Liszewski created All-Natural Firestarters, an all-natural firestarter, after realizing the firestarters for his family’s wood burning stove didn’t light quickly enough. After a few prototypes he landed on the perfect combination of ingredients: sawdust, paraffin wax, and recycled egg cartons.
Fifteen-year-old Adam offers some advice for parents: “Let your kids be who they want to be. Don’t shut them down or say they have bad ideas. If they have a good idea, nurture it and help them see that idea through. When I was in second grade, my parents gave me a black and red book for Christmas that I still have. It was to write down all my ideas. This helped me expand my thinking and capture the entrepreneurial spirit whenever I wanted to. I could just open the book and sketch something that came into my head. They have also been incredibly supportive of Stokes. And I couldn’t have done it with them.”
For the young adults, Adam says, “See your ideas through and listen to yourself even if there are doubters around you. Believe in yourself. And really no idea is a bad idea, as cliché as that sounds. Reach out to people and try not to be nervous when asking them for help and guidance. I have met so many great people since I started Stokes: executive managers of large chains who took time to meet with me and hear my pitch, including Whole Foods, Market Basket, Roche Bros, TJX and even all the way back to my very first store when I met with Russell’s Garden Center. I was so nervous my hands were sweating. Everyone has been kind and supportive and has taken my calls and given me time to meet.”
These Makers’ stories tell us there is no one simple recipe for raising an entrepreneur, but clearly having someone in a child’s corner—rooting for them, encouraging them, supporting them—brings out their best.
Are you an entrepreneur—young or old—who has ideas on how to help inspire the next generations? Post your ideas and comments below.