How old do you need to be to be an entrepreneur? 20? 30? 40? What about 10? Or 60?
This week, I taught eight middle-schoolers, one high-schooler and my mother to be entrepreneurs. They completed a Business Model Canvas, came up with company names like GoldLeaf and Childlike Wonder, built products, marketed them, and made a 50 percent profit on their homemade wares, which they sold Saturday in front of Ruby K’s at 20th Street and Central Avenue.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I quit my day job at Deloitte Consulting and hit the startup trail back in 2000. It took me 10 years to grow my company Auditude to 50 people, and then sell it to Adobe in 2011. Since then I’ve been teaching and raising a family in Los Alamos.
A lot has changed since then, but it has never been easier to be an entrepreneur as it is today. Back then I had to rack servers, today in a few clicks I have a website in the cloud. Back then I had to fly around to meetings, today, everyone is just a web conference away. There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur than today, and you can start at any age.
I have taught entrepreneurship at UNM-LA, and privately at Project Y. It was a month ago, that Lydia Hammond of the Arrowhead Center at NMSU found me and asked me to teach their Innoventure class for middle schoolers, that is grades 6–8, or ages 10–14. What did I know about teaching entrepreneurship to children? I had only taught adults!
I have two daughters, Anya and Maya who are age 10 and 7, but they don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in their bodies. Why is that? Me, like many other parents, want to give everything to our children, not have them want for anything. What happens, the children accept that life is easy, and that they can relax, consume, and the struggle is forgotten. I think this is why the majority of our nation’s goods are made overseas, why we are hurting the environment, and why the “gig economy” is getting a bad rap.
What is the cure for this dangerous course we are on? I believe the answer lies in the entrepreneurial mentality, being able to think on your feet, to adjust course mid-flight, to imagine and realize opportunities that did not exist previously. I believe, like everyone, that the children are our future, but we need to engage them as early as possible.
During my weeklong summer camp, I saw nervous and shy middle schoolers become leaders, builders and speakers. They had to complete grueling elevator pitches, and burned the midnight oil creating signs and goods to sell. I had them crash the neighboring moms club to get customer feedback on their products and pricing. I played them songs from Lorde, who was only 13 when she got her label contract with UMG.
Did they get it? Yes! Not only did many of my students completely sell out of their products, they all had a thrilling experience, and I believe tasted the awareness of the entrepreneurial mentality. Even my mother, a medical practitioner, I believe learned a thing or two. I think, like many parents, I will be happy if my daughters are not beholden to tight labor markets, can think on their feet, roll with the punches and come at this life-thing with the freedom that the entrepreneurial mentality can give.
You are never too young or old to be an entrepreneur.
To learn more about Entrepreneurship, visit my website at sivi.com.