Let’s Give Little Entrepreneurs Some Big Help

Leomonade Stand adI see a lot of lists along the lines of “7 Must-Have Traits For a Successful Entrepreneur.” I’ve even seen lists that have as many as 50 personal attributes delineated that are required if you want to be an entrepreneur.

But today I just want to look at a few and put a slightly different spin on them. Some of the traits that often appear on these lists are:

  • Inquisitiveness.
  • Fearlessness.
  • Prone to getting into trouble.
  • Won’t take no for an answer.

If I look at that list without any headline above it, it sounds to me like it’s describing kids and that brings us around to what I’m thinking about today: How do we encourage more entrepreneurism in our youth?

Nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit

Frankly, while most of us would agree that a large percentage of children have those attributes, many adults – including both parents and teachers – relate to kids in ways that suppress and eventually eliminate those traits from our youth. Unfortunately, surviving in an institutional setting, like schools, can wring these qualities right out of people.

However, it needn’t be that way. If we can collectively recognize that the best strategy to lift our society as a whole is to create more opportunities for everyone, we should begin to value those qualities that contribute to making successful entrepreneurs, including those I listed above. After all, when an entrepreneur is successful it opens up areas in which many individuals can flourish.

I can write about this, people can give TED talks on the subject and Entrepreneur Magazine can publish articles on the topic, but one organization has been working directly in this area for many years: Junior Achievement. I want to give them the thanks and recognition they deserve, talk a little about the organization and encourage you to do some follow-up.

Junior Achievement’s mission is “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy,” and I think we can all agree that meeting this goal is more important today than it has ever been. JA has been helping introduce and train young people for almost 100 years and it works with kids of all ages – kindergarten through high school.

Working in the classroom

JA has some 213,000 volunteers who go into schools and teach “workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.” They learn to start businesses, invest in the stock market and manage their finances.

I know students and teachers who have worked with JA and they have nothing but praise for the program. Are your schools connected with your local JA? If not, do some lobbying and get the program going. Also, consider how you might volunteer with JA. The program is all about practical, real-world, knowledge and skills. You might be the ideal person to deliver that to some eager students in your community,

One might say that this shouldn’t be left to what is mostly a volunteer organization. I disagree. I think bringing in real entrepreneurs and experienced business professionals is the best way to really get children educated and excited about creating opportunities through commerce. And with major backers such as AT&T, Microsoft, CapitalOne and others, I think many or our best business leaders believe this is a great program as well.

Sponsored by AT&T

Image: Vintage Ad #805: Lemonade Stand Kit, © 2009 Jamie, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.