25 years ago I walked into a classroom of 15 year-olds and I gave them my pitch. I offered to help them start a business, but there was one condition they all had to agree to work with me and it had to be a unanimous decision.
Now. I have no idea how this would play out. You see this was an experiment for me and right here in the middle of the room, there was a boy and he was sitting there and he was slouched down. He was clearly not interested in what I had to say.
In fact, at one point he sat there and he said this is a waste of time. Why bother so I addressed him right head-on and I said hey. You know what this is a real business. You guys get to be totally in charge.
You’re, the decision-makers you get to set your own goals and, at the end, you get to keep the profits. Well, with that, he sat up and I knew he was on board and a week later, when I came back, he was actually standing in front of the group and he had the entire class brainstorming.
They were coming up with different marketing ideas and he was leading the whole thing at the end. He had the highest profit now. What was so interesting was when I sat down later to do a debriefing with the principal and the teacher, and they shared with me that this was a boy that typically did not participate in school.
In fact, he rarely passed in homework assignments. He frequently skipped classes, and yet they were fascinated by his level of engagement and they wanted to know what it was about. This project that captured his imagination, entrepreneurial skills.
When we think about what people need today, they need a strong set of entrepreneurial skills and what I mean by that is creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and communications, and but they’re.
Not enough. Skills are no longer and we have to help people develop. Young people develop an entrepreneurial mindset now when we think about the future, it’s really important. That kids today that they they’re flexible and they’re.
Adaptable need to be able to see change before it happens. They need to be able to identify opportunities and have the confidence to move foot towards them, really what it’s. All about is actually being able to be constantly focused on growing and developing and improving.
You see – and I want to point out right from the very beginning that I’m – not talking, I’m, not suggesting in any way that everybody needs to be entrepreneur. What I am saying is that young people today, regardless of whether they work for themselves and start a business or if they work for an employer, what they need, is a strong set, an entrepreneurial mindset that’s, going to enable them to be successful.
An entrepreneurial mindset is actually critical to success in our rapidly changing world. So that brings us to an important question and the question is: can an entrepreneurial mindset be nurtured? Absolutely in fact, as I started specializing this area, I realized very early on that.
Not only can it be nurtured, but it’s, important to start young. So I created a program and it’s, an entrepreneur project for elementary kids and for students between the ages of nine and twelve to start their businesses, and they actually develop an entrepreneurial mindset by launching a business venture.
So they have to create business plans, they develop products and marketing materials and at the end they participate in a real-life event. Called the young entrepreneur show it’s like a trade show they get to interact with customers and they earn real money.
The program is facilitated, which i think is the most powerful piece is that it’s, facilitated by the classroom teacher, and it makes topics like math and English language, arts and social studies more meaningful and relevant for kids.
It’s already reached about 40,000 kids, and I’m, really excited to be able to share some of their stories with you here today. Now the idea of coming up with a product to sell for real to customers is incredibly exciting.
For kids – and in fact they take it very very seriously, sometimes the students will create products that you know, people enjoy other times, they go a little bit deeper and they think you know what can i? How can i solve a problem, or how can I make a difference in the world by creating a product? Mimi is one of our students that decided to come up with this cat toy and a toy that looked like a cat.
I should say – and she took this – two materials – a mock suede and a mock fur. She cut strips sew them together and had a cat face at the front and a tail, and she really wanted to have a fun name for this, so she called them.
Roadkill kitties, and if that wasn’t enough, she took a big branch that had fallen from a tree in her garden. She mounted it on top of the table and then she had all the products hanging up here. So, as you walk by all you could see, are these feline creatures like in dad at you and then she’d? Take them down.
She was all about showmanship, so she’d. Take them down and lay one on the arms customers. Would come up and the customers would smooth it down and it would roll up and Mimi’s. Product came alive, the roadkill Kitty came alive, Mimi’s, business came alive and Mimi came alive.
You see Mimi wasn’t strong. She wasn’t, a strong academic student and yet had perhaps the most successful business in her class and what was so exciting was that she was able to achieve that success by showcasing her entrepreneurial and her artistic flair.
The product development stage is also very powerful because students starting to come up with an idea, but then they have to use market research, they do prototyping and then they get into production.
So it’s very rich with learning opportunities. Tyler was very determined that he wanted to create the sock puppet and he is just market research to really perfect the design. So when he asked the question, what color would you like? Everybody see him teal, one of the options was tie-dye and everybody seemed to pick that choice, so it was an obvious design decision.
The problem he had, though, was when it came time to pick the the hair at the top and the tongue inside and there didn’t seem to be a general consensus in his survey data, so he really was unsure what to do now.
He immediately went right to the teacher and said hey what do I do about this and the teacher handled beautifully? The teacher said you know what toilet this is your business. You have to make that decision yourself and you & # 39.
Ve got great creative and critical thinking abilities so can’t, wait to see what you come up with so Tyler left and we weren’t really sure how this would play out and a couple of days later he came back and He had a solution.
He actually put a snap up here on the head and a snap inside the mouth, so these pieces could be removed and then he made a bunch of extra design, so people could come up to the table and customize their puppets and he didn’T stop there.
He actually made a bunch of extras and sold them as accessories and was able to increase his profits substantially as a result of his creativity. What we’ve, been looking at here, really is, is some key features and, and the entrepreneur show is what they’re working towards.
So this is the final sales event where they they interact with the customers and it’s, an incredibly dynamic, so it gives the students an opportunity to think on their feet and even solve problems along the way as they’re.
You know using the communication skills to kind of pitch and talk to customers. Now. Is that an event just a few weeks ago before the holidays? And there was a boy there and he was struggling because he had a really great product.
He made this really cool Christmas ornament out of twigs and string. It was just beautiful, but he had them hanging on a tree and they weren’t selling. So he came out with me and he said you know I’m.
Having a problem and – and I swell to step back and just look at what your customers are seeing and what he came up with, was that maybe the problem was that the decorations were part of the tree and they weren’t actually for sale.
So he decided to take one down and then he just stood here talking to customers and he said then I can bring him over and show them the different designs. I said great, give it a try. So I walked around the gym and, as I was coming around the corner and Luke says bill.
I’ve already sold three and it’s. All they’ve been 10 minutes. As I saw you now, I am not exaggerating: it was that level of intensity and what was so interesting to be is, as I was watching his face, I had a flash of a conversation I recently had with a teacher, and she said that if you can’t teach pride with a textbook, but you could certainly see pride on Luke’s.
Face that day. What we’ve been looking at is the process of learning, and the idea of the process of learning is so important. Here and when we think back to that original experiment that I had what was the driving force, there was truly the fact that the kids were in charge.
They get to make their own decisions and they’re learning or something that’s real to them and meaningful, and that’s really in essence, the whole driving force with this project. But what’s? Ultimately important is the fact that the kids are actively developing core competencies and these entrepreneurial skills that I mentioned up front.
They’re actively developing them in order to achieve success with their projects, and in order for all of this to work there’s, two key features and the. Why? First, one is that the students have to have a freedom to make mistakes, and so, when we think about entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship is actually messy.
There’s, no one path or right answer. So it’s, really important that the students have the freedom to explore and experiment and treat mistakes simply as learning opportunities. The second is that students need to have the chance to really reflect on their experiences and be able to identify and internalize.
You know what they’re learning, so as an example, they start a business. They know they can say. I am a business owner or I am an entrepreneur because I did it or I am creative because I solve that problem so that self reflection stage is really key because it gets them a chance to really define who they are as individuals.
So I want to give you a couple of examples of how they reflect on on their experiences. So when asked, what did you discover about yourself? This young boy said. I learned that I’m, far more creative than I thought it was.
When asked. What did you learn? This young lady said. I learned that if you take risk, you will succeed and taking risk means thinking outside the box. So words of wisdom from a 10 year old now the next one is purely for fun and it’s, a question.
We always ask, and we get some serious answers, and in this case, what tip would you have for other young entrepreneurs that are just getting started and this young boy said: wear deodorant the actual statement was wear deodorant the young entrepreneurs get nervous, the room gets warm And you don’t want to be stinky, so we’ve, looked at the really the value of the process of learning, and now I’d like to look into some broader benefits of this entrepreneurial experience and the first It set of shifts culture, and I really this really became clear to me one year when I’m working, one of the teachers reached the 10 year mark and I asked her.
I said what’s, the difference between one year, one and now, and she said in year one. I asked my kids, how many of you think he can have a Bastardo business and one or two hands went up in your ched.
She asked the same question and every hand went up now when she asked them why they all agreed, but one of the students captured it best, and she said I went to my first entrepreneur show in kindergarten, and I’ve been thinking about my Products ever since so the entrepreneurial experience it not only helps them discover that entrepreneurship is a possible career option.
It also helps them realize that there’s more potential for them as young people. They can do things that maybe they didn’t realize they could before. The second benefit is that it is really about unleashing potential, and one year I was working with the students in this particular case.
This student I walked in. It was about two years ago and, and his name was Keegan and Keegan, had what we call. We call him a soap guy actually because he had this really cool soap product and he was standing with poise and confidence interacting with customers and so on.
And when I asked him why it was fun, he said it’s fun, because I get to be me and I looked over at his mom and she was crying and I realized wow there’s more to this. So when a few months later, he was actually giving a presentation in front of a group of educators and as he was standing there, he said school isn’t easy for everyone, and he went on to explain that he has learning disabilities and often Struggled with school, so with this project he said he could think outside the box and he discovered that he was far more creative and he had more talent than he realized before and he was able to discover things and it gave him high hopes.
High hopes. Think about how many kids out there feel anxiety about the future. This project really in helps them, or this type of project, really helps them discover new potential. The entrepreneurial mindset also helps kids spark leadership and really one of the students.
This really, I got a call one day from on a Friday afternoon, and this was about a boy that had social performance, anxiety and mild autism and he had a real challenge with speaking in front of groups and in fact he had to always give presentations one-on-one.
But yet at his entrepreneur show he was standing there calling people over and he ended up selling out his product and did tremendously well at the end of the project. His mom and mom said he was in it to win it and what was so cool was that he was able to really sell his products and and interact with customers, and he definitely had a win with that program.
One of the features that I haven’t told you about is that the students donate 10 % to charity and and his class wanted to donate to the SPCA, but in his situation, what he did was he wanted to donate to a mental facility That was just opening up.
It was a wing of a hospital that was going to support these kids with anxiety, and so he went in there and he stood up in front and he asked if he could speak in front of the audience now. This is a boy with social anxiety and he stood in front of the group and he said he talked about his entrepreneurial experience and he talked about why this organization was important to him and then he announced he was donating 50 percent to charity.
Really, when we look at this entrepreneurial experience, an entrepreneurial mindset helps kids discover that they can make the world a better place. It really helps them, discover that they can have careers that are fulfilling a meaningful and and even and be self-reliant.
It helps them to discover their passions and their talents and their interest, and it helps them discover that they can actually achieve success, not only in the future, but in school. Today, one of our entrepreneur.
He had the severe behavioral problems and would blow up every day in class. He would scream and shout and leave the room and and so on and at the end of the program he flourished and a year later he came back and he had a gift.
For me – and he said what do you see – and I said there’s three stones and they’re, smooth or colorful, and they’re special and he said I’m special too, and that’s, how I want you to remember me: let’s, get out there and help kids develop an entrepreneurial mindset and let’s, help them use their special talents to put their mark on the world.
Thank you very much. You