It's Time That We Celebrate Youth Entrepreneurs.
There is nothing new about youth entrepreneurship.
As long as kids have been setting up lemonade stands and trading hockey cards, they’ve been finding creative ways to exchange value.
Back in the late nineties, I remember a boy at my school who was well-known for his covert entrepreneurial venture. The problem he noticed? Our school didn’t have a pop machine. We did however have a student body that really wanted to drink pop. This twelve year old realized that his fellow students’ cravings were his opportunity. His solution? He convinced his mother to drive him to the grocery store each week where he would purchase pop at $.50 per can. Then, every day he would arrive at school with a backpack full of pop and sell his merchandise for $1.00 a can, pocketing the markup. Kids (and a few cool teachers) would covertly make their way over to Tom in the corner of the cafeteria at lunch to score a can of No Name soda rather than the school cafeteria offering of milk or juice.
Eventually, Tom was caught and immediately ordered to cease operation. Unfortunately, at that time there was no place to channel his entrepreneurial spirit so the only reward that his innovative problem-solving earned him was the threat of suspension.
The Thing About Youth
Studies continue to emerge revealing we’re at our most creative in our youth. In a recent article titled 10 Different Ways To Encourage Youth Entrepreneurship, Forbes shared “The Paper Clip Study”:
The paperclip study followed 1,500 kindergarten students through elementary, middle and high school. As the students moved up through grade levels, the authors asked the question: “How many uses can you think of for a paper clip?” When the authors first proposed the question in kindergarten, 98% of students scored at genius level in divergent thinking. By the age of 10 years old, only 32% of the same group scored as high, and by age 15, only 10% remained at genius level.
There’s no denying that age is a factor in how much we engage with our creativity. That said, the reason for this is less a factor of biology and more a factor of sociology. In Brene Brown’s research on shame and creativity, she reports:
“I found that 85% of the men and women who I interviewed remembered an event in school that was so shaming, it changed how they thought of themselves for the rest of their lives… fifty percent of that 85% percent, half of those people: those shame wounds were around creativity. So fifty percent of those people have art scars...have creativity scars.”
Creativity is a prerequisite for innovation.
Smartphones? Netflix? Rideshare? Self-driving cars? VR? AR?
All innovation is born of creativity. As we look to solve problems in our communities, our nation, and across our planet, it is imperative that we work to stretch and grow creatively to come up with the best possible solutions. We suggest that it’s time for grown-ups to listen and learn from the youth in our communities who are simply better at engaging their creativity than we are.
The Thing About Entrepreneurship
As a system, entrepreneurship promotes values that are really beneficial for youth (and adults, for that matter). The entrepreneurial community can be a very forgiving, understanding place for those brave enough to venture there.
Confidence and self-esteem are rooted in the concept of being capable of, and earning, achievement. When we have the courage to pursue entrepreneurship, as kids or as adults, we are essentially committing to the idea that we are capable of achievement. Being capable of achievement is pretty important according to kidshealth.org:
When children compete — win or lose — they see that their own hard work and practice can make a difference. Earning a prize contributes to self-esteem only when a kid knows he or she earned it. Self-esteem is the result of experiences that help a child feel capable, effective, and accepted.
When kids learn to do things for themselves and feel proud of what they can do, they feel capable.
Children feel effective when they see that good things come from efforts like trying hard, getting close to a goal, or making progress.
It would be challenging to find a community more supportive in the face of failure than the entrepreneurial community. Often circulated quotes include classics like: “Fail hard and fail fast”, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” or the essential “I win or I learn”. This sentiment is almost universally perpetuated creating a culture of resilience in the face of challenge and a desire to get up and try again when we fall.
The Thing About Youth Entrepreneurs
Kids like Tom - the ones selling pop from their backpacks, or making slime to sell at the market, or building a Youtube channel; the ones with the guts, creativity and initiative to solve problems and exchange resources - can teach us a thing or two about solving the big problems we face. By appreciating and celebrating the creativity, bravery and ingenuity that youth entrepreneurs bring to the table, we just might learn how to make the world an even better place.
Ready to celebrate some fabulous entrepreneurs with us? Join us on May 3, 2018 at the Youth Entrepreneurship Gala held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton to hear exceptional youth entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas while we celebrate resilience, confidence and creativity. Tickets can be purchased here.