Raising kids to be entrepreneurs

When I was in the second grade, I found that it took our school a week or more to replenish the pencil vending machine by the principal’s office. You could buy pencils, two for $0.25, that had baseball or football teams, or your favorite TV show, as decoration along the outside of the pencil. But when you dropped in your quarter, it was completely random what pencils the machine would vend.

So I scraped together all the quarters I could find, and bought out the vending machine, cornering the market on pencils in our elementary school. The pencils that I bought, two for $0.25, could easily be resold for $0.25 each, doubling my money. And I could charge a premium on the pencils with the popular sports teams or TV shows, creating market demand. For weeks I carried a huge bundle of pencils in a rubber band, and became the street dealer for lead.

The school principal could have easily challenged my little business just by restocking the vending machine more quickly, but the value-add of being able to buy specific pencils would have remained. Thirty years later, I can still remember the principal calling my Mom into the office and complaining about my little enterprise… I’m grateful to this day that my Mom celebrated my entrepreneurial zeal as a seven year old.

I can relate to nearly every part of Cameron Herold’s TedX speech… I’ve spent my entire life unemployable, and probably diagnosable with most of the same disorders (ADHD, a little bipolar, etc) as most other would-be-entrepreneurs who are being dosed with Ritalin today.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about making money, it’s about creating the solutions to solve problems and meet a need, and being unafraid of risk and failure.

The greatness of America is its entrepreneurial spirit, which has been a unique part of this country’s history since before it was founded. Taking risks, striking out on a rarely traveled path, creating value to change the the world, pursuit of a better life… these are the things to celebrate and nurture in kids, no matter how small those ambitions may seem at the time.

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