Why Kids Are Natural Entrepreneurs

by Abby on April 20, 2015

My kids have an entrepreneurial streak. I think they caught the bug when they encountered their first yard sale. What? You can make cold, hard cash just by throwing some old toys out on the lawn for strangers to paw through? Sold! Then they tried their hand selling tissue paper ghosts at Halloween, handpicked flowers in the spring, and lastly, a juice and water stand.

juice stand

On the first warm day of spring, my younger son hauled out a table and chairs, coaxed his older brother into making a sign, and set up shop in our front yard. Now, our street is not exactly a high-traffic thoroughfare, but kind neighbors and a confident sales approach (see the tip jar?) netted the kids $25 in one day. Off they raced to Toys R Us to purchase the latest Power Rangers toy. They got a taste of success and drank it up like they were sucking down a Slurpee from 7-Eleven.

So the next warm day came along and, you guessed it: another stand. This time, it was water, juice, and candy. I admit I was a teensy bit less enthusiastic this time. Were we taking advantage of our generous neighbors? Were we teaching our kids to be greedy capitalists? And why was *I* the one having to constantly run to the store to restock our OJ?!

My husband and I talked to the boys about how the proceeds from this sale would need to be split into categories: savings, spending, and charity. “OK,” agreed the 6yo. “I want to give $100 to a hospital for kids who don’t have a home!” Um, wow. Wasn’t expecting that. Also, he gave a free bottle of water to the mailman, and served some very thirsty moving men who seemed genuinely happy to patronize his budding business. Turns out it’s more the thrill of the hustle he’s interested in, not necessarily the amount of cash he can rake in for his personal Power Rangers stash. Good to know.

The second juice stand

This article in Inc. magazine, “Why My 8-Year-Old is a Better Motivator Than Tony Robbins,” confirmed my suspicions that I was letting my cynical adult viewpoint color my sons’ first foray into business.

“Just like everything in life, as we get older, we lose the innocence of our youth. We tend to forget what truly drives us and what made us enjoy doing what we do in the first place,” writes Dana Severson.

“It’s life. It’s unavoidable. As an adult, you have responsibilities. Life is no longer in beta, and your decisions have greater meaning. We become more fearful, more jaded, more superficial. All of our dreams become drowned in doubt and pessimism.”

As a self-employed writer and editor, I struggle with many issues every day. Am I doing work I am proud of and find meaningful? Am I being paid what I’m worth? Am I selling out if I accept this assignment? Will I be able to pay for summer camp if I turn down that assignment? 20+ years into my career, I have had my share of successes and failures, achievements and disappointments. And of course, I never imagined any of it as a kid. As Severson writes, “Oftentimes I yearn for that youthful naiveté.”

I had forgotten until fairly recently that I myself was quite the go-getter career-wise in my early years. Not only did I babysit, but I got myself a paper route, then a job at a department store after school, then a summer stint as a camp counselor in college. At no point was I purely motivated by profits, or 401k contributions, or job security.

Another link – this one to a podcast with Warren Cassell Jr., a 15yo author, entrepreneur, and investor from the Caribbean – convinced me that kids really do have the inside track when it comes to success. This kid is on a mission to pursue his passion, better the economy where he lives, and generate wealth for others.

His response to “how do you find the time to do all this?” is so spot-on: we make time for what’s important to us, and if it’s really important to us, time doesn’t matter. Also, his strategies for getting in touch with big-name entrepreneurs to learn from them are genius. I have totally used his Ivanka Trump email strategy to pitch magazine editors. This is also true: successful people do what others won’t.

Kids get it. They’re wise beyond their years. They intuitively do what we grownups pay hard-earned, income-taxed money to life coaches and self-help books to tell us to do. We could learn a lot from them, if only we step back and let them be themselves. Personally, I’m thinking of putting a tip jar on my kitchen counter.

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Clumsy Crab and Crazy Foxes

by Abby on April 14, 2015

One cool thing about having kids if you’re a creative type is that you get to work on fun projects with them. And not just Lego and Play-Doh – though those are fun, too. As they get older, you might even get to do actual multimedia collaborations with your kid. For instance, this is a story that my 8yo son – the comic book artist – and I came up with. Although to be fair, it was about 90% him. I provided the typing and spelling help.

Clumsy Crab

By Abby and Miles

Clumsy Crab was living in the sea and wanted to build a sea life community center. He tried to gain workers by making inspirational speeches. By doing this, 278 creatures (no sharks) volunteered to help.

Clumsy Crab, by Abby and Miles

It took 3 years to build it. (Mostly because Clumsy Crab knocked it down a few times!) But as soon as it was built, the sharks took it over and tried to eat Clumsy Crab!

“Mendacity!” yelled Clumsy Crab, and he moved to Asia. And to think the community center was to keep sharks out!

~ The End ~

I’m not even sure where the idea for this story came from. Spongebob? A recent trip to the aquarium? Who knows. I’m also not sure where he came up with the exclamation “Mendacity!” I had to look it up: it’s an actual word meaning “lack of honesty.”

He wants us to make this story into a book, which he will illustrate. I’m in!

And here’s something he put together one afternoon while I was working on my own project. (A tree frog costume for my friend’s kid. I specialize in last-minute, hoodie-based, felt-and-velcro costumes, if you didn’t know.)

I found these cute mini clothespins with animals on them at the craft store. That was Miles’ jumping-off point to create this video, “Crazy Foxes.” He made it on an iPhone using a free app called Shadow Puppet.

Kids are awesome. Being creative is fun. Go make something!

LINK O’ THE DAY: One of my favorite former writing students, who lives in Ireland and writes for Attachment Parenting International, quoted me in this really interesting, well-researched article on how writing can help us tap into our creativity, find work/life balance, and even be better parents. I sound like I know what I’m talking about, don’t I? :)

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Grasping for Gratitude

April 6, 2015

It’s always fun to start your Spring Break with your child suffering the sudden onset of a violent stomach bug at 3 a.m. after a day of eating Easter candy. I’ll give you a second to let that colorful image sink in while I Purell my hands and start another load of laundry for the […]

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Adventures in Shopping: Cardigan Edition

March 30, 2015

I have a love/hate relationship with shopping. When I’m in the mood and hit a good sale, watch out. You are looking at the scorer of some legendary deals, people. Le. Gen. Dary. For instance, the $11 military jacket from Loehmann’s. The $17 patent leather driving moccasins from Loehmann’s. The embroidered silk slip dress from […]

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On Over-Planning and Igloo-Building

March 23, 2015

I am a sucker for an online quiz. You know those ones that tell you what country best fits your personality or what your spirit animal is? Well, a while back I took one on happiness. To my surprise, the results indicated that I highly value spontaneity, and that some of my happiest moments were […]

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Make Your Own Luck

March 16, 2015

Normally, I’m not so big on the random little holidays. Valentine’s Day? Earth Day? Meh. They usually involve school parties and extra work for me. (Oh, you can call me a killjoy until you pull an all-nighter sweating over several dozen Valentines or cupcakes for your kid’s class. Then we’ll talk. P.S. Why is Minecraft […]

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It’s Come to This

March 5, 2015

Monday: school closed due to icy conditions. Tuesday: school closed 2 hours early due to weather. Wednesday: rain all day, turns to snow overnight. Thursday: This. Friday: Will our children ever attend a full day of school again? Ever?? And so it’s come to this: I make them run like hamsters on a wheel to […]

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Dear Customer Service Person

March 3, 2015

Dear Customer Service Person: First off, I recognize that you have a difficult job. Customer service people and moms have a lot in common, actually: people don’t call us up to be like, “Hey, just wanted to tell you that you’re doing a great job! Kudos! Keep it up!” No, we only hear from them […]

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Happy Birthday to My Boy!

February 27, 2015

Dear Riley, Happy Birthday! Today you are 6. You are many things to many people. You are brave: Smart: Loyal: And loving: You are a master of disguise: And you have never met anything you couldn’t climb: I mean, not ANYTHING: Thank you for teaching me that life is better when you love fiercely, dress […]

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On Daily Joy and Fresh Perspectives

February 23, 2015

Last week I read a blog post that really spoke to me. It was about feeling stuck, in writing and in life. It’s about broken washing machines and insomnia and other everyday inconveniences and frustrations that the author called “puzzles we have to figure out in order to get to and maintain our Daily Joy.” […]

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