5 Myths of why teachers may not be teaching entrepreneurship

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to local 8th graders at a career day event. They asked a lot of great questions and were very engaged – I was very impressed with the school as they have a special program that helps kids who want to go to college. Many of the kids said it was their favorite class – it helps them with study habits, note taking and other things that will improve their chances of success. After the presentation, I spoke to the career director and asked if they taught entrepreneurship. She brought up some concerns about entrepreneurship which disturbed me and thus serve as the basis for this blog post.

Myth #1: Entrepreneurs don’t need an education.

-Nothing could be farther from the truth – in order to run a business; you not only need the knowledge in your area of expertise (which should definitely be at a very advanced level), you need math (for budgeting, projections, daily operations), accounting (minimum of a basic level), communication (both oral and written), and marketing knowledge including internet and social media marketing. You will need to know business operations, customer service and where to find the help you need at any given time. You also need to know your own strengths and weaknesses and how solve problems creatively. Are there successful entrepreneurs without a college education – of course there are but they are in the minority. A college degree also gives you credibility that you have acquired a certain level of knowledge. When you first start out – you will most likely have to bootstrap and run most of the business on your own (until you reach a certain level of sales so that you can pay others) so education is one key that will open doors!

Myth #2: Entrepreneurship doesn’t fit neatly in a box.

-I guess you could say that is true because it actually fits into many boxes. I can’t think of anytime in my life that I have learned more than when I was running a business. Since running a business includes knowledge from so many disciplines, you can incorporate it into almost any academic subject. In science, you definitely have to use creative problem solving. To figure out sales, costs and net income you utilize mathematics, to create a marketing message you need to read and write and to get your message across to customers you utilize both oral and written communication. Sure, it will take a little ingenuity to incorporate entrepreneurial activities into an existing curriculum (that is what the Biz Ops game does) and debrief around it – but won’t it be worth the effort when the kids are engaged and motivated to learn!

Myth #3: I’m not experienced as an Entrepreneur so how can I teach it?

-The good thing about entrepreneurs is that they are a group that loves to share their knowledge. Most entrepreneurs go into business to solve a problem and help others so they are more than willing to help out in the classroom (you just have to ask). There are also many non-profit organizations such the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and Women Business Centers that are available to help with providing guest speakers on starting a business or business planning. For curriculum, Junior Achievement has developed curriculum that fits into different grades and there are many books and games available including More Than a Lemonade Stand and the Biz Ops Game that have already been classroom tested. So even though you may not have business experience, the resources are there to help you provide a unique classroom experience for your students.

Myth #4: Many new businesses fail – I don’t want my students to fail

It is definitely true that the majority of businesses fail within the first 3 years of opening their doors. There are also many reasons for this. One big reason is that many people go into business because they have a passion for something or a talent in something and don’t realize how hard it is to run a business. They don’t get the training they need to succeed in running the business and so it ends in failure.  Another big reason is that don’t test their idea before putting it into action. Just because you think it is a great idea, doesn’t mean people will pay for it.  It must be a big enough problem that people will part with their money before and buy it; so testing is crucial. If we can start teaching our students some of these entrepreneurial lessons at a young age, they will have less chance of failure if they start a business. Also, if we can teach them that failure is something that we can learn from and improve and move forward; our students will be more resilient when they do come across failure in their lives (which is inevitable).

Myth #5 – Becoming an Entrepreneur is only one career option.

        The great thing about teaching entrepreneurship is that they don’t just help kids learn how to run a business, they help them learn about their self, their passions and talents and how to utilize them to help others and create a better world for all of us. Isn’t that really what we all want – is a world of happy adults who contribute to our society in a positive way. Teaching entrepreneurship includes teaching innovation, creativity, collaboration, communication and problem-solving which are all 21st century skills that can be applied to any career path they choose (and employers will definitely appreciate the kids knowing them). The first step of becoming an entrepreneur is learning what your own unique gifts are and how you can make a difference. This increases their confidence and self-esteem and chances of success that may not have had in a traditional classroom environment. I have witnessed many middle-school aged kids come to camp change from a shy introverted kid and transform into a confident young business person communicating their ideas with passion in just one week. Knowing that they have this capability to make a difference using their unique gifts will help them in any career option they choose.

Lemonade Stand a symbol of youth entrepreneurship!

LemonHeadsLemonadeStand

One of my favorite Lemonade Stand Posters from the youth entrepreneur camp.

I often get asked why you don’t use a more complicated business in your youth
entrepreneur camps. My response is usually something like: who doesn’t love to
visit a lemonade stand on a hot summer day. They usually shake their head in
agreement and then go on with their day. But if you stop to think about it, the
lemonade stand is an icon for youth entrepreneurship. Many successful
entrepreneurs started out when they were a kid. It might not have been a
lemonade stand (although I bet many did try one at one time), it may have been
a lawn care, pet care, paper route, or babysitting business. The answer I give
really relates to knowing that it’s almost a guarantee that on a hot summer day
there will be thirsty customers ready to buy some lemonade which is the first
step to any successful business (create a product that you know your customers
want)! A lemonade stand is familiar – everyone knows what it is and so the
campers don’t have to learn about what the product is they can then focus on
creating a brand, picking their product (what flavor, etc.), pricing their
product, marketing their product, selling their product, recording their sales
and giving the customer a great experience. These are things that every
business has to do so they are learning the basics of business and they do it
as a team. The fact that they are raising money for the youth entrepreneur camp
scholarship fund teaches them that they can make a difference by helping
someone who can’t afford to attend the entrepreneur camp to have the ability to
attend. The team competition makes it that much more fun for the kids as they
not only compete for the most sales but also for best customer service, best
tasting, best team work and best display. The kids are extremely clever with
their branding, marketing and delivery systems – you would be amazed if you
came to lemonade day at the camp. Since they have been learning about creating
their own business and running a business simulation earlier in the youth
entrepreneur camp – the lemonade stand gives them the real world experience to
bring it all together! It is so much fun for the kids they don’t even realize
how much they have learned until we get back and debrief! No wonder that is the
favorite activity of the campers year after year. Wouldn’t it be fun to have an
adult lemonade stand competition and even an adult entrepreneur camp for that
matter :)!

Young Entrepreneur Lemonade Stand

The Aha Moment that I’m sticking too!

Have you ever been someplace and all of sudden that light bulb goes – you know it – that ‘aha’ moment. When I was at Brendon Burchard’s Experts Academy last fall – I was working in a small group and explaining the youth entrepreneur camps I’m working on  by using the words, “it’s More Than a Lemonade Stand” and someone in our group said “that would be a great name”. I thought to myself, wow, she’s right – and the More Than a Lemonade Stand Youth Entrepreneur Camps and Training were born.  One thing that Brendon told us, that really stuck in my head, was to pick one thing and stick with it for two years.  I do have to say that was really good advice – I for one have no lack of ideas so it will definitely be a challenge- but I think what it does for me is help me stay focused on what my goal is. This has actually helped me move toward it faster than I ever imagined possible. Sometimes it feels like it’s moving a bit fast, I just signed my first book publishing agreement with Morgan James publishing and I am learning so much about the publishing industry, editing, and publicity all while writing my book (and working full-time so I can actually afford to do all of this)!  I’m so grateful that I’ve been fortunate to learn so much in a short time from experts in the industry and hope to continue on my journey in the next 2 years (and beyond).