I often get asked, what should I start with when teaching kids entrepreneurship? After teaching kids, ages 9-14, entrepreneurship over the past 10 years I’ve come up with five things that have proven to be successful. I use these 5 things in the More Than a Lemonade Stand™ curriculum and have developed hundreds of young entrepreneurs using it and I hope you find this helpful in teaching entrepreneurship.  This post is meant to be an overview of the five things (part 1 of 6). In the upcoming weeks, I will dive into more detail of the how of each item.

1. Help kids choose a business idea

The best way to learn about entrepreneurship is by running a business and most entrepreneurs don’t strike it rich on their first business venture so it’s better to learn before the stakes are high. Since starting and running a business is not easy, it’s best the kids choose an idea that they are interested in and have some experience in.  This could be anything from making jewelry, lawn care, painting, photography, a school subject, music or sports. Once they know what they are interested in and have some knowledge of, they need to think about how they can turn that into something that can make money with (i.e., tutoring, helping kids with basic sports or music, babysitting, or selling a product at a local craft show or to kids at school). Post 2 of 6 will focus on the how to introduce entrepreneurship and help kids choose a business idea they can work on.

Most entrepreneurs don’t strike it rich on their first business venture so it’s better to learn before the stakes are high. 

2. Create a feasible business model

Once the idea is chosen, the next thing we include in teaching kids entrepreneurship is to have them at the business model to see if it is a feasible business idea. The Business Model Canvas, created by Alexander Osterwalder, is an excellent tool to help kids (and adults) discover this. The Business Model Canvas is widely used by entrepreneurs as part of the lean startup methodology. The Business Model Canvas will help kids determine what problem they are solving, who their customers are, how they will run the business and how they will make money. The Strategyzer website has a free 2-minute video which explains the nine building blocks that the canvas is built on which you can view on their website at:  https://strategyzer.com/canvas/business-model-canvasPost 3 of 6 will focus on a fun and engaging way to teach the business model canvas to young entrepreneurs.

3. Teach business basics

Once the idea is chosen and the business model is created it’s time to learn the business fundamentals which will serve the young entrepreneurs no matter what business idea they pursue now or in the future. We include branding, marketing, sales, basic financials, customer service and production when we are teaching kids entrepreneurship. Each of these areas are necessary to go from the idea stage to the actual starting and running of the business. Presentation skills are also included since the kids are required to create e a poster presentation/pitch for their business. After all, if the entrepreneur can’t communicate the idea effectively it will be impossible for them to succeed. Post 4 of 6 will focus on a method to teach the business fundamentals to young entrepreneurs.

4. Learn from real entrepreneurs

I can’t think of a better real life example to teach kids entrepreneurship than real entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs have a story and have made mistakes. I have found entrepreneurs to be quite excited to share their stories (and mistakes) with young entrepreneurs. Their stories provide insight to the kids that they may not get from just learning the content. Instead of learning the hard way, they can learn some valuable lessons from entrepreneurs who have already learned the hard way. That is why field trips and guest speakers from a variety of entrepreneurs and business types are a great way for young entrepreneurs to learn. Be sure to include discussion about the entrepreneurs’ stories including what they noticed about their characteristics and mindset. Post 5 of 6 will focus on ways in which you can include entrepreneurs and a fun and engaging reflection activity to use.

“The best way to learn about running a business is to run a business!” ~Julie Ann Wood

5. Real Life Experience teaches kids entrepreneurship

As I mentioned in the 1st item, the best way to learn about running a business is to run a business!  That is why when we teach kids entrepreneurship, we include not only starting their own business but also, these two additional experiential activities that involve running a business will allow the kids to run a business in a ‘safe’ setting.

The first one is a fast paced simulation called the Biz Ops Game™ which teaches business operations in approximately 90 minutes. In this game, kids, in small teams of 4-5 each, run their own paper airplane business. Each team comes up with a business name, starts with a loan from the bank (that they have to pay back with interest) budget and plan for their expenses and raw materials, design, make & test their paper airplanes, fly them on a duct tape runway as they sell them to customer, track their actual sales and expenses and create a mini-income statement.  The game is played in 5 rounds so teams can improve their process and design as the game progresses.

The second one is a real Lemonade stand business.  Depending on how many kids are in the program, this can be done as a single team lemonade stand or a multiple team lemonade stand competition. The kids run a real-life lemonade stand in which they raise funds for a cause such as a scholarship fund for the youth entrepreneur program. They must come up with a name, theme, branding, marketing, what they are selling, define the roles and everything needed to create a successful lemonade stand operation.  Post 6 of 6 will focus more deeply on how these 2 real life business experiences can be used in a youth entrepreneurship program.

These 5 things are included in the More Than a Lemonade™ youth entrepreneurship curriculum and have proven successful in teaching young entrepreneurs. Julie Ann Wood has been working with young entrepreneurs for more than 10 years and is the author of the More Than a Lemonade Stand™ book, You’re Never Too Young to Start a Business e-book and the creator of the Biz Ops Game™. To learn more about the curriculum, programs and how to work with Julie visit: www.eseedling.com .