Future-Proof Kids Part 1 of 4: The Case for Kidpreneurs

You’ve all heard the news, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page:

INDUSTRIAL 4.0 IS HERE

The next industrial revolution is upon us. Artificial intelligence, 3D printing and blockchains are a few of the many innovations that will change the nature of work: how much we time we spend on it and when, what activities we do, and what skills we need.

Traditionally desirable professions such as law, medicine and banking will require far fewer bodies. Jobs that don’t even exist yet will require floods of talent.

This is a big deal for those of us already in the workforce. It’s an even bigger deal for the next generation: our kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids.

Portfolio careers – a result of the ‘gig economy’ – will mean our children have to cope with far more uncertainty than we have experienced. They will be juggling multiple projects and clients at once. They won’t have years of honing professional skills in a regular job first – they’ll do it from the outset of their working life. That working life will be one of spotting opportunities and acting on them, or struggling.

We don’t know what those opportunities will look like yet, making a job-based approach to education and career advisory defunct. Shifting focus to a skills-based approach will mean they have useful, portable skills no matter what jobs are in demand.

THE EDUCATION GAP

Problem is, we’re still using a school system designed around the original Industrial Revolution. In general, subjects are taught independently, kids are expected to sit at a desk for several hours each day, and the school year culminates in long and laborious exams with all the stress that accompanies such ordeals.

This is a system designed to produce lawyers, doctors and bankers. Not exactly helpful post Industrial 4.0.

So, what skills will be essential in this brave new world? (Spoiler: coding isn’t one of them.) Highest on the list[1] are:

  • critical thinking,
  • written communication,
  • learning, and
  • problem solving.

These are universal skills that will stand our kids in good stead no matter what job they’re doing.

It’s hard to redesign anything, school curriculums included, when we don’t really know what the future will look like. While we’re waiting for the system to catch up, how do we – parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents – help our kids build these skills in a way that will help them adapt to the changing world?

I propose we help them become entrepreneurs.

WHY ENTREPRENEURS?

That list of desirable future skills is exactly what you’d find in a job description for the role of entrepreneur, if such a thing existed.

Problem solving is what inspires most entrepreneurs into their businesses: they spot a problem and seek to fix it. Critical thinking and learning are central to business success. If entrepreneurs don’t analyse their data meaningfully and incorporate consumer feedback into their businesses, failure is all but inevitable. Written communication – writing copy for content and promotion to share via reports, social media, email and blogs – can make or break a business.

This hypothetical entrepreneur job description doesn’t include an age constraint. Many household names in the world of business share a ‘kidpreneur’ past:

  • Warren Buffett hired friends to expand his paper round at 13 years old before moving into pinball machines in barbershops.
  • Melanie Perkins sold her handmade scarves to boutiques in her teens.
  • Richard Branson started ‘Student’ magazine, the origin of Virgin, at 16 years old.
  • Mark Cuban sold garbage bags to pay for a pair of shoes he desperately wanted when he was 12.
  • Estee Lauder sold her handmade beauty creams to salons in her teens.
  • Cameron Herold started his first business, collecting and re-selling coat hangers to dry cleaners at 3.5c each, when he was 7.

Are they simply prodigies, or can entrepreneurship be taught?

84% of small business owners believe the latter[2]. My hypothesis is that by helping kids become entrepreneurs, we can teach them skills that will future-proof them. This addresses the concerns of 92% of small business owners who state we don’t teach our children enough about such things2.

HYPOTHESIS TESTING

In 2017, I worked with 130 ‘kidpreneurs’ from 6 to 17 years old privately and in classrooms, developing a curriculum and providing opportunities for them to sell their products and services at markets.

The results were everything I hoped for and more.

These kidpreneurs are making anything you can think of: lip balm, heat packs, jewellery, potted succulents, slime, music, wands, art, pencil cases, lemonade, protein balls, bookmarks… the list is endless.

They are learning and applying strategies that build those future-proofing skills and will give them the best chance of success in business.

They are also building confidence, developing resilience and, perhaps best of all (in my opinion as a financial educator) they are all saving at least a part of their profits.

START SIMPLE

The good news is, your child doesn’t have to start a business to begin thinking entrepreneurially and building future-proofing skills.

You can start with pocket money.

Instead of paying a fixed amount per week or per chore, encourage them to spot opportunities, propose a solution, and negotiate rates and terms. Make the spotting of the problem the first step.

For example, your child may hear you complain that you can’t see out the windscreen of your car. They could say:

“Mum, I notice your car is really dirty. Can I clean it for you?”

From there, you can negotiate terms – how much you’ll pay, when you’ll pay it, the timeframe to complete the task and the standard to which it needs to be completed. Perfect preparation for the gig economy.

RAISING FUTURE-PROOF KIDS

Through my 130 kidpreneurs, I’ve met parents from all walks of life and in all sorts of careers. The kidpreneurs that build these future-proofing skills most effectively have at least one entrepreneurial parent, which probably comes as no surprise.

I’ve interviewed several entrepreneurial parent-kidpreneur pairs to find out what has led to their kidpreneur’s success. You can apply the lessons these families have learned whether you’re an entrepreneur or not.

I’ll be sharing those lessons in the next three editions of GLOSS, so be sure to check them out.

[1] Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), ‘The New Work Smarts: Thriving in the New Work Order’, July 2017

[2] smallbusinessmatters.net.au

Lacey Filipich

Lacey Filipich is a financial educator, chemical engineer, and non-executive director who started her entrepreneurial journey with a hair wrap business at 10 years old. She is the co-founder and director of two successful start-ups; Money School and Maker Kids Club.

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