Best Practices for Youth Entrepreneurship?

I love teaching people just how they can be entrepreneurs, but often cringe when I see parents pushing a student in that direction. My general answer for the past 10 years on the subject of youth in entrepreneurship has been simple:

Let kids be kids. 

Plenty of time for them to grow up, not much time to be a kid.

That has been my strategy and I think of so many youth who have been offended by that. I don’t want to see a 9 year old business mogul, I want to see a 9 year old learning how to ski moguls with their friends. We have a lot of extremely driven youth, and the last thing you want to tell a talented young person is that they don’t matter yet or they are too young to play the game of business.

Last night I was on a call with a local school that really pushes entrepreneurship, which was super impressive. The discussion drifted to what the students need, and a lot of the others were saying that the students need to know that failure is ok and that they need to tackle big challenges. For the first time in years I felt my position changing from “we shouldn’t push youth to startups” to something much different:

We should push the youth to know what launching something is. 

For me, the best thing you can do for someone that is young and trying to get into the world of entrepreneurship is to push them to own a project that has a challenge but a high success rate. Teaching ominous failure teaches them to stay away, but giving them the feeling of launching and seeing people use their product is the gateway that is needed.

We need to empower, not overwhelm. Give them the spark and make it fun, but don’t teach something that is a 98% failure rate without a firm grasp on the long-term outlook of those lessons.

I look back on my school days and really value the classes that pushed me to throw a concert, school dance, or retreat. Have kids fix something they know. Get them to fall in love with the process, or even better get them to realize that they are empowered to fix a problem at school, or later in life, that they see fit!

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