Last summer, I began working with my then 10-year-old twin daughters, Sarah and Annalise (now 12), on an entrepreneurial project. It has been (and continues to be) one of the most personally rewarding experiences I’ve ever had as an entrepreneur and as a dad.
Even before last summer, Sarah and Annalise had a vague understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and they know that’s what daddy does. They know that the work of entrepreneurs is building businesses.
They know that dad tries to help other entrepreneurs through mentoring, advising, speaking and writing. They know what Techstars is and they love visiting the Techstars offices (although I think part of that is the massive stash of snacks on hand during the program.)
They’ve sat in a few Startup Weekend events and interacted with several of the teams at the Startup Weekend Women’s event last year. They also used to love hanging out at Student RND when they had their youth hacker space in Bellevue.And now they know what the words “customer development” mean. Because we did it, together.
They now also know what a spreadsheet is, how web sites get built, what a patent is and why it matters where is a product is manufactured. And a LOT more.
It all started when Annalise, Sarah and I were walking our dog, Lola, one day. Like clockwork, Lola pooped. I asked “who’s gonna pick that up?” The giddy answer was “dad!”
I was resigned to do my duty (dooty?) as a dad and pick up the poop. Jokingly, I told the girls that if I had to pick it up then they at least had to carry the nasty bag. The predictable response was an enthusiastic, “Ooo… no way!… gross!”
I couldn’t blame them. It really is gross. It’s also a constant distraction — whenever I’m carrying a poop bag, I’m constantly thinking about finding a place to dump off that bag. Once I do get rid of it, the distraction is immediately gone and I can enjoy the walk again.
Not to be melodramatic but it really does feel like a weight being lifted from my mind. As a chronic entrepreneur, that sounds like a “pain point”, a problem crying out to be solved.
I saw this as an opportunity to challenge the twins to think about a solution to the problem of carrying poop around… and directly experience what it means to think like an entrepreneur. Thanks to Socrates, we talked about solutions to the problem in the days ahead.
The next week, we went to a major pet retailer and three small pet shops fully expecting to find at least a couple products that would solve this problem. But we didn’t find anything… not one product allowed you to stash the poop bag!
We were able to find a couple of home-grown products by searching Google, but nothing that looked like a commercial product. This was surprising; it seemed like such a natural product. So I called my friend, Shaheed, who runs Oliver’s Pet Care, a successful online pet supply retailer on the Amazon marketplace. Surely he’d know of some commercial products. Nope… he’d never heard of one.
We finally did find a commercial product by reaching out to another colleague of mine who invented the very clever novelty product DogSnorz, a set of humorous pillowcases for dog lovers. He offered to scout for similar products at a major pet products show he was heading to. He found just one product; a hard-shell poop case with a shoulder strap — yes, that’s right, you WEAR that nasty bag of poop!!! Yuk!
Ok… so there should be a better solution for this problem… and at a minimum there was at least some entrepreneurial lessons to be learned (and some fun to be had) by trying to come up with something better. And that’s just what we did.
Exposing my daughters to the lessons of entrepreneurship has been one of the most rewarding fatherly experiences I’ve ever had. And that experience continues! We’re now working on a Kickstarter project to continue with our entrepreneurial journey.
I know that the girls have learned a lot; and virtually none of it can be found in any school curriculum. Best of all, they are learning by doing.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
— Confucious, 5th Centure BCE
We’ve all three learned a lot. Somewhat unexpectedly, I’m pretty sure I’ve actually learned more then they have. And there’s much more ahead. I am gathering all the lessons we’re learning and will publish those for other entrepreneur dad’s and mom’s who have in interest in sharing their passion and experience as an entrepreneur with their kids.