Like any dad, I want to do everything I can to prepare my young daughters, Sarah and Annalise, for the lives that lie ahead of them. This includes teaching them right from wrong, how to stand up for themselves, how to always act with integrity, the value of education, good eating habits, the importance of exercise and the many other valuable lessons of life.
I consider the lessons of entrepreneurship to be tremendously valuable as well. The reason is that my daughters will grow up in the United States. They will derive their livelihoods from within a highly competitive, technology-dependent, capitalist economy. The skills they will need to thrive map remarkably close to the skills that help entrepreneurs thrive.
Moreover, if the trend in entrepreneurship continues at even a quarter of it’s current pace, the opportunities available to those confident in the art and science of entrepreneurship will be tremendous. The thesis is that by the time my daughters are 20-somethings, their experience and comfort with entrepreneurship could be a distinct advantage — maybe sooner! 😉
Sarah and Annalise are not relevantly different from millions of other kids who are also facing headlong into a new future where entrepreneurship will be a viable opportunity for so many more than it ever has been. Of course, not everyone will, or should, or can, become an entrepreneur — if everyone is a founder then not much work is gonna get done. But if you have kids and you want them to have all possible choices available to them then, I propose, it’s smart to prepare them to understand and operate in an evermore entrepreneurial world.
We have been working together for more than 18 months on our entrepreneurial project and that project has resulted in a Kickstarter project for a pet product we developed together.
Here’s an incomplete list of some of the skills I think the girls are learning:
- critical thinking, decision making and problem solving
- team work and cooperation
- public speaking
- interpersonal communication
- how businesses are built and run
- how technology can solve problems
- how technology can cause problems
- why design is important
- what a spreadsheet is
- what a financial model is
- how manufacturing, fulfillment and order management works
Some of the impacts I’ve seen in my daughters through this entrepreneurial experience include:
- increased confidence and self-esteem
- responsibility and leadership
- patience and perseverance
- delayed gratification
Importantly, these skills, lessons and experiences are coming through actually doing entrepreneurship, not through lectures or text books.
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
I’m also on a mission to unleash two powerful women on the world. For me, that means making my daughters understand that they can do anything they choose to do… and that there’s nothing they can’t chose. Seeing themselves create a solution to a problem and to see that solution become a real product brings with it the powerful message that “I can do that… because I did.”
Of course, this a powerful message for any kid to receive, girl or boy. But I think it’s especially important for young girls to get this message, as there is clearly a gender gap in some of the most lucrative and rewarding careers in our economy, including technology, entrepreneurship and leadership.
I know this experience is having an impact on my daughters. I see it in the way they have engaged in the process and taken on the responsibility of the work. I hear it in the way they talk to others about the project.
No one knows if either of the girls will someday be startup entrepreneurs. Frankly, I don’t think it matters. The skills, lessons and experiences of entrepreneurship will be valuable to them both no matter what passion they pursue.
If you were to ask Annalise today what she wants to be, she will not say “entrepreneur.” She will say “veterinarian”. Sarah will say “professional volleyball player”. And that’s how it should be.
Entrepreneurship is not something you do in a vacuum and it’s not something you pursue for it’s own sake. If Annalise is to become a successful entrepreneur, she may very well do so by inventing a new medical device to help horses or launching a chain of on-demand, in-home vet care clinics or the Uber of pet transport services. Perhaps Sarah will be inspired to create the first VR sports competition platform or a DIY publishing platform for young writers.
Empowerment is not turning someone into something. It helping them turn into whatever it is they want to be.
The best part of this experience is that it’s a win/win no matter what happens because the quality time we’re spending together is all the reward that’s necessary for any of us. But preparing them to crush it in the real world is a great side benefit.