Saturday, 1 December 2012

11 Year Old Entrepreneurs

One of the greatest learning experiences I get to have is through my involvement with Junior Achievement. It is an organization that seeks to inspire and educate children all over the world to be strong leaders in their community.  My role is as an instructor for grade 6 students in a program called "A Business of Our Own". But I often find I do more learning than teaching.

In the "Business of Our Own" program, the students create and run a business over a 5 week period. They are responsible for everything from creating the business idea, drawing up a plan, finding start up capital, buying merchandise and equipment, running the business and deciding what to do with the profits. In the end they come out with a very good taste of what entrepreneurship is all about. 

The last group I had the pleasure of working with went through the process with amazing determination and created a healthy profit in the process. The main lesson I hope they learned is that business isn't just about money and profit, but that it is about how you can have an effect on your life and your community through operating a business.

As I mentioned before though, I often do more learning than the students. This class definitely gave me a lot to reflect on and even pass on to my clients. Here are 3 of the main things any entrepreneur could learn from these students.

1. Excitement is Essential
The smiles and energy that these students showed was contagious. It was obvious that they enjoyed what they were doing and that they had a true desire to succeed. It was such a powerful energy that I brought one of my clients (who was feeling a bit down about his business) to their sale just so he could feed off of their excitement. They put a huge smile on his face and his excitement for his own business returned in minutes.

If you are excited about what you do, it will flow out of you and stick to those around you. Do you want excited employees, customers and co-workers? Then be excited and let them grab onto that energy! (If you can't be excited about what you do, you need a change)

2. Eagerness Earns Opportunity
These kids were all so eager to be a part of the action that it was almost overwhelming. Many times when I was speaking  they would sense that I was about to ask a question and half the class would put their hands up before I had a chance to even ask it! They didn't even care what the question would be, they just wanted to be involved in answering it.

As an entrepreneur  you probably get that gut feeling when an opportunity is on the horizon. Don't wait to see if it all shapes up perfectly before dipping your toes in. Just raise your hand, get ready for it and be there when it arrives!

3. Communication is Key
The class was put into groups according to their responsibilities. Those groups often had to collaborate on tasks needed to run the business successfully. In the first few weeks, the communication just wasn't there and guess how much got done .. pretty much nothing. When they realized the need to work as a team and started talking productively with each other everything turned around. Ideas were shared, plans were made and everything started to rock and roll!

You have a vision and a plan for your company, if you don't communicate it clearly to those involved and to your potential customers you will have a tough time finding success. Know your message, know your methods and know how to communicate it to others. This will build the environment where things can operate smoothly because everyone's expectations and plans are on the same track.

The great thing about this program is handing the kids the tools and being there to advise but allowing them to discover the process and make decisions on their own. They experience in 5 weeks what many entrepreneurs go through in the first year of business. If you ever want to experience the excitement and dedication they bring to entrepreneurship, get involved with Junior Achievement and see how much you can learn from these future leaders.

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