Kid Entrepreneurs Have it Figured Out – Here’s What You Can Learn
Childhood is something we’ve all experienced, but have been forced to leave far behind. By the time we reach our late-20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond, society has all but ripped our childlike qualities out of us and demanded that we conform to core tenets of adulthood. And while growing up and maturing can be good things, there’s something to be said for being a child – full of limitless energy, raw innocence, and unbridled hopefulness. Even as entrepreneurs, there’s a lot we can learn.
The 7 Lessons Kid Entrepreneurs Have to Impart
We seem to think that kids are good for building with Legos, finger-painting, and riding bikes. But if we’re relegating kids to frivolous childhood activities, we’re missing the point. Children have much to teach us about how they think, how they interact with others, and even how they start and grow their own business ventures.
If you’re willing to get on their level for a moment, there are lots of powerful insights to be gleaned from their malleable minds. Let’s explore a few of the top lessons:
1. Stop Making Things More Complicated
Have you ever noticed how children keep things really simple? They don’t need a bunch of complex technology or intricate processes to stay engaged or find fulfillment.
A toddler on Christmas Day is the perfect example of this. Someone can give them a present and they’ll spend more time playing with the box and gift-wrapping than they will with the actual gift. Simple things amuse children and they’re content with little.
As adults, we can’t say the same. Somewhere along the way, we’ve been programmed to fall for something known as the “complexity bias.” This is basically a logical fallacy that causes us to give undue credence to complex ideas, concepts, and projects.
The complexity bias says that, when faced with two competing ideas, we’re most likely to select the one that’s more complex – i.e., the one with a greater number of assumptions, factors, decisions, or regressions.
As entrepreneurs, we’re typically drawn to complex problems over simple ones. If, for example, you notice your business is bleeding money in the sales department, you’re more likely to stress over the cost of the new sales software you’re using, while ignoring the massive amounts of money your employees are spending to dine at fancy restaurants. Or if you’re feeling tired all the time, you’re more likely to schedule a bunch of medical tests than you are to simply get more sleep.
Chaos has a magnetizing effect. We seem to think chaos indicates a greater reward or opportunity when it’s typically just a guise for stress or failure. In most cases, there’s a simpler solution nearby.
The shadow side of the complexity bias is that, when faced with a problem, we often ignore simple solutions because we think they’re too basic to ever work. Children, on the other hand, are quick to embrace the simple. The more willing we are to view challenges through a child’s eyes, the less troublesome our day-to-day duties become.
2. If You Don’t Know How, Learn How
As adult entrepreneurs, we view the world through our own experiences, talents, and skills. If we’ve never done something in the past, we find it highly unlikely that we’ll be able to in the future. We essentially cast concrete molds of ourselves and refuse to change.
Kids, on the other hand, don’t have many past experiences, existing talents, or pre-defined skills. As such, they’re willing to go out and add them. If they don’t know how to do something, they’ll learn how.
Take entrepreneur Robert Nay, Founder of Nay Games, as an example. When he was 14-years-old, he wanted to create his own video game. The only problem was that he didn’t know the first thing about coding. So what did he do? He went to the public library and learned everything he could about coding. In just one month, he wrote 4,000 lines of code and built a game called Bubble Ball, which received 1 million app downloads in just two weeks and overtook Angry Birds as the App Store’s most downloaded free game.
Kids still see the world for what it is: one big learning environment. By taking a page out of their books, we can approach opportunities with more optimism and ambition. Don’t know how to code? Go learn how. Don’t know the first thing about using finding an overseas supplier? Figure it out. Not sure how to hire and lead a team of people? Now’s the time to try.
3. If You Don’t Love It, Why Do It?
As adults, we spend an awfully significant amount of time doing things we don’t want to do. Some of this is just part of being an adult. (Nobody wants to change a baby’s dirty diaper, but it has to be done.) But we also have plenty of say in what we do, and yet we continue to spend hours, days, weeks, and even years doing boring, uninspiring work.
Now contrast this with children. Kids don’t grit their teeth and do things just because they feel like they should. No – kids only participate in things they love.
If a five-year-old is playing baseball and suddenly decides he’s disinterested, he’ll sit down in the infield and start drawing in the dirt. If a child starts a business making and selling lemonade and then realizes he hates the selling part, he’ll stick to making the lemonade and pay his brother to do the selling.
If you aren’t in love with what you’re doing, why are you doing it? It sounds pretty silly when you ask it out loud, but it’s something so many adult entrepreneurs continue to ignore.
No one is telling you to give up on your team or abandon your lemonade stand, but there’s something to be said for reconsidering what you’re doing. If it doesn’t bring you joy, excitement, and meaning, why continue? Find something that does and your entire outlook will change.
4. Build a Business Around a Need in Your Life
There’s no three-step plan for building a business. Every entrepreneur approaches the challenge from a unique angle. However, kid entrepreneurs typically do so out of an area of need.
You’ll rarely, if ever, see a child launch a random business that has nothing to do with their own needs, wants, or interests. Adults, on the other hand, do it all the time. We read about a problem online and, even if we have no personal interest in it, we immediately see dollar signs. Then we chase the problem and try to force-fit solutions. Eventually, the business fails and we wonder what happened.
The best businesses in the world – whether started by kids or adults – are ones that arise out of a need. Take Gladiator Lacrosse as an example. It was started by high school lacrosse player Rachel Zietz when she and her teammates were looking for stronger, higher-quality practice equipment that existing manufacturers couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. She went out and launched her own business to supply sturdier options and her company now does over $1 million in revenue.
Stop looking for problems halfway around the world and build a business around a specific need in your life. Not sure where to begin? Keep a note on your smartphone and write down a few words every time you encounter a problem in your life. Maybe it’s something basic like the bag ripping every time you open a cereal box, to something as complex as an issue with your home’s electrical system. Eventually, you’ll find some solutions to couple with these problems – and that’s where businesses are born.
5. Money Isn’t a Pre-Qualification for Business Success.
As adults, we’ve been exposed to the power of money. And while money does make it easier to build a business, it’s always necessary. Sometimes a lack of money can actually be a good thing – forcing you to be more creative and resourceful. Just ask entrepreneur Farrhad Acidwalla.
When Acidwalla was just 13 years old, he got $10 from his parents. He used this money to launch an online community that was centered on aviation and aero-modeling. Within just a few months, he turned around and sold it to one of the community members for $1,200. A few years later, he took $400 of his earnings and started Rockstah Media, which is now an international, award-winning agency that helps clients with marketing, branding, and web development. The company currently has 42 employees.
If a teenager can launch a business with $10, turn it into $1,200, and then turn around and build an award-winning media agency that employs 42 people, you can do a lot more with the resources you have available at your disposal. Stop waiting for some venture capitalists to give you $1 million and start getting creative.
6. Speak Your Mind
At some point in adulthood, we come to a place where we no longer speak our minds. We sort fall into order and let our position or ranking dictate when we speak, how we speak, and what we say. Kids, on the other hand, don’t really have a filter.
Try asking a four-year-old to do something and he’ll either tell you yes or no – typically in a very matter of fact fashion. When he says no, he isn’t being rude. He’s simply being honest. He isn’t interested – so he’ll wait till he finds something he is interested in.
As an adult entrepreneur, you have to become more comfortable with telling people no when it’s not something that aligns with your skillset or objectives. There are so many opportunities out there that you have to be more selective in waiting for the right ones.
Kids also have a knack for asking for exactly what they want. If a six-year-old wants a Barbie Doll for her birthday, she won’t gently back her way into the conversation – she just states her request. And you know what? She’ll probably get it.
We spend too much time trying to cushion our words or find the right way to say something. And while, yes, there’s a time and place for speaking carefully, there’s something to be said for just coming out and saying precisely what you mean. You’d be surprised how often you end up getting what you need.
7. Go Local
The internet has made the world a much smaller place. You can now find suppliers and partners all around the globe without ever having to travel to meet them in person. But sometimes the best opportunities are right here in your own backyard.
Children seem to have a much more localized view of the world. They prioritize their communities and are more willing to use local suppliers, which ultimately strengthens their neighborhoods.
Cost isn’t the only factor. When building a business, there’s tremendous value in partnering with other people to help them cultivate their own ventures. Sometimes the simple act of working with local partners can spark positive growth and change for all parties involved.
You’re Never Too Old to Learn
They say an old dog can’t learn new tricks, but the good news is that you aren’t a dog. You’re a savvy entrepreneur who has just as much capacity for learning today as you did 15, 20, or 25 years ago. It’s all about mindset.
In entrepreneurship, as in life, it’s important to adopt a permeable frame of mind where you’re willing and ready to learn from anyone who has something to offer. Age shouldn’t matter. Neither should background, ethnicity, gender, or any other surface-level factor, for that matter. This world is full of knowledgeable people who possess unique insights and it’s absolutely imperative that you open yourself up to learning as much as possible from as many people as possible.
You never know when one lesson, principle, or piece of advice will change your entire outlook, viewpoint, or trajectory. Often times, it comes in the most unlikely of individuals – like a kid.
Will you be humble enough to embrace the lessons they teach?