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Ask HN: How to raise kids as entrepreneurs?
12 points by koonsolo on Nov 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments
I have 3 kids (the oldest one is 5), and a niece of 9 that I care much about. I believe that making and selling products is something that is both mentally and financially rewarding, and something that they don't teach you in school.

In my ideal world, all 4 of them would build their own company selling a product that lies within their passion.

My plan is to set aside Sunday afternoon to 'build stuff'. Probably LEGO for a long time since they are still young. And maybe later let them blog about the progress. Are there any of you who also want to raise entrepreneurs? If so, how do you do it?

Wouldn't you be proud of one of your children if they became a teacher?

Proud of a second for embarking on a career as a pilot?

And the third for running a hospital well?

One of the things I've learned watching children grow to adulthood is that their lives unfold wonderfully and unpredictably, and what I thought was important for a five year old turned out to be less important than what they thought, as a five year old, was important.

Build Legos on Sunday afternoons just for the sake of building Legos and being in the moment with your children. That's what matters.

Good Luck.

The most important thing to me is that they can do what they love every day, and make a living out of it. And that can indeed be teaching or any other job if they wish.

But school already has a system for that, if they want to go down that road. I want to provide them with another option, the one of building and selling their own creations. But it needs to be fun an playful indeed.

I'm definitely enjoying playing Legos with them, backing pizza's and last weekend building a house in Minecraft with my oldest :).

I want my daughter to do whatever she wants. (Although even I was relieved when 'Bathroom Designer' fell off the table).

She has told me in no short order that she wants to be A) a kid doctor, a doctor for kids. B) a rock star C) a restaurant owner D) a zookeeper E) an actress F) an MMA fighter G) an engineer H) a conductor (of trains) etc.

My daughter is six, I could care less if she wants to be a rock star in her twenties, if she wants to go to college to be an architect, an engineer, or if she wants to move to Hollywood and go for success as an actor. The only thing I want her to do is be happy. In the mean-time, she gets dance lessons, karate lessons, music lessons, soccer practices. We recently went to see her favorite rock band live. The only thing I push her into doing is finding out who she is, and being a good person.

Now I'm sure you're doing much of the above (except rock concerts but hey, 'I'm a 'hip' dad'), however my point is you can't say entrepreneur and expect that to happen, but you can expose them to things that will boost their creativity, and show them what entrepreneurship has done for YOUR life. They will take all of these factors into consideration as they grow up. Don't set their time aside. Just make it a part of their lives. Of course, it's good for you to set time aside out of your own schedule but that's because we're adults and we have schedules to stick too oh hrumph busy busy. Just be their dad (& uncle!) and show them what you are passionate about, it will probably rub off on them.

My background: I've been teaching math and science for 20 years, and I have a 3 year old of my own.

Brief thoughts: It's not so much about a Sunday afternoon event, as it is for how they see their world every day. So: Tell them when they ask insightful questions. Answer every question they ask about how things work, sparing them no detail they're interested in hearing. (Spare them harsh realities for a while. Be honest about the fact that people die, but don't dwell on that.)

Give them big principles at a young age - principles of science such as identifying questions, gathering evidence, testing ideas, being open to new ideas and refinements of ideas that work. Tell them that heat is a thing and cold is the absence of heat, light is a thing and darkness is the absence of light. Help them see that everything that exists was developed by someone - avoid using the vague "they". Say "European scientists just landed a probe on a comet!" That's much more powerful than "they". People who can say who "they" is can influence the world.

All that said, rituals like a weekly time dedicated to making things together is a wonderful idea. People will remember the daily perspective they grew up with, and they'll remember the rituals we immersed them in. The greatest gift we can give our kids is exposure to many experiences, and the willingness to dive into the things they love.

I am 21 right now and am an entrepreneur. I am in a start up which started about a year ago. One thing I can tell you from my perspective is that my parents never encouraged me to be an entrepreneur. I think subconsciously the school teaches you if you want to be an entrepreneur or not. I learned that I would be a great entrepreneur from all the group projects I was leading ever since I was young. All the other kids would want to make me the "leader" and that encouraged me to take action. Also from my peers in college, they told me the dreadful stories of working in a big company. Many universities have entrepreneurship classes (believe it or not).

You should be happy whatever your child wants to do with his/her life. Whether it be an entrepreneur or flipping burgers in the streets. I think as a parent, it's your job to open doors for the child. Show them there is more than working for a big company, expose them to different roads. Then LET them choose what they want to be.

It's cool that you want to set aside Sunday's afternoon to "build stuff", but I would say also take them for "sports club", "art school", "music school". Don't limit them to what you want to be, open doors for them.

Keep in mind you can't force it on them . . . that said it starts with little things . . .

Growing up all I heard was go to college and work for a company. That's a good backup plan but keep being a founder in the forefront of their mind.

The office I used to work at the owner brings his dog in the office on Fridays . . . my son and wife came by for a visit one Friday . . . even though my son was 6 when he left the office with me the first thing he asked was 'why can they bring their dog to work' . . . I explained that he owned the company and could make the rules . . . and that he earned more money by starting and owning the company than any of the employees . . . basically just look for teachable moments to get the idea in their head that they can start their own business someday . . . my sons response 'I want to have my own business someday'.

I tell him about creating apps and products, being your own boss, that working for someone else you can only make so much money, having your own business can enable you to work flexible hours and make more money to provide for your family in the future and you make the rules and get to pick what you work on.

I also keep a running list of videos, podcasts and articles to share with them when they are older . . . things that will still be relevant in 10 years . . . and I've shared my views with my wife, family and friends so they can point him in the right direction if something happens to me.

I know not everyone can be an entrepreneur but I think it's a good idea to groom this generation that it's an option if they are interested and groom them to have the skills.

Good luck . . .

As a few people have pointed out, don't try to make entrepreneurs. But you seem to be on the right track to be a good parent which is what counts!

As I have pointed out in other posts, I am a serial entrepreneur. My mother and father, also both serial entrepreneurs, did not set out to make me an entrepreneur. They did spend a lot of time with me and my brother. I remember fondly going to the build out of a new store with my mom, or to my dads office, or sweeping (some of the businesses were actually not technical, and required a lot of sweeping, which I did, for a little spending money). My parents went to every one of my brothers baseball games and helped me with every science project and paper and "invention faire". When I grew to the point where I was starting a company and needed advice I would call my parents and the answer would often be something like "Remember the time when we had to balance the books in the store when so and so was stealing? This seems similar." And the light bulb in my brain would go off and off I would go, knowing what I needed to know to handle the situation I was in because of the experiences they had given me. It wasn't forced or "do this so you can be a good business man someday," it was far more of a situation of "hey, would you like to hang out and help around the shop today? I am making a piece for a client and could use a hand."

One other small point. My parents were and are still very wealthy. I grew up in a wealthy area. My friends always had allowances and such. My parents on the other hand never allowed me or my brother to have a dime we didn't work for. Many important lessons were learned from that. I remember as all of my Freshman Spanish class mates left for Spain and I couldn't afford the trip even though I know my parents could have easily popped down the $1000's in cash for it. Can you imagine the business acumen I have now gained from having financial experiences like that? I am grateful every day for them. (And I have made it to Europe on my own many many times at this point, so I am not left out).

The point is, be a parent and make experiences with your kids and nieces and nephews. Don't try to force it. I am now an entrepreneur, my brother is an executive at a large, Fortune 25 company. Build Lego's on Sunday's and be happy to know that in 20 years your kids will say, "I am so glad I got to build lego's on Sunday's with my parents".

As a wantrepreneur, I feel I'd have been less hesitant about it if I had the following in my childhood:

- social activities (such as sports, competitions, workshops, cultural activities) that might have given me better socialization skills, since business always involves getting along with people you may never even know

- better persuasion and communication skills, for the same reason

- taught to plan and manage, even earn, my finances

- resources to make things (electronics, mechanical, woodworking, metalwork)

On the other hand, one thing I did get as a child, and which I'm very grateful for, was an environment filled with knowledge and books on wide range of subjects (this was before the Internet). That helped me build wide interests, and the business ideas I work on right now are totally unrelated to my formal education.

I try to teach my kids (age 6, 8, 9) both technology and entrepreneurship, but not necessarily together.

We do LEGOs, programming, robotics camps, etc.

But they also have a great time with their own little business. We have a huge garden and every week or two, they put all the extra produce in their wagon, walk around the neighborhood, and sell it. They usually make between $20 and $80 (when you're cute, $2 for a lemon is an easy sell). I love that it teaches them skills beyond entrepreneurship (math, conversation skills, money, etc.).

Here's one of them in action: http://instagram.com/p/tyEpthi9oZ/

First, you can't force them to be entrepreneurs and you shouldn't. Second, entrepreneurship is not limited to making and selling products. If you want to prepare your children for the possibility of being entrepreneurs, make sure they are exposed to thinking about business. Read books about some company founders with them. For many people, the idea that they could start a business is something they never are exposed to. Try to give them a well rounded exposure to life and teach them to be observant and critical thinkers. Most importantly, try to encourage them to be active doers rather than passive consumers.

I think if they can understand the concept of measurable outcomes i.e., how will you know that x has happened (answer: something like “because i can see/hear/do/feel etc. y many things”) – that’s a huge win.

To me understanding this concept is the foundation of everything. How you achieve this mindset is then a matter of tactics, whether that's LEGO or anything else.

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