Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 01:30 pm
Are you the kind of parent that gets summoned into the school principal’s office at least once a year to explain why your child has been collecting all the unwanted food items from his peers lunchboxes (and possibly some of the coveted items, too), and setting up a make-shift stall selling them off to the highest bidder? Are you the parent that receives the puzzled look from the head of the grade when the question is asked, “Where does he get this from?”
Lisa Illingworth, co-founder and CEO of FutureProof SA says if your child ticks these boxes, chances are strong they are already showing signs of being an entrepreneur.
These signs all indicate you are raising a little entrepreneur:
Your child does not comply
The most obvious trait of an entrepreneur that is exhibited in the very early years is the ability to question everything. “Coupled with a curious mind and an insatiable need to figure out why things work the way they do, these kids will not conform to a set of social norms because it is expected,” says Lisa. “They will spend energy in unpicking a system and rebelling against it, particularly if it seems irrelevant.”
Box, what box?
Many experts in this space use the phrase, “They don’t fit into the box” as an explanation for the child that exists on the fringes of common thinking and behaviour. “While the child may exhibit this kind of behaviour in certain instances, it is more often the case that the child doesn’t even constrain themselves with a concept such as ‘the box’. This is a phrase and terminology that parents and adults have come up with to better categorise the entrepreneurial child”. Lisa does, however, advise that from the perception of the child, there is no box that they fit into, or don’t. Removing those expectations and even the framework, will allow the freedom for the child to explore their place in the world void of the judgement of adults.
Learning through doing
The word ‘entrepreneur’ comes from the verb ‘to orchestrate’ and this encapsulates much of how entrepreneurs learn and grow. They take action and receive feedback and adjust their approach when taking the next action. “Kinaesthetic or action-based learning is not a common method of teaching and learning in a traditional classroom” Lisa explains. Modes of teaching are typically audio/visual based and linguistic. “An entrepreneur learns by doing, so if your child likes to experiment, dissect, re-engineer or test a concept using an action-based approach they are flexing their entrepreneurial learning muscles.”
““The categories of introvert and extrovert do not apply to entrepreneurship. Extroverts typically gain their energy from being with people and introverts need to be alone to recharge. Neither proclivity are indicators of an entrepreneurial leaning. What is, however, more applicable, is that the child draws on the experiences of others to inform their own decisions. They are able to interact with a multitude of different people and command their attention. They can also glean from their learnings and apply them in their own decisions. They are adept at forming and utilsing a network of diverse individuals,” Lisa explains.
The entrepreneurial child is a relentless opportunist. Where there is a gap or problem to be solved and a means to earn some extra cash, that’s where you’ll find your child. “They may not have the developed moral compass that guides those decisions towards ethical opportunities and may need you to help inform those, but they will almost always be the first to get into trouble for seeing a gap and exploiting it for economic gain,” says Lisa.
Ice to Eskimo’s
The powers of coercion and convincing are strong with this type of child. They are able to string together powerful arguments that will leave you questioning your own rational thoughts. “From vying for an extra piece of cake at a birthday party to reasons why bedtime is at the wrong time, this child is able to rustle up an argument that would put lawyers to shame.”
Forgiveness over permission
Otherwise known as the gift of the hustle, entrepreneurial kids are more likely to take a risk and try something out. If it succeeds, they’ll carry on, and if it fails, they’ll use their strong and safe relationships with parents and teachers to ask for forgiveness. “These actions are not taken with malicious intent or with the intent to harm others. In fact, for the most part, they include an upside for friends and peers, but it’s more than likely without the consent of an adult and quickly followed with an apology,” says Lisa.
Without any formal mentorship or training, these kids take on the leadership role within their classroom or on the playground. In a formal classroom setting, particularly a traditional one, the child may not step up, but in social settings, shows up as the dominant personality and one that others look to for direction. They are good at building social and relationship capital even with other children outside of their immediate age group.
How to encourage your little entrepreneur
“Take the time to find avenues outside of traditional schooling and the token market day for them to explore this purpose. Give them the ability to surround themselves with other like-minded kids where they can feel like they belong and that their seeming idiosyncrasies are not crazy or unwelcome but rather celebrated and rewarded,” Lisa concludes.
About Lisa Illingworth
Lisa is a qualified educator turned entrepreneurial educationalist and co-founder of FutureproofSA, a business designed to catalyse entrepreneurial thinking and action in children across South Africa. She employes over 40 entrepreneurs as coaches. Lisa holds a post-graduate degree in education specialising in curriculum studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. She has written a full curriculum in entrepreneurial studies that forms the foundation for what FutureproofSA teaches children from the age of 6 years old.