Teaching Entrepreneurship to Kids - Does It Even Make Sense?

Some people dream of starting their own business, even from a young age. I was never one of them....

Ling Lim on July 23, 2018

Some people dream of starting their own business, even from a young age. I was never one of them. Never wanted to be my own boss. And yet here I am, running my own little company.

I'm actually pretty careful when talking about entrepreneurship and I don't propagate it. I don't believe that everyone needs to be or should be an entrepreneur. And to some extent, I think wanting to become an entrepreneur risks becoming a hype - the "in-trend" career path.

But what I do believe in, is the value of the entrepreneurial mindset, and that it is important to inculcate and develop it young.

Last month, I was invited to mentor and judge an entrepreneurship workshop for young adults aged 18 to 25. And of course, there was also our Smarter Me Bootcamp, where young teens (aged 10 to 17) worked in teams to develop their own business ideas.

As you scroll down, you'll see 4 of the winning ideas and their value propositions from the two separate workshops:





Can you tell which are by the teens, and which are by the young adults?

I'm not going to spoil it for you yet (the answer is right at the end of this post), but let's just say that it cemented my belief that kids are imaginative at heart, and are poised to create future businesses that are sustainable and do good. What they need are adults who would guide and mentor, not dismiss and invalidate.

"Why give them false hope? It's not that easy, most people fail."

"They are just playing, they won't have time to make it work, what with the pressure of schoolwork."

Many fellow parents have said that, and the truth is, they may be right. But remember, teaching our kids about entrepreneurship is not about having everyone become entrepreneurs, it's about inculcating the growth mindset. In fact, I believe these are the 5 key takeaways for kids who learn about entrepreneurship:

1. They will learn that ideas are cheap, and execution (hard work) makes the difference

It's not all Tony Robbins pep talk here. 90% of entrepreneurs fail even with a great idea. During the bootcamp, the kids just had to look around them for proof. Teams who slacked off often could not deliver - it was clear from their pitches - versus the hardworking teams that went above and beyond, even prepared revenue & cost estimates!

Image result for execution over ideation

2. They will learn to be resourceful

In assessing an idea, the starting point is to research the market size and growth potential. Googled "size of plus size young women in Singapore" and can't get the number? What about going to Singstat, finding the number for Singaporean females aged 20-35, and then finding the % of Singaporeans considered overweight and coming up with an estimate?

Image result for it's not about resources it's about resourcefulness

3. They will learn to listen to people's views

Talk to your customers. This is always a fun segment because they are challenged to get out of their comfort zone and actually test their idea with strangers. They have to question, dig deep, ask "Why", listen to "Why not". And after that, they have to analyze and synthesize the feedback and incorporate it into their idea!

4. They will learn to adapt to changes

In both workshops, the young founders received advice and mentorship from adults. They were given the harsh truth - why this product wouldn't sell, why they need a better value proposition, why they need to rethink their target audience. The intention was simple - to challenge them to think deeper, beneath the grandiose idea. To morph their idea into something actionable (that adults wouldn't laugh at).

But the reaction from the 2 groups of young founders? Such a stark difference.

The kids and teens actually took to suggestions open-mindedly and adapted and tweaked their proposals. A game won't sell? Put an educational spin on it and market it to teachers to incorporate gamification into learning. It'll be too tough to sell an app house to house? Let's work with the relevant ministry and corporates instead. They were sponges,  absorbing feedback and making it work for them. And when one team realized that their initial idea was weak, they gamely said "Let's re-think and come up with something else".

The young adults? Well, I overheard a few of them grumbling that "Everyone gives us different views! Don't even know who to follow! So confusing!"; and another confided in me, "My idea was laughed at. I don't understand why they just can't see (its value)".

It was such a contrast! And it just goes to show that students with developed innovative thinking skills will be much more adaptable to future events, as they will be able to apply their agile thinking to new circumstances and arrive at reasoned conclusions, compared to students who have been taught to just memorize and apply.

Image result for adapt to changes quote

5. They dare to speak up and stand out

Those with an entrepreneurial mindset are always thinking of new ways to do things, which means they are ruffling feathers and are bound to be at odds with someone. But they will also have the courage to voice their opinions, the confidence to question and debate, even if doesn't get them the favourite vote.

Ultimately, going for entrepreneurship courses or camps doesn't make them an entrepreneur. It's also not a decision they need to make instantly.

But will they be more innovative, creative, brave, communicative? Will they be mentally stronger and have a more agile mindset to cope with changes and challenges? Will they dare to question the status quo, and be bold enough to change the world into a better place?

My vote is Yes.


Tuitor, J Caterer: Young adults (18 - 25 year olds)

Karefriid, Unchain: Teens (13 and 15 year olds)


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Ling Lim

Posted by Ling Lim