GOOD

Rise of the Mini-Preneurs: A Kid-Run Virtual Lemonade Stand To Teach Entrepreneurship

Learning how to be an entrepreneur means kids get to design their own job.


As a serial entrepreneur, I love to start things, to create them, and to build great teams. A few days after starting preschool, my daughter Kylee came home with a drawing of a lemonade stand. It was no masterpiece, but it answered the teacher's question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I was quite sure Kylee had seen a few lemonade stands at the beach that summer, so I figured it was a flashback. However, it now resonates with me that Kylee realized the person selling lemonade was an entrepreneur.

Kylee is now 8-years-old and in third grade. As she and my son have gotten older and become a part of America's formal school system, I've noticed a gap between what they do in school and the world around them. Our kids are being asked to sit in a chair and follow other people's directions all day long. Entrepreneurship is not a part of the curriculum.


Mark Twain said, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." So I can no longer allow schools—with the standardized tests, the required readings, the extra-credit assignments, and the lack of creativity—to interfere with my kids' education. While children are being told to sit in their chairs and listen, Kylee and I are saying stand up and shout!

Because of Kylee's desire to inspire her friends to learn more about entrepreneurship and to make learning fun, exciting, and creative, in 2011 we created a club to teach entrepreneurship—Little Ladies Inventing Fun Through Entrepreneurship. There are many clubs and activities— from chess clubs to dance teams—that little girls can join—and the skills they learn there may get them a job—but learning how to be an entrepreneur means they design their own job. Over the past year ILIFTE has taught the basics of business concepts to girls in Kylee’s class and shown them that learning to become an entrepreneur means that you get the life that you want and do what you love.

But of course, since she is an entrepreneur, Kylee is dreaming bigger. She came up with the idea for a place where many more children—girls and boys—can learn what she and her pals are learning. Together we’re starting an online playground, Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand, to teach the concepts of entrepreneurship to mini-preneurs— kids between the ages of 6 and 10-years-old—around the world.

As a global hub of innovation, Tomorrow's Lemonade Stand will provide access to high quality, age-appropriate online learning materials and courses designed to elevate kids' interest in entrepreneurship. It will feature games inspired by the experiences of lLIFTE’s pilot year and the many discussions the girls have had about starting companies. But Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand will be more than just a gaming site. It will be a safe and fun environment where children can share ideas, explore creativity, and learn basic business skills.

While learning about money and teamwork is critical, learning how to be creative, take risks, and figure out your passions is equally important at such an early age. And since one of the cornerstones of our work is empathy, in every exercise we try to help kids learn what it feels like to be in someone else's shoes.

My passion to see Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand come to life stems from my knowledge that the world is quickly changing. In his book, Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin referenced research from Nobel prize–winning economist Michael Spence detailing the difference between "tradable jobs (doing things that could be done somewhere else, like building cars, designing chairs, and answering the phone) and non-tradable jobs (like mowing the lawn or cooking burgers)." Godin says there’s no question "that the first kind of job is worth keeping in our economy," but Spence's research found that, "from 1990 to 2008, the U.S. economy added only 600,000 tradable jobs."

Godin focused on the larger issue:

"If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, he will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do."

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As a parent and educator, I am compelled to stop this. The only real solution is to foster entrepreneurship. So, in order to turn this dream of teaching all kids how to be entrepreneurs into a reality, Kylee and I have put Tomorrow's Lemonade Stand on Kickstarter, We need help converting our prototype to production-ready models, getting regulatory approval, delivering developer kits and more.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "I'm a great believer in luck, and the harder I work, the more I have of it." People like to think that some entrepreneurs who make it big are lucky. The truth is it takes effort and guts to succeed. And it's clear to me that entrepreneurs are creative. They take risks. They find a passion and stick to it. Tomorrow's Lemonade Stand will allow kids to be inspired by their own dreams, motivated by their own passions, and willing to face challenges with confidence.

Click here to add supporting Tomorrow's Lemonade Stand on Kickstarter to your GOOD "to-do" list.

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