Entrepreneurship — some people just don’t get it

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I heard a story this week that raised my blood pressure and left me fuming at another great injustice. Unfortunately there is very little I can do about it. Kicking the dog would not be PC (and after all, it’s not her fault); stamping my foot makes me feel like a child and waving my fist in the air while shouting at the universe… well, it didn’t do anything the last few times so that’s out too. So instead, I’m venting through my keyboard.

The story goes as follows. A friend of ours has an 8 year old daughter who attends a private school. This amazing little child has been running a mini-spa business in the after-care center. She offers the other children mini-facials, neck massages and nail treatments for which she charges R2 each. Now as I’m hearing this story I’m seriously chuffed. Firstly, if you read the biographies of some of the great businessmen(women) of our time, something they have in common is the fact that they were all running various small businesses at school, including paper routes, comic book sales, and tuck shops. Secondly, I have two daughters (one of whom is eight), and I have begun teaching them the basics of pocket money, business and earning some extra cash. In fact, I’ve been talking to them about starting a small business at school.

To continue, this amazing young entrepreneur comes to her mom the other day and says “Mommy, my business is getting so busy, I need to employ someone to help me. Can you please draw up a contract for me?” Doesn’t that just blow you away? It did me — I was gob-smacked. Sadly, that’s where the good news ends. Turns out the principal of the primary school hears about this little enterprise, goes to the eight year old directly, and tells her to stop this immediately or she will be expelled. And that’s where I waived my fist at the universe!

Forget about the grossly inappropriate behavior of the principal who threatened an 8 year old with expulsion without speaking to her parents, but what has that done to her spirit, let alone her entrepreneurial spirit and drive? Way to crush a nation lady!?!

Some of us spend loads of our time encouraging entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, since we understand that entrepreneurship and small business is the only way to start changing South Africa’s bleak unemployment picture. We all know this. Big business cannot save us! We have to get people to start businesses and help those businesses to grow. It starts when you are young though – learning to identify opportunities, how to manage money and learning the basics of business. Remember, I don’t mean be money obsessed. I simply mean gaining an understanding of how things work and getting you to pay your way earlier in life.

Kids want toys, my girls are learning that they can earn money and save up for the bigger toys they want — so they don’t have to depend on birthdays and Christmas. It’s a great place to start. It’s the same lesson if they want a horse, a gaming console or anything of value. Think creatively and they can earn it. But here’s a kid who has that figured out and the best response the world has for her is stop it or have your academic future marked in shame forever. Shame on you Miss Principal! You’ve just let us all down.

In a time when so many schools are starting entrepreneur days for kids to make products and sell them to other learners — teaching them the basics of a business – you would think this principal would know better. I’ve heard far better examples where schools have used an empty classroom to accommodate such young entrepreneurs; even stories of schools who let a pupil buy and run the tuckshop. The education those kids got from their endeavours is far more valuable in the real world than reading another chapter of Fiela se Kind (but that’s only my opinion). But it certainly is a better approach, understanding the task ahead for all of us and using an innovative approach to nurture and encourage a brilliant young talent.

In the mean time, I’ll keep teaching my kids about business and how to make it in the world in which we find ourselves. And I’ll wait until it’s my child they tell to stop this entrepreneurial stuff or be expelled… I guarantee I’ll do a lot more than wave my fist at the universe!

Image: Bigstockphoto

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