Teaching Entrepreneurship

For years I volunteered my time as a Big Sister to one of Boston’s best, brightest and kindest young ladies I ever had the pleasure of knowing. To say that being a part of her life was an incredible & transformative experience is an understatement. Everyday my little exposed me to a new way of thinking, encouraged me to focus on my goals, and most importantly, kept me grounded.

We always had conversations about school and work, and what she wants to do when she graduates. Her response was that she wanted to go into the medical field and that she loves helping people. Naturally, these things make my heart swell. When I had these conversations with her, I was very conscious not to impose any thoughts or ideologies of my own onto her — for example, I never asked what college she wanted to go to or career she wanted to have, I simply asked what she wanted to do, leaving it open for her to determine what was best for her.

But one morning I asked her a different question  —  do you know what it means to be an entrepreneur? She said no. My little sister watched both her mother and aunt run a family restaurant in her community for just about as long as she can remember. She spent most of her days after-school helping her family count revenue, serve customers, and look through ordering procedures. Yet when asked what an entrepreneur is, she drew a blank. And her experience is not unique. People of all ages struggle to explain, exactly, what it means to be an entrepreneur.

And so many kids share this experience. They have felt the success or downfall of a family venture, have witnessed the trials & tribulations of building something from the ground up, and at young ages have been exposed to the intricacies of running a business. What’s even more ironic is that this common thread is one of the few things that stretches across almost all demographics, continents and cultures. From the mother who does hair at home as an extra source of income, to the farmer who labors tirelessly over their fields, to the heiress who has watched the secrets of her family’s business be passed down generation after generation, being an entrepreneur is one of the few things that almost everyone can relate to.

So why the disconnect? How is it that being an entrepreneur is something we can see but not identify, we can be surrounded by yet not define? As colleges struggle to get students to major or concentrate in Entrepreneurship, students in high school are struggling to understand what it even means. This makes me think that we must develop ways to teach them that being an entrepreneur is not only about creating something faster, smarter, and more efficient, — which is generally how we see it portrayed in the media — but that it’s also about a way of thinking , of being creative, innovative, and solution-oriented.

Whether you are creating your own business venture or helping a family with theirs, providing a third-party service to a business or developing a device that solves a global issue, being innovative is one of the most lucrative skills that you can have today. I believe that the more we nurture this kind of thinking in our youth, the more successes we’ll continue to see in our society, and ultimately, our economy. So how do we inspire more youth to want to be entrepreneurs, or even understand what it means?

Watch this video (and make sure to have the tissue ready)!

My belief is that the disconnect is in the framing. Like Caine’s Arcade, being an entrepreneur can be as simple as believing in something, having enough passion in something and connecting that passion to one other person. When we give youth real-life examples of entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and industries, identify the skills of an entrepreneur and connect that to what they possess, then inspire them to think entrepreneurially, we’ll close that gap.

What are your thoughts? How do you define what it means to be an entrepreneur? Do you consider yourself one? Who are some entrepreneurs that you look up to? Leave a comment or tweet me @valbeeboston!

Learn about these other entrepreneurs!
--> 16 Legendary Women Entrepreneurs by Kristin Chessman
--> 21 Most Successful Black Entrepreneurs Throughout History by Ronald Barba

Check out the rest of Caine's story!
--> From a Movie to a Movement
--> Caine Monroy at TEDxTeen

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