Lately, I've been thinking and writing about entrepreneurship. Not so much in terms of how I define wisdom entrepreneurs in this blog, but in terms of individuals taking the journey of building something from nothing, to meet a need.
It's fascinating to see the different faces. This is the first of three posts about entrepreneurs who I've had the pleasure of talking to this year.
Are entrepreneurs born or made? Either way, I love it when I can see the natural talent early on.
"Emily" is starting sixth grade. I first saw her hand drawn catalog of services and products, with the title, "Mini Mag", on the food table at a friend's summer party. Her mother and father were not at the party, but instead another friend, Gina, had brought her. Gina has been getting together with Emily once a week, serving as a mentor. Emily is a quiet child who soaks up everything. She's the sort of child who could easily be forgotten in the corner, yet the wheels are constantly turning in her mind. I gave her a few bits of advice--listening for the pain point of your customer and identifying profit margins. She got it right away.
When I looked through Emily's Mini Mag, I was struck by several things:
- She had detailed a range of products and services, from foot rubs and manicures, to cards for any occasion, to "Claymania" animals and flowers made from pipe cleaners and beads, to small posters and finger puppets. She had samples of some of her products on display. I could see in her catalog the answer to the question, "What can a 10-year old make or do that would have value for someone else?" This was much more than a typical lemonade stand.
- Throughout her catalog, she had included selling techniques that are taken for granted in the adult world, but no one expects a kid to come up with. Things like a frequent buyer program, coupons for buy one, get one free and grouping items by season (e.g., Father's Day and Fourth of July.)
- And finally, her customer service mindset came through in small phrases throughout the catalog, from "Have a relaxing day" on the spa services page, to "We will try to amaze you with our cards" on the cards page, to offering to make custom orders on the Father's Day page. I particularly liked when she listed on the Claymania page things she could make, finishing with "Anything your mind desires."
You can't teach kids this stuff. Sure, they can see it around them--on television commercials and store displays. But to have the inspiration, motivation, and imagination to apply what they see is another matter.
If Emily is doing this as a kid, what will she be doing in college or afterward? I talked to Emily's older brother, who just graduated from high school, about his sister's entrepreneurial endeavors. His face broke out with a smile and he said, "Yeah, I don't know where she gets it. It's crazy." I'm sure he's been seeing for years what I was just discovering--an entrepreneur in the making.
I'm convinced that how quickly she finds success and to what extent will depend on opportunities, encouragement, and mentoring along the way.