Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Young Entrepreneurs

Occasionally, something brings to mind one of my three sons' (plural) first venture into entrepreneurship—running the summer concession stand at the neighborhood swim club to which we belonged in their grammar school years. I fronted the money to purchase cases of junk food and sodas, and they were responsible for selling the products at the pool's concession stand. We kept track of P&L figures in a notebook on the kitchen table, the goal being not so much to make a profit but to learn a bit about running a business, being responsible, keeping commitments, and other Dad-type agenda items. I can't remember how it all ended—whether I got my investment back or how much they learned or made. But it was a good exercise in . . . something (like learning that being the owner has its privileges—like "free" candy?). And they were entrepreneurs for a summer. And have each risked capital as adults in various ways and made a few dollars doing it.

Ran into a few more budding entrepreneurs lately—even younger than my sons.

While riding my bike a few days ago, I passed a house with the proverbial lemonade stand in the front yard, "girled" by three young businesswomen. It was a terrible location on a busy street in a yard totally hidden from one direction by trees, and nowhere to stop except their driveway. This is a road I always ride to the end of, then turn around and go back the same way, so I knew I'd be passing their house again. Before I arrived the second time, I stopped my bike and pulled out a couple dollars from my biker's wallet to give them when I got to their house. I declined the lemonade but told them "way to go" for running their stand. They didn't quite understand when I just gave them money but didn't take the lemonade, but when I told them just to put the money in their money box they said, "Okay!" (Never turn down money—even when the customer doesn't want the product. His loss, your gain.)

Yesterday, I heard a tentative knock on my front door. The knocker was a young guy around eight years old, accompanied by a pal and what looked like a little sister. He asked if I wanted to buy a copy (for fifty cents) of the comic book he was writing. He had finished his manuscript (he showed it to me) and was taking orders. He would make copies and deliver them the next day. "Heck yeah," said this writer to the other. "Hold on while I get fifty cents." Two quarters and a sign-up later, he had the money and I had an eight-year-old's promise. Today, the budding writer/publisher/marketer showed up with my copy of his two-page, hand-drawn, hand-written, photo-copied, black-and-white comic—about a greedy kid who learned to share and be generous. Nice theme.

Nice to see these little ones finding their skills and setting out to discover how much said skills are worth in the marketplace. More power to 'em.

1 comment:

  1. What a blur the concession stand summer is in my mind. I remember "running" the stand with the bros, changing money with customers, and occasionally wishing I was playing in the pool.

    But more generally I remember your efforts to include us in work, management, and organization of which the concession stand was just one example. You made sure, before we left home, that we had some experience in managing the affairs of life. And not merely watching from afar-you helped us get our hands dirty.

    Glad to hear your still supporting the introduction of youth to work,