“Is There An Entrepreneur In The House?”
I have a very good friend who is an accomplished concert pianist. She once told me that she never pushes her two children into the music world, because she feels that if they do find their way into music, it needs to be their own decision, by their own accord. She won’t even teach them!
In listening to my friend’s perspective, two things grew abundantly clear: One, my friend holds a wonderfully kind and understanding approach to what some may consider a very “sensitive” parenting issue. And two, I realized that I AM THE COMPLETE AND UTTER POLAR OPPOSITE.
I am always pushing my four children into business, and I am not afraid to admit it! But before I get myself written off as the “pushy-mom” stereotype, I would like to clarify that I do draw a very distinct line between “advising” and “investing” in my children’s business ventures.
I won’t lie. The day they came to me about opening their First Lemonade Stand, I could hardly contain my excitement. We sat down to discuss the idea, and worked together to draw up a rough business plan.
“Location is key,” I told them. “Where do you plan to open your stand?”
“Duhh,” came the reply, “in front of the house of course!”
I argued that we live on a quiet side street in New York. How much profitable patronage could they expect to attract with such low visibility? After huddled discussion, the four of them concluded that 86th Street at the entrance to Central Park was prime real estate. I agreed.
“Cool!” they exclaimed. “Let’s go!”
I shook my head. “Nope, there are a few more steps we have to go through first.”
Next, we discussed products. There were a number of things they wanted to sell – lemonade, rice krispy treats, brownies, cookies. I convinced them to start out with two main products, both for inventory purposes and in the interest of maintaining top-shelf quality. Appeal gradually to customers, build interest before expanding. They decided on lemonade and cookies to start.
“Great! Let’s get started!” they said.
And I shook my head again. “Have you guys considered that you are going to need an investor?”
At this, my children just stared at me, bewildered. I wanted to laugh but I instead played it cool. “No, this is really important. You aren’t allowed to use my stuff. This is my kitchen and these are my ingredients, and I am not selling them to you, nor am I giving them to you. NOTHING and NO THING can be taken from this house, so someone has got to get to the store.”
A moment of silence passed, after which my children nominated me as their sole major investor. I politely declined. They went to their father and asked him to invest, an offer which he politely declined. “I am not fond of high-risk ventures,” he cited as his reasoning. “I do not feel that there is enough of a track record here to merit such a substantial investment.”
My disgruntled children finally found an investor in their young, hip uncle, who immediately said he would loan them the money – interest free.
With a budget in tow and supplies on the way, they defined their roles – cooking, manning the booth, advertising – their workflow, and a timetable.
“Now,” I said, “you’re ready.”
In a very short period of time, they had racked up $140 plus in profits, and The First Lemonade Stand went on to be a profitable first venture. I also took great pride as a mother and as an entrepreneur that I had been able to provide a good Business 101 course for them.
The final lesson in this series came to light in an organic fashion. 3 out of 5 buyers would ask the kids at their stand what the money was for. Was it for the Cancer Society? The Red Cross? Their college funds, perhaps?
When they asked me how to reply to such a question, I said, “Just be honest. Our family believes strongly in charitable causes. But this money is for you, and don’t be ashamed to say so. Money is great. And it’s NOT a dirty word!”