Today, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to start a business.
But there’s one group that’s not usually included when we talk about entrepreneurship — and it’s the group with the most potential to learn from the experience of starting a business: High schoolers.
In this rapidly changing world, it’s more important than ever for teenagers to possess the skills that entrepreneurship teaches. Naturally curious, tech savvy, and resilient, teen entrepreneurs can also make the biggest impact.
Of course traditional education is important. And we certainly don’t think that every teenager will – or should – end up being an entrepreneur.
But we do believe that every teenager should experience entrepreneurship. Because entrepreneurship develops crucial skills that will help set them on the right path for their own unique career journey — right from the start. (And don’t tell them we told you, but entrepreneurial experience looks pretty great on their college applications, too.)
An entrepreneurial experience powers your teenager’s potential by teaching them these important skills.
1. How to Create Value out of an Interest or Passion
The first two years of the college experience are focused on helping students figure out what they want to pursue in life: Which subjects interest them? Which major will help put them on the path to a happy career?
We believe that teens are capable of understanding this way before college.
Your high schooler already has interests. What better way to deepen those interests than to explore them right now?
After all, that’s how most entrepreneurs begin. They think about what motivates them and what they enjoy doing. And then they build businesses around those interests to create work they’re passionate about — and that also solves a problem. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s part of the process, too.
The experience of building a business lets your teenager see firsthand how passion projects can turn into viable career paths later in life – or who knows? Maybe even right now.
2. How to Solve Critical Problems on their Own
As an adult and parent, you understand why it’s so fundamental for teenagers to develop problem-solving skills. We all know the stakes get higher as we advance through life. In high school, problem solving might mean solving an algebra equation. In college, it can mean having a tough conversation with an advisor about a deadline or working out a conflict with roommates. And as an adult, problem solving happens when, say, we negotiate a raise or figure out the best terms for a loan.
High school entrepreneurship programs give your teenager to develop their problem-solving skills in high-impact contexts long before many of their peers. Your high schooler will get the opportunity to think critically, be creative, and experiment with new ideas (or improve old ones!) to solve real-world problems.
The core of entrepreneurship is the ability to ask the right questions to develop creative solutions. Developing real-world problem-solving skills will give your child a leg up in the classroom — and in everyday life.
3. How to Get Comfortable with Failure
Most traditional classroom-based academic education is centered around the pursuit of excellence. That can be a great thing, of course. But always pursuing top grades emphasizes external motivation, and can sometimes cultivate a personality that doesn’t know how to cope with failure, neither of which translates to lasting success beyond the classroom walls.
Because that’s another reality school doesn’t always do a great job of teaching: failure is inevitable.
Instead of trying to be perfect, it’s more helpful to know how to learn from failure and quickly move forward from it. Your teenager is a lot more likely to do their best knowing that the high (and impossible) bar of perfection is not the ultimate goal.
Entrepreneurs know that creating a successful business is about trying – and sometimes failing – to create solutions that people really need. But successful entrepreneurs understand they have to have to be okay with trial and error if they have any hope of getting it right.
In the real world, there is no pass/fail system; success and failure are far more nuanced. The experience of entrepreneurship sets your teenager up to recognize that early on. They’ll quickly see that the best outcome is not always getting an A+.
Rather, the best outcome is having tried your best, learning from mistakes, and forging ahead in the pursuit to create something of value in the world.
4. How to Build Meaningful Relationships with Like-Minded Peers
Your teenager may have already found their tribe at school, on a sports team or in a club. If they have – that’s great. At every stage of life, it’s important to have relationships that support and sustain you.
As an adult, friendships are important not just for the emotional support they can provide, but because they can bring great opportunities your way, too.
High school can be fertile ground for building these kinds of friendships, but working on a business venture together pushes that even further. It allows social skills to develop beyond friendly interactions. It teaches your teenager how to be persuasive, and how to collaborate and connect with like-minded people.
Because being an entrepreneur is not just about building a business that resonates with customers and investors – it’s about building a team with its own special dynamic. Combining interests and skills to make a team that’s more impactful together than apart is a transformative experience that will develop your teenager’s ability to network and collaborate – for the rest of their life.
5. How to Stand Out against the Competition
Here’s the thing – your high schooler is already competing, whether it’s for the basketball championship or for a coveted spot at their top college pick. And whether or not they’re aware of it now, they will have to continue to stand out from the pack in their professional lives, too.
Entrepreneurship offers that edge. Entrepreneurs tend to be the ones that stray from the pack; they don’t stick to the status quo. Entrepreneurship is an exercise in developing not only professional skills, but important personal characteristics, too: empathy, creativity, and tenacity are all hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur – and they’re also qualities that employers and teammates seek out.
High school entrepreneurship programs not only help teens stand out from the competition earlier; they help them become stand-out individuals and adults, too.
This isn’t your kid signing up for another after school club. This is an opportunity for your teenager to have an experience that expands their worldview, helps them develop a growth mindse
t, and powers their potential to do impactful, meaningful work they love. Whether or not your teenager chooses to pursue entrepreneurship as a career, having this kind of experience before college is invaluable.
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