It’s easier than ever to start a business.
The opportunity and access afforded by the plethora of easy-to-use tools and resources on the Internet has made entrepreneurship a go-to experience for everyone from seasoned Silicon Valley CEOs to stay-at-home parents.
But there’s one group that’s not often considered among the entrepreneur set -- and I would argue it’s the group with the most potential to learn from entrepreneurship.
In this rapidly-changing world, it’s more important than ever for teenagers to have access to skills that are primarily developed and cultivated through entrepreneurial experience—innovation, leadership, problem-solving, and tenacity, amongst others.
Colleges are looking for this experience, companies are looking for this experience, your own kids may be looking for this experience (even if they don’t know it yet).
And with their natural curiosity, technological-savvy, and youthful resilience, teen entrepreneurs also have the potential to make the greatest impact.
If nothing else, entrepreneurship allows your child to explore what they’re passionate about, experiment with new ideas, and experience success and failure before they even walk across the stage at their high school graduation. (And don’t tell them we told you, but entrepreneurial experience looks pretty great on a college application, too.)
Don’t get me wrong—traditional education is important. And I certainly don’t think every single teenager or 20-something (or every person, in general) should or will end up being an entrepreneur.
But I do think every teenager should have the experience—to power their potential, develop the skills, and set them on the right path for their unique career journey (as an entrepreneur or otherwise) from the start.
By exploring entrepreneurship while still in high school, your teenager will:
Get Clear on Their Interests and Passions -- and Create Value From Them
A lot of the early college experience is focused on helping your teen figure out what they want to pursue—what are the subjects they’re actually interested in, and what should they study to put them on the path to a happy career (and ultimately, a happy life)? I say we start earlier. Your high schooler already has interests, they’re already passionate about subjects—why not let them explore those things (and start the practice of building a business around them) now?
That’s where a lot entrepreneurs start after all—they consider what they love thinking about, where and how they want to spend their time, and what problems they can solve (more on that later). Then, they build businesses around those interests and create work that they’re passionate about and that solves a need. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t—but if nothing else, your teenager gets tapped into the experience of doing valuable work that they enjoy.
Why not give your high schooler the chance to start that exploration now? Not only will they get the opportunity to explore different interests as a teen entrepreneur, they’ll also quickly see how these passion projects can turn into viable career opportunities later in life (or who knows—even now?).
Learn How to Solve Critical Problems (at School and in Life) On Their Own
High school is all about problem-solving. And as an adult and a parent, you already know why—because life is! To truly be successful, your kid needs to be able to solve problems. In high school, that might mean solving for “x” in a Pre-Algebra equation. In college, that may mean having a tough conversation with their thesis professor when they need a deadline extension. And in life, that may mean figuring out how to negotiate a raise or end a relationship.
And while it may not seem like it at first glance, that’s the beauty of high school entrepreneurship programs—they give your teenager the opportunity to do exactly that! As I mentioned earlier, entrepreneurship is about asking questions and solving problems—preferably in ways that you find interesting and exciting. Within entrepreneurship, your teenager gets to get creative, think critically, and experiment with new ideas (or improve old ones!) to solve real-world issues.
There will always be issues that need addressing in life; having the practice and developing the skill of problem-solving gives your teen an advantage when these situations inevitably pop up—in the classroom or out in the world.
Experience Different Forms of Success and Get Comfortable With Failure
High school (and most traditional education) is centered on the pursuit of excellence. That can be a good thing, of course—but consistently pursuing the “highest grade” places an emphasis on external motivation and cultivates a personality that is adverse to failure . . . neither of which actually translate to success in real life.
Because that’s another reality of life—failure is inevitable. Better than trying (and ahem, failing) to be perfect, it’s a lot more helpful to develop the ability to learn from failure and move forward, motivated by the intrinsic, internal benefits of doing your best. And when your teenager realizes that they don’t have to pursue perfection, they’re a lot more likely to “do their best” knowing that the high (and impossible) bar of perfection is not a necessary goal.
Entrepreneurs know that creating a successful business is about trying (and sometimes failing) fast and creating solutions that people really need. To ever get it right, entrepreneurs have to be okay with trial and error—and failure, on occasion—and learn how to keep trying until they get to success . . . or rather, until they create the solution that people really need.
There is value in your teenager knowing this, too. It’s important for them to know that the best outcome is not always getting the “A” grade; it’s not always perfection. And in life, there isn’t a binary “right and wrong”, “A or F” system anyway—success and failure are far more nuanced in the real world. The experience of entrepreneurship sets your teenager up to recognize that early on. They’ll quickly see that the best outcome is not necessarily getting an A. Rather, the best outcome is having tried your best, learning from any mistakes, and continuing on in pursuit of creating something valuable and impactful in the world.
Build Meaningful, Connected, and Beneficial Relationships With Like-Minded Peers
High school can be a great place to experience social interactions. Your teenager may have already found their tribe at school—in the classroom, on a sports team, in a club created to support unique interests. And if they have, that’s great! It’s important, in every stage of life, to have relationships that support and sustain you.
Of course, those relationships are significantly important as an adult, too—not just for the emotional support the best friendships can provide, but also because even acquaintanceships can bring the right opportunities your way.
While high school can be a breeding ground for valuable interpersonal connections; entrepreneurship pushes that even further. It provides an opportunity to work toward a shared goal—that is personally significant—with friends! But the practice of building your own business at a young age moves your social skills even beyond friendly interactions—first, it gives your kid the opportunity explore their interests and figure out who they truly are. And then, it teaches your teenager how to be persuasive, how to share, how to collaborate and connect with like-minded people who they want to influence . . . and who have the potential to greatly influence them.
Because being an entrepreneur is not just about building a business that impacts the people outside of it; it’s also about building a team on the inside that successfully combines their interests, experiences, and skills to form a group that is more impactful together than apart. It’s about creating and being a part of a team that has the true potential to solve problems and change lives—including your kid’s. And teen entrepreneurs have the opportunity to build that team—and continue the practice of networking and collaborating—for the rest of their lives.
Stand Out From 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 throughout their lives.
Entrepreneurship offers that edge. And it makes sense—entrepreneurs tend to be the ones that stray from the pack. They don’t follow the status quo. But beyond that, entrepreneurship is an exercise in developing not just important professional skills, but important personal characteristics, too. We’ve reviewed many of them in this article alone! Having the compassion, the creativity, and the tenacity to build a business that seeks to serve people and solve problems is a testament to the work ethic and good character of any individual.
Sure, to your teenager, competition may just refer to the opposing basketball team right now. But you know—as they soon will—that they’ll soon be competing against their peers for the few spots in the best universities, then edging out others for the best jobs or funding for their future careers.
High school entrepreneurship programs not only help teens stand out from the competition earlier; they help them further become stand-out individuals and adults, too.
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This isn’t about signing your kid up for another after-school club—teen entrepreneurs will gain real-world experiences that expand their idea of what’s possible, develop the skills and mindset to think resourcefully, and power their potential to do work that they love and make a significant impact in the world.
Whether or not entrepreneurship ends up being the right path for your teenager, having that experience earlier in life is invaluable.
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