The topic of entrepreneurship has grown in popularity over the last decade. Media coverage of startup founders pursuing their American dream and shows like Shark Tank have become a source of entertainment as well as a beacon of hope for a new generation. A lot has changed thanks to a shift in attitudes and the way we work. For Millennials, their experience navigating the job market amid a recession altered their perception of success and attainability. As they become parents, they are looking for ways to equip their children with the skills necessary to take on a rapidly changing and uncertain future.
So, how can we encourage our children to develop an entrepreneurial mindset? Let’s look at how starting a simple online store with your child or teen can help them develop these four essential skills.
1) Critical Thinking
The ability to solve problems is a crucial skill that successful entrepreneurs need in their toolkit. A simple online store requires an owner to make several important decisions that impact the business in the short and long-term. Encouraging children to pick a category of items to sell can be as easy as choosing something that interests them. A good rule of thumb: if they have a passion for the product, they will have an easier time researching the market, writing descriptions for their items, and ultimately making their first sales.
Once the type of item is chosen, choose a platform to sell on. There are many intuitive platforms that require very little technical experience to use. Chances are, your tech savvy children will navigate these apps with ease. eBay, which has an abundance of categories, is a great place to start. There are also platforms for niche items like Etsy for custom crafts, or Depop for vintage clothing. Whatever their interests may be, there is likely a corresponding platform to start listing on.
2) Creative Thinking
Attracting their first customers requires plenty of creative thinking. It’s important to remember that this is their store, and you are there to offer support. Give them space to be creative with the concept for their online business…there are no wrong answers.
The first order of business is naming the store. Have them come up with a few names to choose from and encourage your young entrepreneur to pick one that ties into the items for sale.
Next they will need to create their product listings. While each platform may vary, there is always a section for photos and a description. Have your child come up with different ways to photograph the product, and most importantly have fun with it. One thing to keep in mind when taking photos is to use a solid background. This ensures that the item is easy to view, and customers can feel confident making a purchase.
3) Communication Skills
The next part of the listing involves an understanding of communication. How will they describe the product to their customers? An enticing listing title will draw customers to the listing page, but at the end of the day what sells the product is a creative and accurate description. If they need some guidance, have them look up other listings for similar items. You can also have them imagine themselves as a customer. What questions would they have about the item before making a purchase? Have them include the answers to those questions in the item details.
Sometimes customers will have additional questions or concerns. An online store can help teach children how to navigate customer service early on. Encourage your child to answer their customers promptly and politely. Occasionally an online sale will go awry. Many factors can lead to a transaction defect including shipping challenges, defective merchandise, or unmet customer expectations. Reassure your child that these instances are a normal part of running an online business and should be viewed as learning experiences.
4) Confidence Building
As your child begins to sell their products, they will gain confidence in themselves and their ability to run a business. This will translate to other areas of their life as they start to see themselves as more capable of tackling obstacles and challenges. It will also equip them with real-world problem-solving skills that can translate to school or be applied to any career they choose in the future.
Remember to re-frame failures as positive learning opportunities. This will help motivate your young entrepreneur to try a new approach instead of giving up on their business. Becoming comfortable with failure is perhaps one of the most important lessons an entrepreneur can learn. This is an essential part of the entrepreneurial mindset and gives them the confidence to get right back up and try something new.
If this hands-on approach is out of your comfort zone, we offer several programs for young entrepreneurs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Here at Future Founders, we believe every youth can become an entrepreneur, and we take pride in our experiential programs for middle school and high school students.
Check out our Startup Spring Break and Be Your Own Boss Virtual Internship programs to see how we work closely with teens, introducing them to real entrepreneurs in their community, and developing the entrepreneurial skill sets that they can use to grow their own business, as well as pursue a 21st Century career.
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