The reason I write so much about entrepreneurship for kids is that I do career coaching for adults, and most of them wish they could start their own business. Or freelance. Or be more creative in their work. And the problem for most of the people I coach is that they never learned these skills.
In fact, most adults spent their formative years in school which is actually the opposite of entrepreneurship. School teaches kids to do what they are told. To learn to think about someone else’s ideas. To supplant their internal compass with their teacher’s grading system.
I keep looking around for what kids can do to learn skills so they feel comfortable working for themselves when they get older. For sure a big part of starting your own business is dealing with risk. (But, then again, it’s very risky to give up your life to a company that tells you when to work and when not to work.)
I was talking to the people at Zazzle about how their company works, what people can do with their products and services. I looked around Zazzle.com at how people are making their own t-shirt designs, and custom mugs, and designs for a wide range of stuff, really.
And then I realized that while Zazzle is lots of things to lots of people, for kids, Zazzle is a way to get a taste of entrepreneurship. Zazzle provides a sort of template for kids to think about what they could sell. And Zazzle provides the kids with a easy way to tell people, “Buy my stuff. Here’s a link.”
Also, kids can change their product mix quickly. They can learn about pricing. And they see their competition as inspiration, which is what all good entrepreneurs do. Of course, in school we call this cheating, which is another example of how school works against learning to be an entrepreneur.
So I had my friend Cassie try it out with her kids. They loved it! Cassie helped them set up an account, and the kids created t-shirts. Then they sent emails to people they knew and told them to buy the shirts. And in just a couple of days they became email marketing geniuses—their email campaign had a 20% conversion rate!
Cassie said the kids were jumping up and down screaming when they made their first sale. And their next reaction was, let’s do this more. Which is, of course, a micro-instance of the intoxicating moment of entrepreneurship that makes you want to keep going at all costs.
I told my sons they should make t-shirts and I would buy them as Father’s Day gifts. My eleven-year-old took one look at the site and said, “Why would we make a shirt for dad? No one else will buy that. Let’s think of a shirt to make that lots of people will buy.”
For some people Zazzle is a fun way to monetize a creative outlet. For my son it’s a way to segment the market and dominate, one non-Father’s Day shirt at a time.
So okay, your kid is not going to be a millionaire on Zazzle, no more than high school chemistry class will create a roomful of Nobel Prize winners. But that’s not the goal: the goal is to whet your kid’s appetite. So help your kids think in different ways. And if you have a son like my son, it’s so exciting to find a new system for earning money where earning $5 online makes him super excited.