How to raise your child to be an entrepreneur

Parents hate going against the grain when they raise their kids because they don’t want to be wrong. It’s so much safer to be wrong when you did everything that society tells you to do as a parent. Homeschooling requires bravery from parents. It’s a risk but some parents take the leap.

But still, the harbinger of a good risk taker is one who tries to mitigate risk along the way. For homeschool parents, a good way to decrease the riskiness of alternative schooling is to increase the likelihood that the kid will find a career with relative ease.

1. Encourage self-directed learning.
One reason that teaching entrepreneurship is so important is that it’s teaching self-reliance and the long-term skill of generating income from self-directed learning. That’s what entrepreneurs do: they make money by teaching themselves to run a business. No entrepreneur knew everything about their business before they started. They learned at a ferocious pace as they progressed.  If you encourage your child to direct their own learning early on, it’ll seem second-nature to them to jump into a business they know little about. Because they’ve been in charge of their own learning for as long as they can remember.

2. Encourage music and art.
Researchers at Michigan State University found that those who own businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts as children than the general public. The conclusion from the research is that sustained exposure to music or art creates a lifelong advantage in the business world.

3. Show yourself failing.
My husband and I are both entrepreneurs. That’s actually one of the first things I learned about farmers when I met him:  successful farmers are very entrepreneurial. But sometimes he has huge failures. Like, when he started a new, free-range pig business, and he had a pile of dead piglets.  We showed the kids. We told them that not every business idea works. And just because something goes wrong, doesn’t mean you should give up.

We still have our free-range pigs, they are just less free-range in the snow. And while I am also an entrepreneur, running experiments of my own, the visual aid of farm animals and booming (or busted) crops is a great way for the kids to understand grit and determination.

4. Let kids fail as entrepreneurs.
My older son loves raising animals and he’s tried a lot of businesses. He raised pigs for the county fair. He earned hundreds of dollars and a ribbon, but it was so difficult for him to sell the pig. He raised goats but when we went to sell one he started crying which lead to a huge scene at the sale barn. Now all our goats are just pets.

I would have to say these are all failures. But just as the research suggests, kids failing does not discourage them – but rather, failure encourages kids to work harder. (Note that this is not true in school. In school failure discourages kids. because they don’t have freedom to succeed.)

Now my son is thinking of selling sweet corn. Last year he entered his sweet corn in the county fair and got a blue ribbon. He thinks he can sell corn at the farmer’s market. “I can call it Blue Ribbon Corn,” he told me.

I told him sure. I didn’t tell him I don’t think his strength is marketing. I didn’t tell him to stick to logistics. Because it doesn’t matter. Entrepreneurship is about trying things. And clearly kids can succeed at any age – they don’t need adults getting in their way.

15 replies
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hm. Yeah, you’re right – it’s a confusing sentence. So I changed the whole thing to make the argument that kids need failure in order to learn. But in the context of school, failure is not useful. This is because school does not permit creativity but creativity is the way we leverage failure to create long-term success.

      Here’s the link:


      • MBL
        MBL says:

        Heehee, I think R was simply commenting on a broken link and not critiquing your syntax.

        If you add article4513436/?page=all to the link, you can find the article. It focuses on “grit.”

        • Kimberly
          Kimberly says:

          Traditional school, by definition, can not produce entrepreneurs. School requires children to master a subject at it’s pace. There is no option for failing. You fail, you lose. There are no second chances. Forget the fact that you may have finally “got it” after the class is over. It’s too late. Also, you must learn at the pace of others. If you’re behind, that’s your problem. You can’t possibly expect the teacher to spend extra time with you when there are 30 other kids to tend to. If you’re ahead, the teacher will drag you down by making you feel insubordinate while encouraging you to slow down by basically babysitting your other classmates.

          Entrepreneurship is the complete antithesis of this. You must fail to learn. You must learn, create and innovate by yourself, irrespective of what others are doing or learning. Your success, for the most part, is objective. School teaches you to approach life in a very subjective, co-dependent manner.

          Your learning can not take place within a time frame and for those teachers who justify this by saying that, in the real world, students will be met with deadlines, the real world is not necessarily the learning process. That is why children don’t leave home and live independently at age 4. Learning is a process that takes time suited to the individual, not the teacher or the school board.

  1. Amanda Tinney
    Amanda Tinney says:

    #3…I needed to hear that one.

    Last January I quit something in front of my daughter. It was humiliating and I didn’t want her to see me give up. I was attempting my first full marathon. I made it to Mile 21 and I just stopped. I couldn’t go any further. It was 80 some odd degrees and my feet felt like hot broken glass was gnawing at them. Not ideal conditions to be running in. I had also run a half marathon the day before and a 5k the day before that. My body was give out.

    I couldn’t believe I was going to let my teenage daughter see me fail like that. But she told me it was OK.

    Next week I’m going to attempt it again with her looking on. I hope I can finish the 26.2 miles this year. Thanks for reminding me that my failure isn’t a bad thing for her to see…but in fact shows her that she too can be resilient.

    • Janelle
      Janelle says:

      “Homeschooling requires bravery”. This is a phrase I’ve used so many times throughout my 22 years of homeschooling 7 kids. So your use of the phrase really caught my eye. Homeschooling is not for wimps. The rewards are too many to count. Down to the last one now (age 14).

  2. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    I really like this post and want to believe it. Most of the links work (404 on “failure encourages kids to work harder.”).

    I would caution about reading too much into educational research, however; the standards are far lower there than for any other social science, and the reporting never challenges it. You wouldn’t be able to state a conclusion like “Arts & Music in Childhood Foster Creativity, Entrepreneurship” based on a mere correlation in any serious discipline.

    I do believe arts and music are important. My son probably spends more time on music than on any other schoolish activity. But I hope to raise him also to have higher standards than those of the researchers and to understand what an uncontrolled variable is. The data should at least be controlled for obvious variables like family income and parental education, which I guarantee you correlate positively with musical instruction for children. How many of these kids are instrument-playing STEM graduates because their parents are instrument-playing STEM professionals?

    The study only considered a small group, with no controls, in a retrospective manner. It’s nice (and unsurprising) that there are so many musicians among the MSU Honors College STEM majors. But this does not mean that if you rush out and get your kid more popsicle sticks and glue that she’s more likely to be a STEM major. It probably just means that the families that raise kids who become Honors STEM majors also value music and art.

    It’s like what Steven Leavitt found about books in the home: reading books to your kids every day correlates less with higher test scores than does owning lots of books before your kids are born. Your kids are likely to be a lot like you are, no matter what you do.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have a brother who has a Phd in economics and a brother who has a Phd in chemistry. And both can go through their field and show how statistics lie. So I think the bottom line is that you can lie with any statistics. So we can choose to not believe any statistics or we can choose to blindly believe all statistics. But I think the best solution is that when we talk about statistics we link to the statistics, and then the readers can decide for themselves.

      I think a good ending to this comment is a link to the book How to Lie with Statistics:


  3. Anon
    Anon says:

    Am a veggie, so not happy to read about animals being part of a business venture, also not surprised your kid cried when he didn’t want to sell the goat.However, I do agree about schools failing kids, they did me and many I have encountered along the way. I think the same for colleges too, but not universities, although yes for the humanities uni is not essential, but you had better know your area well if you are to try and succeed in such a field.

  4. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Good post and that is a great looking goat! How do you find all these links? Do you subscribe to something that sends all these education related articles?

  5. Galit Zamler
    Galit Zamler says:

    I’m totally with you. The more we expose our children to the culture of the entrepreneur we will encourage them to become entrepreneurs themselves.
    In Israel there is a program called: “Entrepreneurship Program for Children” which Which exposes them to the entrepreneur’s world.This program is being taught in elementry schools in Israel and is a non profit program, It’s aim to encourage entrepreneurship education from a young age.

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