Business

Learning Entrepreneurship From Kids

This weekend my wife and I were traveling home from the tour of our backup hospital for the birth of our son when we stumbled across this little gem of a story from the folks at NPR. It was about two budding entrepreneurs who, (*enter deep and ominous voice*) in the midst of these very serious and very deep economic problems (*end deep and ominous voice*), have found the strength to begin a business together: Lucky Worms and Monster Worms.

Enzo and Otto Fiore, age 6 and 4 respectively, represent something at the very center of the spirit that will help America weather the storm of irresponsible people not being able to pay back their home loans – resourcefulness and ingenuity. And being ridiculously awesome. Can’t forget that.

Case in point: advertising. Instead of trying to hype their product with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Sponge Bob Square Pants or Dora the Explorer they keep it real and go with a simple roadside sign that reads:

People and gentlemen, please buy our worms … here

I think the ellipse might not really be there on the actual sign, but I couldn’t tell from the way Otto Fiore read the sign to the reporter. Speaking of the reporter and Otto reading, this is a story that you really need to listen to in order to get the full power and gestalt of what is being communicated. Trust me, you will thank me later.

You can find the link to the summary of the story here, Worm Obsession Prompts Money-Making Scheme. Simply click on the listen now button under the title.

Done listening? Good. Here are the main things that I saw grownups like me can learn from these two pillars of American entrepreneurship:

Pick Something You Love

These boys have a serious obsession with worms. When asked by the reporter why they started a worm business Enzo recalls this story:

Well, because Otto really like worms. One day, he liked worms so much that he decided to put worms in his pants … with ICE!

I could figuratively taste1 the satisfaction these kids get from their work through the grainy speakers of my 1995 Toyota Corolla when I heard that, and I wastn’t even on LSD.

Application: If you can’t see yourself putting your business down your pants … with ice, then you probably don’t love your business enough to make any real money on it.

Use Your Natural Skills And Affections

Worms are deceptively quick, squirming and worming their way back into freshly disturbed earth faster than Richard Simmons make me cringe. It takes a steady hand, a quick wit, and a heavy dose of flashlight-wielding little boy euphoria to catch ‘em and that is exactly what Enzo and Otto are equipped with.  You don’t have to goad them into this euphoria, they were made for it.

Application: If you aren’t wired for your business then you might make money on it, but you won’t LOVE it enough to stick it down your pants with a few ice cubes for good measure, which is the whole point running your own business anyway.

Start Off With The Things Around You

Can you turn things from your back yard into $114 with nothing but your hands?2 If you answered no then you have one of two problems: you aren’t resourceful enough or you suck.  If we are both honest about it, it is probably the second one.

Often times it takes a lot of effort, capital, and time to start a business from scratch, but if you are already doing the thing with the things around you, the next step to starting a business around that thing isn’t that great a leap.

An example of this might be trying to make money online.  You are already on the internet a lot, you might even have a blog about something near and dear to you heart – lets say “farcical aquatic ceremonies” – that you have some marginal success with.  You slap some adsense on that puppy and wham!, you just earned your first $0.03.  It is just a matter of time before you quit your day job and work on the internet full-time.

Application: Stop sucking and use the resources around you (whether it be land you own, the local library, or an old skill that you have neglected, or the internet) and actually be able to do something that people need.  Before you know it a business may be born.

Use Your Connections or Fail

Even with a huge love for your business and the skills to match you are not guaranteed success.  You have to leverage the people you know into buying your product or service.  If I was a betting man, and I am, I would bet $50 million that the bulk of the kids business comes from people that they know or that their parents know. The rest comes from referrals from these same people.  Without customers you will always fail.

Application: Be ready to sell your soul to market your product.  You key weapons must be fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.  Or just really good connections.

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I am always a fan of learning from kids and this is no exception.  They are often full of exuberance and free from some of the false constraints we have grown accustom to in our own growing up.  If I find myself in a creative or intellectual rut, there is nothing better than spending an hour with a kid building a fort or telling stories.  It just makes sense to me that kids can teach us a lot, even about businesses and entrepreneurship, if we are willing to listen.

Do you know any entrepreneurial kids that we grownups can learn from?  What lessons have you learned about turning what you love into something that makes money?

  1. Figuratively is used here as opposed to “literally” because “literally” is so passe and nonsensical it isn’t even funny []
  2. This is the proceeds of 1140 worms by the way, don’t tell me kids can’t make money! []

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