How Entrepreneurship should be Cultivated from a Young Age

How Entrepreneurship should be Cultivated from a Young Age


Colour inside the lines, use your inside voice, always ask for permission, don’t talk to strangers, don’t talk when the grownups are talking, wait your turn in line.

Children are told so many different things while they are growing up which they internalise, and these messages that they hear have an impact on their entrepreneurial futures

For one, they are taught that failing isn’t good and subsequently associate pain with failure.

As a result of these messages, many children move from living life by curiosities and learning in their own beautiful, personal and unique way to responding to life from fears.

Related: (Slideshow) Quotes to Fuel the Fire of Young Entrepreneurs

When you consider that nearly 80% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years following their start-up, it paints a bleak picture to parents and young adults alike and they may ask themselves the question whether starting your own business is really such a good idea considering the high failure rate. But, let’s put the concept of failure into perspective.

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It’s no wonder many don’t start businesses, especially because the media continues to say that 80%of new businesses fail. That’s really an exaggeration, as 80% don’t fail.

Sure many businesses start and close, but closing a business isn’t failure. This language is used so loosely and is not encouraging to future entrepreneurs. The only way to be sure you never fail is to never try. Consider the following:

  • Inventor Thomas Edison generated 10,000 prototypes for electric light bulbs before getting it right.
  • Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, was rejected 1,009 times when he tried to sell his fried chicken recipe.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected on 3 occasions by the University of Southern California after which he dropped out to become a Director.
  • Tim Ferris’s book “The 4 Hour Work Week” was rejected 25 times by publishers.
  • Richard Branson launched 400 companies before he founded Virgin Galactic.
  • Sylvester Stallone was rejected 1,500 times when he tried selling his script and himself as the film “Rocky”.
  • James Dyson created 5,126 failed prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before succeeding.

These are just a few examples of successful entrepreneurs and the effort, sweat, pain and tears it took to finally succeed. But oh boy, just imagine the possibilities and personal fulfilment when you succeed. And yes, “when” you succeed … not “if” you succeed!

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, only 7% of South Africans aged 18 to 24 are involved in any entrepreneurial activity.

This begs the question: “If more than 50% of young adults aged 18 to 34 are unemployed in South Africa, what are the rest of the youth doing with their time if they find themselves unemployed or not engaged in an entrepreneurial activity?”

According to SA Breweries’ Entrepreneurship Incubator Programme, KickStart, the following factors were identified as key to promoting youth entrepreneurship:

1. Develop A Tightly Knit Ecosystem To Support Entrepreneurs

There is a need for greater coordination and integration of business development support efforts by government and the private sector. In the current system agencies operate separately. The issue of funding is not the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs. A lack of information, adequate research statistics, skills and mentorship opportunities abound.

2. Infant Protectionism And Government Set-Asides

In South Africa, small business competes directly with big business, something that puts young entrepreneurs at a disadvantage. You have to fight so much harder just to get a foot in the door. One way of shielding young entrepreneurs from harsh competition would be for government set-asides to be established for young entrepreneurs.

A controversial subject, set-asides are a certain category of work in a government contract reserved for a specific group. This makes sense, as government is the biggest spender in any economy.

3. Promoting Entrepreneurship From A Young Agefather-and-son_young-entrepreneurship

Introducing children to business from an early age, by letting them participate in the family or other business can help bridge the vacuum in youth entrepreneurship. Encouraging this early exploration of business may go a long way towards teaching the rudimentary skills required for entrepreneurship.

4. Parents Should Take The Responsibility And Not Leave It Over To Our Schooling System

It’s our duty as entrepreneurs or future entrepreneurs to teach children that they can be whatever they dream to be. I believe that today’s entrepreneurs see the importance and know it’s our obligation to help our children.

If you’re an entrepreneur, I encourage you to spend time with your children. Don’t be dependent on our South African educational system to teach our children the most valuable lessons that you can teach them yourself.

I know personally as an entrepreneur that we get busy, but take the time to show your children that they can grow up to be anything they want to be. Life skills and creating your own future and job is vital to your child’s future success.

Turkish author, Harun Yahya famously quoted: “I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth”. Then I ask myself the same question. Our children can fly anywhere and you can give them the best wings in the world.

Entrepreneurship is a buzzword of our time. Economists are hoping that entrepreneurs will pull South Africa’s economy up by its bootstraps and help unemployment vanish.

Some schools encourage market days to nurture business talent, and parents are pleased when their offspring display entrepreneurial tendencies – even when those parents themselves hold safe and secure jobs. It seems we all recognise that being able to make money is a talent that will serve children well when they grow up. But what turns a child into an entrepreneur?

Common sense would lead one to suppose that it is a mixture of natural aptitude and environmental exposure. Linda McClure, MD of Junior Achievement South Africa (JASA) observes that, “At the moment, most young people will go into business because they think they can’t do anything else. They aren’t seeing it as a choice; that it’s a career option”.

She says that when learners are asked whether they would prefer to get a job or start their own business, the majority still say, “I’d rather just get a job”. Many believe being an employee is more secure.

Related: 7 Insanely Productive Habits of Successful Young Entrepreneurs

Parents wanting their own children to become entrepreneurial should encourage them to use their natural talents, start small and then grow their business, adapt to what their market wants and persevere in the face of setbacks. And yes, I used the word “setbacks” and NOT “failure”.

There is no such thing is failure. Only learning from your setbacks and improving on it the next time around. I would like to leave you (as parent) and you (as child) with the following messages:

  • A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on – John F. Kennedy.
  • An amazing thing, the human brain. Capable of understanding incredibly complex and intricate concepts. Yet at times unable to recognise the obvious and simple – Jay Abraham.
  • Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important. You can get both of these things. What are important are ideas – Harvey S. Firestone.
  • There’s no good idea that can’t be improved on – Michael Eisner.
  • Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune – Jim Rohn.
  • We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open – Harry Edwards.
  • Children have more need of models than of critics – Joseph Joubert.
  • If I had one wish for my children, it would be that each of them would reach for goals that have meaning for them as individuals – Lillian Carter.
  • A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him – David Brinkley.
Dr. Thommie Burger
Founder of JTB Consulting, a leading Business Plan Consultancy that provides practical, unique and affordable Business Consulting and Business Plan Solutions to entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and existing companies. Founder of Animazing, a Marketing Agency that designs unique animated videos; a communication and marketing medium clients use to deliver their messages in an effective, engaging and memorable way. Thommie is a Summa Cum Laude MBA Graduate and holds a PhD in Entrepreneurship and Business Management.

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