Usually when you think “business student,” you don’t picture a seven-year-old.
But, as Tressa Wood, founder and CEO of Young Entrepreneur Learning Labs, will tell you, business students come in all shapes and sizes—and ages.
“Entrepreneurship is a natural fit for kids,” said Wood. “The concept of entrepreneurship and the prospect of learning what we call business skills seems intimidating to some people, but if you break it down, you can teach the foundation to any age group.”
Wood’s Young Entrepreneur Learning Labs brings business school to kids. It has programs for children ages 7 to 15 that teach the basics of customer service, product development, advertising and financial literacy skills. The “KidPreneurs” start their own micro-businesses while learning the basics of managing money.
“I think some parents think the concept (of entrepreneurship) encourages people to take financial risk,” said Wood. “But that’s not the case.”
Rather than encourage risk, she said the program helps kids develop “soft skills,” such as communication, flexibility and critical thinking, and through the process they develop an appreciation for their hard-earned money.
As an entrepreneur and a mother of two, Wood wants to show kids, including her own daughters, that entrepreneurship and owning your own business is a viable career path—one that is flexible and lets you do what you love.
“We talk about inspiration,” Wood said. “If they know what their passion is and what motivates them at a young age, then they can go in their own direction.”
The learning labs are taught as in-school courses, after-school classes or at local recreation centres. The program started running at the South Surrey Recreation Centre in September and will expand in the new year to offer courses at Clayton Hall because of the interest from Cloverdale and Langley families.
When The Reporter visited the young entrepreneurs, they were creating flyers to advertise their businesses for their upcoming Market Day on Jan. 15—a graduation, of a sort, in which they will set out their wares in Semiahmoo Shopping Centre and sell to friends, family and community members from 1 to 4 p.m. Two of the business kids have written “Sold Out” on the back of their table signage, in order to be prepared for any possibility.
Front row, from left: Vincent Shi (8), Colbie Costa (7), Autumn Fisher (9), Jessica Wang (8), Salma Shatta (8), Samantha Wood (8). Back row, from left: Allan Lin (12), Sophia Schulz (12), Hayley Stewart (12), Aria Bax (10).
When asking about their favourite part of taking business school for kids, one might expect the group of 7- to 12-year-olds to talk about meeting new friends or participating in crafts or other fun activities.
But this group has other things on their mind. The answers range from specific aspects of product creation and design to advertising to, as Colbie, 7, put it, “everything.”
“I think everyone, including me, liked making the product,” said Sophia, 12, who is selling handmade, customizable cards that feature her own photography. “It’s appealing to people because it’s hands-on and you get to be creative.”
“I liked innovating and finding the right way to create my product,” said Allan, 12, who is using resin moulds to create film memorabilia, including wands and “other nifty objects.” Allan said there were many methods to casting moulds, and that between method experimentation and the design process, he loved the project.
The group of business kids spoke about how they are challenged by advertising tactics, creating strong logos, narrowing business focus, solving issues with product development and finding a marketable selling price “in this economy.”
But they’re working to overcome those challenges. They’ve already created an array of products, including handmade wind chimes, mugs, photo frames, and more. Aria, 10, has her own line of handmade, organic dog treats and shampoo. Hayley, 12, created candles with cupcake molds, cups and bottles.
Problem with a poster? There’s a reason why you did it in pencil. Need help making a decision? Ask your instructor or better yet, a fellow young entrepreneur.
“We tell the kids right at the beginning, it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. You keep going,” said Wood. “There’s no tests in this program. There’s no right or wrong. They’re the boss.”
She said the traits of a good entrepreneur often come naturally to children—there’s no adult monopoly on creativity or problem solving skills. The entrepreneur program gives the kids the confidence to make use of those skills, and Wood said the program’s approach encourages strengths and builds on weaknesses.
If you’d like to see the young entrepreneurs’ products and hear their sales pitches, you can find them behind their business displays at their Jan. 15 Market Day, from 1 to 4 p.m. in Semiahmoo Shopping Centre. You might want to get there early—after all, there’s no telling when the business kids will have to make use of their “sold out” signs.