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Inspiring the Entrepreneurial Spirit

6 Ways to Get Kids Thinking About Business

Unlike the rest of my family and most of my friends, my kids have only known me as a small business owner, since I launched Richmond Family Magazine when they were just one and three years old. I hope they have picked up a thing or two about what it takes to run a business over these last ten years, including the time commitment involved, the passion needed, and all the fun owning a business can actually be.

Over the last decade, we have discovered lots of fun ways to learn more about owning a business, and not just the magazine business. Here are six ways to potentially unleash your family’s inner entrepreneur. 

1. Watch Shark Tank as a family. 

Now in its eleventh season on ABC and in syndication on CNBC, it’s our household’s go-to when we can’t all agree on what to watch on TV (and that is often these days!). With kid-friendly programming dwindling (my beloved 1980s game show reboots are even racy these days – darn it, why?), Shark Tank provides a great launchpad for discussions about presentation skills, the merits of the businesses being pitched to the sharks, how differing personalities may or may not get you what you want, and negotiation tactics. You might even end up purchasing one of the products being pitched. We are the proud owners of a Fry Wall thanks to Shark Tank – no grease splatter on the stove for us!

2. Listen to the NPR podcast, How I Built This, together. 

Most of the music on the radio these days is over-sexualized, has too much foul language (we all know what the skipped words are supposed to be!), and is just plain not very good in my opinion, so why not hear some inspiring real-life stories while you’re in the car shuttling kids here, there, and everywhere. Host Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies and takes listeners on a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists – and the movements they built. Scroll through the episodes list and find companies your kids know. Two of our favorites were Stacy’s Pita Chips and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. We were shocked and elated to hear the Five Guys owner say that our beloved Thrashers French Fries on the Ocean City boardwalk was his inspiration! Now that Peloton Bikes is open at Short Pump Mall, the interview with owner John Foley is high on my list, as is one of the newest episodes about the brothers and co-founders of The Life is Good Company, maker of our favorite t-shirts.

3. Visit farmers’ markets and craft shows.

You can really get a glimpse into the lives of small business owners, and if they aren’t too busy, they love talking about how they got their start and what it takes to run the business. These days, farmers’ markets are way more than produce, meats, and eggs; some markets, like the South of the James Market, have upwards of one hundred vendors, selling everything from lotions to honey, apparel, coffee, handcrafted wood products, and much more. Arts and craft shows like Craft + Design at Main Street Station, and the semi-annual Bizarre Bazaar and Craftsmen’s Classic Art & Craft Festival at the Richmond Raceway Complex offer visitors a chance to see the artisans in action, as many of them work to add to their inventory throughout the show. 

4. Read about business owners. 

We especially like the Who Is/Who Was book series to get the back story on some of the most famous business owners out there. My tech kid just finished Who Was Steve Jobs? and Who Is Bill Gates? and learned lots of neat facts about these business titans. Just about anyone you can think of has a biography or memoir now, so figure out who will interest your kid, and buy him the book. My oldest son has a Nike obsession, so I just ordered him the young readers edition of Nike founder Phil Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog. Magazines often have easy to digest profile pieces on business owners, too – RFM has profiled everyone from app developers to flower farmers, so the next time you see one of our business owner profiles, grab your kids and read it together.

Sara Mallory of the Freckled Flower Farm enjoys talking to kids about owning a business (also known as planting the seed of entrepreneurship).

5. Check out the Richmond Children’s Business Fair. 

Nothing inspires kids more than other kids (for better or worse!), and this annual fair, which will be held at the Science Museum of Virginia on Saturday, March 14, 2020, will really get your kids’ creative wheels turning. Kids ages five to seventeen develop a brand, create a product or service, build a marketing strategy, and then open for customers and sell their wares. Last year, these youthpreneurs marketed everything from snow cones to scented candles and jewelry. Registration is open for the 2020 Fair (it fills up quickly, so if your kid is interested, check that out now).

6. Visit small businesses together. 

The next time you have alterations done by a local seamstress or pick up cupcakes for the office lunch, take your child along and use the opportunity to learn more about the business. Again, if the owner is there and not too busy, she will likely savor the opportunity to tell you all about how she got where she is today. And you can feel good knowing you’re supporting RVA small businesses!

Finally, if you’re like me and you own a small business or have a side hustle, incorporate your kids when you can. A realtor can likely take his kid along to check on a house’s staging progress, or a weekend furniture rehabber can go yard sale-ing for the next great find with the whole family. My guys even helped me proofread this issue – it’s the perfect way to teach them that some of the stuff they consider boring in language arts class is actually very important. 

Margaret Thompson never thought she’d be a business owner (or a mom for that matter!), but after realizing a need for a high quality, content-focused magazine for Richmond area families, she dove in! Mom of two boys, Margaret and her husband Chris live in Hanover County.
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