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Your Child Can Start a Business

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As a parent, here are six approachable steps to take.

By Emma Whalen , Photo by Sarah Brooke Lyons

When grade-school students are caught daydreaming in class, they’re often told to focus back in on the lesson at hand. But what if they were encouraged to daydream more and turn their ideas into reality? Their ideas could turn into a business.

Cristal Glangchai had this idea in mind when, in 2013, she founded the nonprofit VentureLab, an educational program that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit in young adults. With a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, Glangchai first became aware of the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset when she took a technology-commercialization course. She would later apply the skill set she learned in the course to start her own nanotechnology company.

Rewind back to the year 2010, when Glangchai started teaching an entrepreneurship class at Trinity University. Her goal: to help students transform the ideas they had brainstormed in class into viable business models. She soon realized, however, that it was difficult to get young women to sign up for her course. Suspecting long-held gender biases may have been holding her students back, she set out to educate her own children in developing an entrepreneurial mindset early on. Soon enough, her daughters’ and sons’ teachers were commenting on their confidence and creativity, and asking Glangchai where they got it from.

This experience helped Glangchai develop her curriculum and business plan for VentureLab, a vehicle, she conspired, to get more kids thinking in an entrepreneurial way.

Here, Glangchai shares her easy-to-approach steps on how to help kids transform a daydream into a real, viable business model—all while boosting their confidence and making a little side money.

1. Generate ideas and brainstorm.

Glangchai says it’s important to encourage kids to use their already active imaginations to come up with new ideas and then discover for themselves whether they are viable.

“A lot of times, at school and even at home, kids are told no or they’re told, ‘That’s a crazy idea. That’s a silly idea.’ But you really want them to pursue that idea and [have them]find out for themselves if it’s going to work or not work.”

2. Perform opportunity analysis.

Once a child determines that his or her idea could come to fruition, Glangchai says to guide them through a discussion of the logistics of turning it into a business. Ask them if this is something people will need or want. Is it something they already have?

“How can they determine if this is really an opportunity, if it’s an opportunity for them to start a company or create a product and to really pursue their idea?”

3. Conduct market research.

Glangchai says once a child has confidence in the viability of his or her business idea, it’s time to gauge others’ interest in it. Becoming outgoing enough to ask many people about the idea will serve a child well later on.

“They can go to the classroom next door and interview other students or peers about their idea, or maybe they can go around the neighborhood with their parent to ask, ‘Hey, what do you think about this product?’ ”

4. Prototype and design it.

As excitement for the product builds, encourage your child to show his or her creative side and have fun designing it.

“Starting with paper prototypes, just draw your idea out on a piece of paper. From there, you can build it out of cardboard. If you have a 3-D printer, you can actually take it from the cardboard 3-D model to a 3-D printed model.”

5. Form a business model.

Now that the product is developed, help your child think practically about what it would take to actually make and sell it.

“Who are your customers? Who is going to buy this? Who is going to want this? How much are they going to want to pay for it? Have kids think about how much…it actually [costs]to make this.”

6. Pitch and market the idea. 

Finally, find ways for your child to promote his or her product. They can make signs advertising it or even start a website. The e-commerce site shopify.com allows anyone to create an online store. This means kids can start there for fun and eventually pitch to retailers if the idea takes off.

Ultimately, Glangchai says her goal with VentureLab isn’t to create an army of little business tycoons, but rather to help kids develop a mindset that’s useful in
any endeavor.

“I really think entrepreneurship happens in many contexts,” Glangchai says. “If you’re going to be an artist, you have to know how to market your art or have your own studio. If you’re a teacher, you have to be resourceful. If you’re a doctor and you want to start your own practice, or even if you’re a musician, [you need to]know how to market your music.”

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