The stereotypical Asian parent is depicted as wanting their children to become high earning professionals like doctors or engineers, but there is another option that can lead to success while allowing them to be their own boss: entrepreneur.
Asian people have a long, rich history of entrepreneurialism both in their home countries and in countries where they immigrate. Most large cities in North America, for example, have a Chinatown where Asian
immigrants have set up shops and virtually every little town across North America has a local Chinese restaurant.
But, the ability to set up and run a business isn’t hard wired into people from birth. They have to learn how to do it and their imaginations have to be sparked with the passion that burns in all business owners. There is an inherent risk with owning your own business, which is why most people don’t do it. But, if you can start and run a successful business, the rewards are many, including being able to live your life with complete freedom while being your own boss. Successful businesses can also be financially lucrative.
Whether your child grows up to open a restaurant or becomes the next tech billionaire, they’ll need to be gently pushed in the direction of entrepreneurialism. Here is how you can do that.
1. Explain what an entrepreneur really does.
Words like “business owner” don’t really do justice to what entrepreneurs do. Yes, they own a business, but really they are the backbone of a country’s economy. They are the drivers of the country’s economic engine. That’s not likely to resonate with kids, though. They tend to like the jobs where people have a definitive title and are easily recognizable, like a firefighter. They might appreciate entrepreneurialism more if you explain it in terms of making the world a better place by giving other people jobs and providing a service that other people can use to live better lives.
Building a business is just like building a house. You end up with something that didn’t exist before and it helps others earn a living so they can provide for their families. (If that doesn’t spark excitement, tell them it’s like being a king or queen in their own mini kingdom.)
2. Take them to work and business meetings if you can.
This will work much better if you are an entrepreneur yourself, but it can also work if you are in a position in a
company where you have people underneath you. The point isn’t to show your kids that you rule over others, but rather that when you are the boss, you get the freedom to make decisions and do what you want (to a certain extent).
Obviously, you won’t want to take them to long or important meetings, but if you can take them to shorter, lower level meetings and show them how the business owner gets to make decisions, you may plant the seed in their brains that being the one to make the decisions is preferable to having to follow the decisions of others.
Any events you can take them to and let them participate in are also good. If you’re building a new location for a business, let them be the ones to turn over the first shovelful of soil when it starts and be the ones to cut the ribbon when it’s ready to open. It’s all about inspiring them to want to be the one who is doing the building.
3. Take them on business trips when appropriate.
If you can, let your kids tag along with you on business trips. This is much easier when you are an entrepreneur yourself, obviously, but there may be opportunities to do it when you are an employee. Not only will you be giving them a glimpse at what it’s like to run a company and make important decisions, but you’ll also be spending some quality time with them and helping to educate them in ways they don’t get to experience in school. A fringe benefit of taking your children with you to meetings is that they help change the dynamics of a meeting and get people to let their guard down a bit.
4. Get them involved with social entrepreneurship projects.
This is really where you can prove to them that entrepreneurs make the world a better place. Do some charity work with them where you have a leadership role and show them how they can help people when they have a position of leadership. It doesn’t have to be something mind-blowingly big like trying to break a world record. You can take them to help pack or deliver food hampers, for example, or work on helping shelter dogs to find homes. It’s something they can participate in and learn how being their own boss enables them to do things that help their community and the world at large. At its core, entrepreneurship isn’t about making money, rather it is about making the world a better place through business.
5. Talk business with them.
Within reason, discuss business decisions you have to make with your kids. It can even be about household
decisions. They love giving feedback and taking part in adult situations like that because it makes them feel important. You may even be pleasantly surprised at the quality of feedback you get. Children’s minds work
differently than adults’ and they might consider a situation differently than a typical adult would.
If they show an interest in business, you can always help them to set up the classic lemonade stand. Nowadays, you have to be diligent about getting the requisite permits and that can all be part of the teaching process.
6. Portray entrepreneurs as heroes and role models.
Children love people like firefighters because they are obvious heroes. But, entrepreneurs can be heroes, too. You can choose a few successful and respectable entrepreneurs to tell your kids about. Bill Gates uses his wealth for good and Richard Branson always maintains an approachable style even though he’s founded several mammoth companies. You might even personally know some entrepreneurs who you can tell your kids about to get them associating entrepreneurialism with heroism.
7. Listen to business podcasts or watch documentaries.
When they’re old enough, you can tune into some business podcasts when you’re in the car together. A fun podcast focused on entrepreneurialism in the United States is NPR’s How I Built This, which dives into the details of how people built their companies. You can scour YouTube for interviews and documentaries about entrepreneurs to help stoke the fires of your child’s imagination.
If you are not an entrepreneur yourself and you’re not really sure how to answer your child’s questions about
entrepreneurship, you can always try to set up an interview between older children and trusted entrepreneurs you know so they can talk to someone who owns and runs their own business.
As a parent, you can help your children to understand the benefits of entrepreneurialism for themselves and the world. Make it your business to get them interested in starting their own business.