Living here in the Bay Area, it seems that everyone is an entrepreneur of some type: app developers, realtors, foodies, photographers and even micro-entrepreneurs like bartenders (read my post: How bartending prepared me to run my own business). What exactly did all these parents do differently to raise successful entrepreneurial children? Because it’s National Entrepreneur Month I’m going to explore this topic more in-depth.
This question intrigued me because I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. From business owners, farmers, trailblazers and, yes, even multi-level marketing mavens – hey, Avon was huge in the 50s and 60s! You name it and someone in my family has probably pursued it. So it’s no surprise that I spent my entire life assuming I’d be an entrepreneur too.
Here are three (anecdotally and scientifically) ways parents can raise successful entrepreneurial children:
If Your Parent Was An Entrepreneur Than You Likely Will Be Too
My best friend and I were chatting many years ago about our career aspirations. She was going the corporate route climbing the ranks at PG&E at the time. I was determined and in-progress of starting my own business. During our conversation she said this simple statement that has stuck with me since, “It never has occurred to me that I could work for myself. I always just assumed I would work at a company for someone else.” She was raised in a very traditional household with her dad having worked in corporate and her mom a teacher. They being her main examples informed all her decisions from seeking her first job at AT&T to now working for a multinational computer technology company.
Chronicling the entrepreneur achievements and pursuits of my family, I discovered a common thread: I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. In the late 60s my maternal grandma became the first female to ever work for the City of Modesto’s wastewater treatment. Sure, she was working for someone else, but she was a societal-entrepreneur. What I mean by societal-entrepreneur is someone who rebuffs societal norms and takes on greater than normal risks both financially and socially. Later in life she became an almond orchard farmer that sustained her until end-of-life. My mom and step-dad owned and operated a dental practice. He was the dentist and she ran the business. My paternal grandma was an award-winning Avon lady working well into her 80s. My dad started and sold multiple businesses in mortgage finance. He even had a passion-project business that was a Mexican import store.
So when I read a study that said people are 60% more likely to become entrepreneurs if they have a parent who is one – I wasn’t surprised.
The Value Of Business Acumen
Entrepreneurs raised me so it wasn’t farfetched that I assumed I would be one too. Even as early as middle school when puffy paints inspired my first business idea. Back then I would spend countless hours putting puffy paint on white cotton shirts that my parents bought from Costco. I decided I loved it so much I told my mom I wanted to sell the shirts. She said I had to draft a business plan before she would invest. I never drafted a business plan, which was a good thing because wow, my designs were horrible, but I never forgot her response. It made me realize if I wanted to start a business, I needed to not only perfect the product/service but be business minded too.
Dinner Table Conversations Are Brain Food For Kids
Raised in a religious household we observed the Sabbath, which meant every Saturday we didn’t work or indulge in entertainment. Instead, we typically invited friends over to share Sabbath lunch with. It was during these meals that I would listen in to my parents and their friends talking about their business ideas. They would spend hours talking about an idea and walking through how they would start the business and grow it. Some of those ideas panned out years later, but mostly it was a mental exercise they enjoyed since my parents friends’ were also entrepreneurs.
The topic of family dinners comes up frequently within my own household. My husband and I know how valuable it is that our son sits at a table with us adults and participate and listen in on our conversations. Children who are raised in affluent homes have the advantage of gaining skills and insights that children from disadvantage homes simply don’t have access too. Researchers found dinnertime conversations boosts vocabulary significantly, by 857 words to be exact, compared to vocabulary building from reading alone. Having family dinners is also a powerful predictor of high achievement scores and adolescents were twice as likely to get A’s in school.
If you’re an entrepreneur or aspire to be one, then it’s likely you’ve been shaking your head in agreement with my anecdotes and stats above and have had similar experiences. I’d love to hear from my fellow entrepreneur parents what you learned from your parents that inspired you to be an entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments.