Children are the greatest source of learning and wonder we have. They look at the world in new, refreshing ways, and come up with some wonderful ideas. Young minds are often the best business minds too.
On a recent trip to Jordan a friend of mine came across two young girls – just seven and four years old – siting by the side of the road selling rocks. Yes, rocks. The landscape with dominated with rocks and boulders, however the girls had sourced the “best” rocks, and had set them out to sell for $1 each. When asked: “How about five for $1?” the youngest replied, "Well, if you buy four, I'll give you one free".
This wonderful tale highlights that you’re never too young to be an entrepreneur. The girls' efforts took a lot of hard work and gumption. They believed in their product, stayed true to their strategy, and at the same time were open to beneficial compromise.
It reminded me of the time I saw some South African kids filling potholes and waiting to see if they’d be paid for their work. Again, it resonated with me because I loved the kids’ entrepreneurial spirit.
We often rack our brains trying to find grand ideas for the next big thing. These kids simply saw a problem, worked out how they could solve it, and got on with it. It’s a great way to think about business.
Like the kids in Jordan and South Africa, I started out my business career young and with simple ideas. I grew Christmas trees and raised budgerigars. Both were complete failures – the trees were eaten by rabbits, and the birds’ reproduction rate far outpaced their demand. However, had we never tried, we wouldn’t have failed. Without failure, we wouldn’t have learned anything, and wouldn’t have gone on to find success.
Throughout my career, I have been really lucky to have the opportunity to meet with and learn from a lot of young people. I recently visited a group of schoolchildren, who were taking their first steps into the business world with the Fiver Challenge. Open to kids aged 5–11 years across the UK, the Fiver Challenge aims to inspire creativity while challenging children to be entrepreneurial and make a profit. It’s a great initiative that I recommend more schools sign up to, as it teaches children how to work together to make wonderful products and services that benefit their community. Some of the youngsters have sent me some beautiful, enlightening – and hilarious – letters. More on those soon.
So, how can you make money selling old rocks? With child-like enthusiasm, belief in your product and honest hard work. Of course, it always helps if you have a great product too!
What have you learned from a child that has stuck with you?