Is teaching kids about Free Enterprise and entrepreneurship important? Yes. Here's our interview with Susan Longley who is making a difference with kids.
Susan is a business coach who not only coaches adults, but also teaches young people about entrepreneurship.
At Everyday-Wisdom.com, we believe teaching kids about Free Enterprise, business, and entrepreneurship is important. America is the land of Capitalism. Freedom is the heart and soul of America. Being free to bring value to the marketplace is a value young people need to understand.
Here's the interview:
EW: How did you get started teaching kids about Free Enterprise? Did something trigger it?
Susan: On of my coaching clients asked me to coach his 12-year-old daughter, who wanted to start a baking business. I realized that I would be talking with someone who did not have even a basic understanding of business, and that I would have to start from the beginning. I started making notes of what to cover with her, and those notes eventually evolved into a curriculum on entrepreneurship for middle schoolers, which I have since named and trademarked as The Tycoon Cocoon.
EW: What motivates you as you coach? What is your "Why" for doing what you do?
Susan: I'm really a teacher at heart. I love helping people learn to do new things, and I have always been interested in business. Coaching is really based on the ability of the coach to "see" and "hear" the client fully, so that the coaching is on target for that particular client.
EW: How does their age fit into how you coach them?
Susan: In the beginning I imagined myself actually helping kids start businesses, but I soon realized that that was a pretty small target market. At ages 11-14, kids are still in touch with the imaginative world of childhood, but they are beginning to be curious about how they are going to fit into the adult world. I realized that a simulation--a game--would be the best way to engage them. I have had children participating in the Tycoon Cocoon workshop who then go on to start businesses, but for most kids this age the opportunity to imagine themselves as entrepreneurs is sufficient.
EW: What do you like most about teaching kids about Free Enterprise and entrepreneurship?
Susan: Their imagination--it's fun to work with them because they aren't troubled by reality too much.
EW: In your opinion, what are the most important factors in kids understanding entrepreneurship?
Susan: I like to keep the learning concrete and relational--no theory. We focus on learning business vocabulary and concepts such as target market, joint venture, press release, sales script, and profit and loss statement. The overarching theme of the workshop is that business is a relationship--and that you will fail if you can't apply the golden rule to your customers, employees and stakeholders, because you WILL have a competitor who can do that.
EW: How would you describe an ideal day with the kids?
Susan: I love it when the kids are working on joint ventures with each other--they huddle and figure out how they could help each other become more successful. I prefer being a coach and a resource for them over lecturing any day!
EW: What are your short and long term goals?
Susan: I would like to see The Tycoon Cocoon offered as an exploratory class for middle school--one of those short classes that everyone takes just to find out what it's about (such as music, art, computers, etc.) In the meantime I am working on creating a summer camp/afterschool/homeschool venue.
EW: What advice would you give parents to help them help their kids with the course and with understanding entrepreneurship?
Susan: Mostly to be interested in what they are doing, ask questions, and let them explain what they have learned. One of the moms of a girl in the workshop commented "My daughter really enjoyed your class—she came home so excited and filled with new ideas and possibilities. It was kind of unusual for her to be so excited about a class so I think it really must have been a special experience for her."
EW: How does setting goals fit into the course?
Susan: We always start off a workshop with a visualization where the kids explore what their business would feel like. They kids make a vision board and then we set business goals. They have trouble with this in the beginning, so we return to evaluate our goals at the end of the class, and it's always a much easier concept for them then.
EW: What outcomes have the kids experienced?
Susan: I don't do any testing--just continually present and review the material and work with it until it becomes natural for them. We do a lot of role plays and oral presentations, as well as writing and art projects where they demonstrate their knowledge. I'm not intending or expecting anyone to start a business at this point, just to explore entrepreneurship as an option.
EW: What gives you the greatest satisfaction working with and coaching kids?
Susan: Having no idea where they will go with what they learn from me--what they will accomplish, who they will teach, it's kind of like trying to imagine infinity.
EW: Has anything surprised you working with kids?
Susan: When I offered my first workshop at a summer camp, I really wasn't sure if they kids would get engaged--would they be bored, drop out, not get it? I was so excited with how they responded--sometimes it felt like I was sitting around a table with a group of CEOs instead of a group of kids.
EW: What do you feel is your greatest strength working with kids?
Susan: I have the ability to take children seriously. When I talk to them about their imaginary businesses, I'm no less curious and caring than I would be with an adult client who was talking to me about their real business.
EW: What have you learned from the kids?
Susan: To have fun, and that the best business for you is one that you love.
EW: Is there anything you would like to add about teaching kids about free enterprise and entrepreneurship?
Susan: I want children to think of themselves as someone who creates jobs, generates income for innovation and inspires and challenges others. Someone who has a big vision that will take a lifetime to accomplish.