The two statements don't appear to fit together, eight year old and entrepreneur !! We always think of entrepreneurs as much older and experienced, or perhaps the modern day entrepreneurs who dropped out of school to become entrepreneurs because the school system did not fit their needs.
But what about if we had an education approach that built the mindset of an entrepreneur into every child, to help support them to find their passion, whatever that was, at the same time give them the skills they need to deal with the world of the future. Schools are only part of the story you also need to have the right mindset as a parent, below are the words from such a parent, who's child is Shailaja, an 8 year old Entrepreneur.
The following words are from Komi Sam, a mother trying to empower her daughter to be all she can and wants to be, the mother of Shailaja, an 8 year old Entrepreneur.
“She’s 8 years old, and she’s the CEO of her own company?? How is that possible? She must be
extraordinarily gifted and uniquely laser focused!”
That is generally the reaction I get when people learn about Shailaja and her company, Bloom. Full
disclosure — my darling daughter is neither gifted, nor focused, laser or otherwise! What she is, is
eight, and all that comes with that wonderful age. She is a bundle of energy, always silly and
playful, compassionate and kind, curious yet opinionated, and stubborn as an ox.
At the same time, she is creative and full of ideas. Within her, as does in every child, exists an
strong innate desire to bring those ideas to life. This desire is fueled solely by their unique make
up as children, in that they haven’t learned to fear failure. That is, until we adults teach them to,
albeit with the best of intentions, of course, because we think we need to prepare them for the
real world! And so slowly, that spirit that comes with the innocence of childhood, the inner voice
that tells them they can do anything they can dream, that light that was meant to guide them to
greatness, gets smaller, quieter and dimmer every day, until they learn a new modus operandi :
self-censorship. They begin to develop filters that kick in the moment they have a nonconventional
thought : “That’s not a good idea. People will laugh at me. I can’t do it. I’m not smart
enough. I’m don’t know how. What if I’m wrong?”
So how does this relate to my daughter starting her tea company at the ripe old age of 7? Well,
she hasn’t been taught to fear failure. On the contrary, the phrases very commonly heard in our
home is “Thats a great idea! Walk me through it and help me understand. How can I help you?”
and when even a shadow of doubt or fear sets in, these follow : "If you never try, you’ll never
know. What have you got to lose by giving this a shot? What’s the worst thing that could happen if
you do this?”. These apply to the simplest things like trying a new food, all the way to doing
something as unthinkable as starting a business at the age of 7. But these aren’t just empty
platitudes tossed at a kid, rather they are discussion catalysers that enable her to apply equal
measure of reason and wonder in a safe, judgement-free environment.
We build that environment for her at home, with great conscious effort and to the best of our
abilities, measuring words we use and modelling actions we want her to see and learn from. But
we know that despite all our best efforts, if the work we do gets undone the second she sets foot
in school, then we’re dragged back to square one at the end of every day. In many schools,
children are expected to sit still, be quiet, do only as they’re told, not voice any opinions, not offer
up suggestions, not to question, to take their teacher’s words for gospel truth and are punished
for the smallest infractions. How does this method allow free thought, creative ideas and critical
thinking to flourish? It doesn’t, it just quashes it!
Once children enter a formal education setting, parents give up at least half the influence and time
they get with their children to these institutions. No matter how much parents are able to guide
their children, whatever values they instill and self-worth they build up its still only half of what
their child hears, sees and experiences, which all go towards forming who they become as
School has the ability to shape the child’s thoughts, mold their view of the world and
cement their place in it as well as instilling in them their self-worth and core beliefs (limiting or
otherwise). This is why learning institutions and the educators within them need to allow children
to be children, encourage that spirit of wonder and facilitate their discovery of the world through
their own eyes. It’s imperative they be allowed to voice their ideas and see them through, as much
as possible within the confines of curriculum and learning objectives.
As far as we are concerned, her academic performance is where it should be. The bigger emphases in our academic expectations of her are actually more related to her attitude and understanding. I mandate hard work and it’s more important to me that she understands the material and subject matter, rather than being a good test taker. To quantify, she’s come in second in her class on all her core subjects’ final grades. My greater joy comes from seeing her determination to do better and her subsequent efforts to support that desire.
It’s a fine balance and a monumental task, not one that is easily achieved, but one that produces
confident, capable, brave, strong children who believe wholeheartedly that anything is possible,
with lots of hard work, some ingenuity, and the right guidance. There are many fine institutions in
the world, thankfully, that are now starting to do just this. Dwi Emas International School in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia is one such school blazing the trail in Asia, and we have the fortunate pleasure
of being a part of this amazing institution.
Dwi Emas is more than a school, it says so in their credo. Their core focus is on developing each
child alongside their unique gifts, and is heart-led education at its root. Children are truly heard,
given opportunities to be critical thinkers, skill sets to be effective producers, and multiple
platforms to bring their ideas to life. What also exists here is the support network across the entire
organisation with the sole goal of empowering every child that walks their halls.
These kids don’t have to wait to be in their 20s to be “disrupters” as the Uber generation of entrepreneurs and inventors are. They’re doing it now. We are thankful every day that we found the school that is in
line with our core values, one that builds on the foundation we create at home, and together,
we’re raising a child who will one day change the world. It’s in this environment that my 7 year old
said, “I want to start a tea company!” and all the voices that came back (from within and without)
said, “Why not? Go for it! You’ve got this, and we’ve got your back!”
We all have extraordinary answers to the question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t
fail?”. Children have some pretty awesome answers too. Try asking them sometime.
You can see and hear Shailaja share her Entrepreneurial story at Xcited, in Helsinki on November 30th (www.xedu.co/xcited) part of the SLUSH 17 event (www.slush.org). You can also catch my interview with Shailaja and some other young entrepreneurs at https://goo.gl/k1FpwT.
For more information on Dwi Emas school, check out https://dwiemas.edu.my/
For more on Pokuni check out www.polkuni.fi