For any parent that has a high school or college age son/daughter that is wanting to pursue their own business and be a sole-proprietor, you already know that it is NOT easy and there are many obstacles along this path. It’s a bit of a yo-yo of emotions….some really great achievements (YAY!) and then some very frustrating setbacks (cue the tears). Trying to stay determined and focused can be overwhelming, especially while also maintaining schoolwork, athletics and peer relationships. Your children have the qualities that set them apart already for them to be successful on this path…traits like leadership, staying motivated, being ambitious, fearless and hard-working. You should be so proud because those personality traits will serve them well in life overall-not just as a business owner!
So-what can you do to encourage and help your child to achieve their potential and support their business? I don’t believe it is one specific thing you can do…I think there are many ways parents can be supportive and reassuring to their children that their dreams are a reality, and it all starts at home. But, in my experience in the last 10 years of parenting a young entrepreneur,
This is a game changer!! One of the most helpful things you can do is equip your child with the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed! For Hope, this meant numerous photography workshops and conferences all over the country to not only learn, but to be inspired with like-minded creatives who understood her interests and passion for her business. Hope would save up her money for each workshop, and then our role as parents was to sometimes drive her long distances to get her there or talk with a teacher at school about the days she would need to be absent to attend these events.
I will never forget when Hope attended a workshop back when she was a sophomore in high school. She had saved up and was so excited to attend, and I drove her to Richmond and stayed at the hotel with her. When she finished her first day at the workshop, she returned and was so full of excitement and joy with so many things to tell me I couldn’t keep up! It was truly life-changing and a turning point for Hope-and from that point forward she attended as many workshops and conferences as she could afford and has never stopped wanting to learn! Every workshop or conference is unique and different in so many ways…but the key is that your child will be inspired and grow with each experience in a new way.
It’s so important to NEVER stop learning and growing as a business owner! It’s just important to make sure your child has a way to learn skills in their industry to equip them to make their business prosper!
Not my proudest moment! Let me be perfectly honest. I remember the moment during a Thanksgiving break when Reed was fourteen and said “Maybe I will start a website for photography”. In my head I thought, “Sure, sweetie, you do that” and I silently rolled my eyes. He and his sister had so many ideas. Every few weeks it was a different business idea so I just figured this was another one of their many concoctions.
Little did I know that when we surprised Reed with a Canon Rebel camera from Costco for Christmas, it would turn into something I never could have imagined. Now don’t get me wrong, I never told my kids they couldn’t achieve something if they put in the work. I encouraged them to dream big. But this! Honestly, I am still a bit in awe of what Reed has created all while managing high school/college, tennis, a social life, volunteering at church, and working as a camp counselor every summer.
His level of professionalism is well beyond someone his age. It is actually inspiring! He knew what he wanted and was gifted. He worked hard, invested in himself, forfeited many things (like skipping prom to photograph a wedding), and he went all in. I will never again have a silent eye roll when it comes to what he can do and whatever idea he proposes! As a mom, I’ll admit this was a scary adventure. First, he didn’t even have a driver's license so I was the designated Uber driver. Second, did we even know what we were doing? Well, after seeing a ten page powerpoint presentation, including pi charts + graphs, and a proposed business plan, we invested $1000 in our young entrepreneur and we have never looked back.
I wish I would have had a parent mentoring me because being the mom of a young, successful entrepreneur is not easy. It will keep you up at night. What if my child gets a flat tire on the way to a wedding? Will he safely make it home at 1:00 am? These are things that went through my head.
1. Let them drive. Not the car so to speak, but the business. Let them create and lead the way. Your job is to support them. Unless there was a huge red flag, let your young entrepreneur take the lead.
2. Be An Encourager. Some ideas might fail. But failure is learning. It is a good lesson. Personally I am not a risk taker, but your young entrepreneur will be. Let them take risks, unless you see potential for a huge financial loss. If an idea fails, it is okay. They will come out on the other side with a better business perspective. Having encouraging parents is essential to this process. You will be their biggest fan, so clap loud and cheer them on.
3. Keep Them Accountable. If your entrepreneur says they are going to do something, make sure they follow through. Remember, they still might be young, but in our house, keeping your word is everything. This is especially important to build a trusting client base! Be on time to appointments, respond quickly to emails, and show up + serve with a smile. These things will help your entrepreneur gain trust with clients despite their younger age.
4. Offer support. Starting out, your entrepreneur may not have the funds to outsource. Can you offer support? Running errands, ordering supplies? Answering client emails or lending an ear. Maybe just driving them to an event in town. Whatever level of support you can offer will be invaluable and you won’t regret it.
5. Help Prevent Burnout. Mental health is important! We are dealing with high achieving, young entrepreneurs who will go the distance to bring their dream to life. Be sure to have a good pulse on your son or daughter’s mental health. Starting young can lead to burnout, especially if they are running a business while in school. Reed began “adulting” when he was fifteen. Five years later, he can recognize burnout. He takes the summer off working as a camp counselor. The summer of 2022, he was “out-of-office" for 12 weeks. BUT his business did not suffer because he had the systems in place for it to run while he was away.
A huge shout out to Hope Taylor’s mom, for encouraging me along the way in our first year of business. And, I can say OUR because, we have built this together: blood, sweat and tears! No doubt, I was the one with the tears :)