“She may as well be 50 years old. I like how she treats and values her work and her own intuition and product. Her intent is good to be around.”
These words appeared in my in-box, after a birthday party down by the river. They’re the words of a grown woman in the midst of a career change. She happened to meet my twelve-year-old daughter Sonia, and sometime after a riotous round of hula hooping and cake-eating, Sonia had brought out her iPodTouch and shared about her new photography business.
What makes a twelve-year-old think she can do such a thing? Not only start a business, but also share it with a brand-new adult acquaintance, with complete confidence that her work is worthy and viable?
I’d like to think it has something to do with the brainstorm I got one lonely Friday afternoon. Feeling distanced from my colleagues and friends (many of whom I only share life with online), it occurred to me that I was missing an opportunity—to bring my face-to-face life into contact with my rich online life.
Thus was born Kids in Business: an effort to mentor my two girls, ages 12 and 14, in the ways of entrepreneurial work.
So far, we have Skyped with four small business owners, and it’s been inspiring. With Lyla Lindquist, we were encouraged to think about the difference between a hobby and a business—and remember that one doesn’t always serve our inner needs the way the other might. Also, just because we love something doesn’t mean it’s a simple way to make money. For instance, building a business around Art is classically more difficult, and it takes some real creativity in marketing and positioning.
On that count, the girls really put their marketing heads together after they met Maureen Doallas, whose business Transformational Threads is quite fulfilling but more challenging to market than, say, kitchen knives. The girls loved Maureen’s vision for bringing financially-needy third-world artisans together with American painters, to offer a truly unique and beautiful art product to buyers.
Several of the girls’ marketing ideas revolved around a concept they developed on the spot, while listening to Maureen’s stories and considering their own relationship to art: people often buy art when it means something personal to them.
This concept was so convincing to their own mother that each girl will receive one Transformational Threads’ piece as a gift. (Yes, their mother chose the art pieces based on the personal interests and family-stories of each girl. Shhh. Don’t tell.)
As for why a twelve-year-old would be so bold as to share her new business with a brand-new adult acquaintance, we might have Claire Burge and Kelly Sauer to thank. In our Skype meeting with Claire, she told stories of her own business aims that began when she was twelve. Her encouragement to the girls to start now was only strengthened by the graciousness of Kelly Sauer, who made an impressive slideshow of Sonia’s photography and gifted it to her on the day of our Skype call. In other words, Kelly took my twelve-year-old seriously, showing her how to present her work more effectively and giving her an exciting vision for the future.
It makes me wonder: what if we consistently took our kids seriously? What if we partnered with them in ways that could shepherd their interests into possible businesses? What if—yes—we taught a girl (or a boy) to fish, to feed them for a lifetime…
Image by Tim Miller. Post by L.L. Barkat, Managing Editor of Tweetspeak Poetry (makers of Every Day Poems and WordCandy) and author of Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing.
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