I saw some neighborhood kids outside the other day, in the middle of winter in Southwest Missouri, putting up a "whoopie pie" stand. These same kids have a lemonade stand most every day of the summer. I couldn't help but think to myself that they're going to be full-fledged entrepreneurs someday.
It reminded of my oak tree business as a child. Yep, I sold oak trees. We had an oak in our yard and the acorns would often fall into our sand box, then little baby trees would sprout up. I would collect them all and then go door-to-door in our neighborhood, selling them for $0.25 each. And yes, I sold some. How could I not? Certainly everyone wants an oak tree in their yard!
Sure, I was ambitious (and a little creative, if I do say so myself), and that ambition hasn't ceased yet. In fact, it's probably increased a bit through the years. After all, I'm the owner of a photography business and co-owner/CEO of Ink'd – AND a stay-at-home-mom to two boys under four. You can't get much more ambitious than that.
So what is it about the entrepreneurial spirit that's ingrained in us from a young age? What are those characteristics that peak out from behind hours of train track construction, princess dress-up and digging in the sand box, and lead to successful business ventures?
The Obsessive Compulsion to Plan.... Everything
When Katherina Kalman, now owner of Design Specialties, LLC, was eight years old, she held a summer fun fair, which she advertised with hand-written flyers that she personally delivered to every house in the neighborhood. Entry was 10 cents, with koolaid popsicles, games and contests at five to 10 cents each. "My poor little sister (five at the time) dressed as a clown and collected the entry fee and helped as well. Of course a babysitting business (three of us guaranteeing availability and cross coverage) at the ripe age of 10 came next," Katherina says. "Those were the days..."
Even at a young age, Katherina possessed clear attention to detail, right down to the fact that the fishing poles for her fun fair's go-fish game were made out of bamboo. This planning nature is a strong characteristic in many future business owners.
Creativity Got the Best of You
It didn't matter where I was or what I was doing as a kid, my creative juices were always flowing. The doll-house my parents bought for my sister and I was never enough – the entire bedroom (every nook, cranny and drawer) became a Barbie city. I was always creating art projects, and most certainly always writing (go figure).
You'll often find that whatever received the most creative attention from you as a child is somehow directly related to your current business. I offer custom collages for my clients through my photography business – something no one else in my region supplies – which directly stems from all of my art projects as a child.
Innate Social Skills
"In high school I became an Avon Rep, selling to my neighbors and my friends," says Kim Reddington, a business growth and marketing expert in Boston. "My best customers were the old ladies who only bought something because they knew I would sit in their kitchen chatting with them for a while when I delivered their order. Even back then, I somehow knew the power of relationships."
Many great entrepreneurs wouldn't have accomplished much if they weren't able to talk to anybody and everyone about the product or service they offer. As children, these budding success stories were the ones that talked to everyone they came into contact with about whatever interesting thing occurred in the last several days. They might even talk continually, regardless of interruption (like my four-year-old).
Leadership and Management Know-How
Speaking of my son, the ability to be a good leader as an adult currently translates as being a bit of a bossy-pants and, maybe a pinch of control freak (he's quite like his mommy). As he gets older, he may turn out to be more like Ink'd Content's own Bianca Raven:
"At 13 I had a paper delivery route. I asked the boss for an extra route and outsourced this route to my kid brother. It worked. By the time I was 15, I wasn't delivering a thing, but I had five other kids delivering for me. Nice little enterprise."
Between her newspaper delivery enterprise and her tomato plant business on the side, Bianca bought a very nice car for herself the moment she turned 16. Her ability to be a strong leader and micro-manage five paper routes was like having entrepreneur stamped across her forehead!
A Touch of Competitive Nature
While you may not have started your own little business as a tyke, you may have been that kid who couldn't stand the thought of losing... anything. From playing board games with your parents all the way through high school football games (even if you weren't on the team!), that competitive nature probably translated into some mad marketing skills. You're probably the kind of entrepreneur that never gives up, working to always find a way to one-up the competition.
Whatever characteristics you may have now that lend to your business success, if you take the time to look back, you'll likely find the life line of that characteristic all through your life. So, what were your entrepreneurial "tendencies" as a child? When did the idea of being your own boss really resonate with YOU?
Image of my little boys, taken by Kinsey Mhire.