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As internet resources make becoming our own boss easier, society is witnessing an incredible shift: Entrepreneurship is becoming more viable for more people in more forms. Whether as freelancers or small-business owners, more than ever, people want a stake in their work. As a result, the self-starter skills we see in entrepreneurs are more essential than ever.
You do not have to be born with the skills to raise capital or sell a product. You are completely capable of learning everything you need to know to be successful in any industry. It starts with putting in the hours, sharpening critical thinking skills and learning how to lead teams.
Here are three ways to create an environment that’ll nurture the future entrepreneur.
1. Create a diverse circle of friends
Bring new experiences to yourself — if you hang out with five smart people, you’ll be the sixth. By surrounding yourself with people who challenge your understanding of the world, you open your mind to novel ideas. Being friends with people from different backgrounds can introduce new cultures, languages and even food into your life, not to mention life experiences wholly unique from your own. You can then share these experiences with other people, further growing the understanding in your circle.
This idea is grounded in the reality that entrepreneurship education starts with having a growth mindset and being an open-minded thinker. It’s important to know how to connect the dots between different disciplines, and doing that in your relationships is a great way to flex that muscle. This creativity then leads to new approaches to old problems. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it’s often not taught to us as children, but the curiosity seed can be watered at any age, and it will eventually bloom.
By cultivating cultural curiosity and reaping its subsequent benefits, you embrace the interconnected world we live in. Bringing this background into a business setting creates a more complete entrepreneur. In fact, a 2019 McKinsey report showed that diverse teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability, a number that has only increased over the years. The barriers that keep us apart have long since been broken down. It’s up to you whether or not you want to cross that threshold.
2. “HODL” culture
However, there is one lesson that requires a unique skill: endurance. In today’s highly volatile and fast-paced market, many young entrepreneurs (and first-time investors) may not have yet learned the importance of staying focused on a particular initiative over a long period. And yet, perseverance and consistency are among the most critical traits a business owner can have. All of the talent in the world is wasted without patience.
There are a lot of statistics that discuss the failure rate of small businesses, with the most notable being that about 50% fail within five years and 70% within ten. There are a lot of factors that go into those numbers, but they also highlight the importance of HODL (Hold On for Dear Life). Not everyone who embraces the concept will survive, but those who survive will almost certainly have embraced the concept.
Instead of quitting a venture after missing a milestone or selling off a stock when it blinks red, we must learn to focus on consistent growth. It’s not always linear, but it takes time to get to the finish line. Sometimes this may mean slow and steady changes before growing exponentially, requiring you to not only implement all of the skills you have, but also push yourself to adapt and learn new ones. But the most important thing is to continue moving forward.
3. The abundant (and grateful) mindset
To be mentally prepared for the ups and downs of the changes ahead, particularly for young entrepreneurs, build a venture with an abundance mindset belief that everyone can gain access to what they need. The world of business can feel cutthroat, and it may seem like adopting a zero-sum mindset is the only way to get ahead. But, at its core, focusing on abundance (as opposed to scarcity) is built on gratitude and inspiration from the people around you.
Study after study has shown that a grateful mindset in a leader can cultivate a grateful mindset in employees, and that gratitude has a widespread impact on an organization. A massive Deloitte study showed that three-quarters of workers would be satisfied with a simple “thank you” as recognition of their day-to-day work. A few words can make all the difference in the attitude of those around you, increasing productivity, strengthening employee relationships and reducing negativity in the workspace — all of which contributes to a healthier, happier environment.
Fostering this climate that promotes positive reinforcement and collective participation is a lesson I learned from my parents, who gave me great responsibilities as a young entrepreneur but also went out of their way to celebrate my milestones with the whole family. When I won, so did they, and it made me grateful to be on their team. Later on, I adopted that same mindset when Charming Charlie and Boosted Commerce expanded. I wanted everyone to feel that same pride and gratitude that I felt all those years ago. As a result, we continue to be grateful and celebratory about the work that we do and the change that we create together.
This abundance extends to educating others as well. Remember, it’s never too early to begin learning about entrepreneurship. Use your knowledge and experience to create an environment that challenges children to follow their passions and encourages them to celebrate each other’s successes. Teaching others is not just part of being an entrepreneur, it’s essential to being a grateful entrepreneur.
4. Applying the lessons of the lemonade stand
I promised three tips, but I’ll offer a fourth: Even the simplest, smallest ventures can teach us the skills we need. Look no further than the quintessential American youth entrepreneur, the lemonade baron. We are all a tall pitcher of ice water, a few freshly squeezed lemons and a sprinkle of sugar away from learning the most important lesson of all: Be proactive and bring the pieces together.
In my youth, the lemonade stand offered valuable, lasting lessons about being an entrepreneur. It taught me to listen to my customers, focus on the product, provide great customer service and communicate effectively. Most importantly, it announced to the neighborhood that I was willing to put the time and effort into offering something of value to the rest of the community. A simple childhood activity, sure, but it required the skills ubiquitous in entrepreneurship.
But you don’t have to run a lemonade stand to learn and apply these lessons. It’s not necessary to create the next Apple to build something valuable. You only need to offer something that people need or want. And if it’s something that helps 15 people in your neighborhood and makes you $100, you haven’t just made a little pocket change, you’ve built a foundation in entrepreneurship. A 2018 Nature Neuroscience study showed that it’s not just practice that makes perfect, but overlearning a skill that embeds it. So go out, take a cue from the lemonade stand, find a need to fill, go fill it, then rinse and repeat. You never know what you’re going to learn.
Nature vs. nurture
The next time someone brings up the nature vs. nurture conversation about entrepreneurship, consider the moments in your life that helped you become an entrepreneur. Then, think about passing them on. You wouldn’t be where you are without the people who helped you along the way, and you never know whose life you could impact in the same way. You become a better entrepreneur when you help others pursue that shared passion. There is nothing more valuable than that.