The education system in South Africa is responsible for preparing children to build successful lives. They should be prepared for the wide range of possibilities that lie ahead of them. There are many who believe that entrepreneurship is a trait that you are born with and that it can’t be taught. This is simply not true.
Most schools nowadays teach Business Studies, Business Management or Economics to students. The sad reality though, is that while this subject does indeed focus on the ins and outs of starting and managing a business, it does not teach our ambitious young children and teenagers what it really means to be an entrepreneur. It does not teach them which of their personality traits and characteristics they should be aiming to hone in on. They don’t learn about the experiences and failures of ‘first hand’ entrepreneurs – all our coaches are entrepreneurs themselves and running their own businesses, with some success and some failure – who believe it or not, not all performed actually well at school! Or how to look for problems as opportunities and that a business can be made from doing this.
Recently myself, Jason Newmark (Co-founder and director of Future Proof Western Cape) & lead coach Lana Sinclair, spent 3 days in the Bredasdorp community of the Western Cape, with children between the ages of 9 and 11, from 5 disadvantaged schools attending, under the initiative of NGO organisation, Education Connection and Managing Director, Marius Stolz, introduced the children to the 4-lesson initiative that we at Future Proof have been rolling out around the country.
One of the core focuses of the 4 lessons, is how children can start identifying problems that surround them and the opportunities it can lead to, by starting a business and getting paid to do it. The second lesson focuses and helps these children to create a one page business model canvas that kids are able to put their ideas down and more importantly something they can implement immediately when they go back to their communities. On the canvas the children are put into groups, where they discuss and identify which problem/opportunity they are going to implement, and they write it down on the middle of the page. The page is then divided into 4 quadrants – Customers, Stuff, Tell People and price.
The children are then demonstrated through activities, and real life experiences and knowledge of how to firstly find customers. This exercise is done by hanging apples in trees (low hanging fruit) in various locations. Children are then told to try and get as many as possible and then return to the meeting area.
Once all apples have been collected children are then asked: ‘Why did they go for the apples that they did?’ There are usually a whole host of various answers, but the end answer they usually come to is ‘ they went for the quickest and easiest apples’. The activity learning outcome is then show to them, that they need to think of apples as your customers, you need to always try get to the quickest and easiest customers, not the ones far away or that are hard to get to and you need to be faster than anyone else! And that the first thing you need to start a business is a customer! If you cant find customers first, then you cant run a business. Children are then asked to write down who there ‘apples’ are for their problem and opportunity they are using as their business idea. The kids are then guided through the other 3 quadrants on what ‘stuff’ (inventory) they will need, how they will ‘tell people’ (marketing) and what price they will charge for their business.
Its incredible the ideas the kids come up with and the little lightbulbs that go off once this lesson is over and they know how to actually start a business. The concepts we show them are taught in Harvard Business school, yet when broken down into their simplest form, children are able to easily understand them – its incredibly inspiring and more importantly effective and these kids now have this tool to use to start a business and how to start looking at problems as opportunities and what to do when they identify them’
All 4 lessons are activity based, where kids are shown to ‘think’ like entrepreneurs, how to start a business, cashflow & mentors/networks. With these tools, skills and real life experiences given to them from the entrepreneurial coaches that teach these lessons, shows how easy it can be to get these concepts and learnings into children behaviours while they are still young and can learn to fail and succeed from a young age, and more importantly how to maintain the right mindset (lesson 1) to be able to deal with these failures as they go through life. A stark contrast to teachers teaching Business Studies and economics? Isn’t this something all children in South Africa need to be learning?