I learned the word "entrepreneurship" when I was 12. I had just started my first business, and my mother informed me I was now an “entrepreneur.”
I didn't know what the word meant, but I liked the way it sounded.
Even better, I liked having a business. I was selling hand-knitted dolls, made from patterns I had designed myself. I sold them for $24 apiece, which, at 12 years old, was good money. It would only take me four sales to make nearly $100, and $100 significantly upped the balance I scrawled on the lid of my money box.
That number excited me when I first got started. Little did I know I would surpass it many times over in the years I was in business.
The money was nice. More importantly, I was learning real-world lessons about life, business, and being opportunistic—skills that served me well in my future entrepreneurial ventures, such as breaking into the startup world and becoming a professional development coach.
It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how much of an advantage being homeschooled gave me when it came to thinking entrepreneurially.
There are some very tangible reasons why.
1. Immersed in the Business World
I grew up watching my parents engage in business. I’d sit at the kitchen table to do math in the morning, while my mom made lunch a few feet away. In the afternoon I’d go out with my parents to run errands, and I’d get to watch my mom make transactions at the bank and decisions at the store.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the world of a homeschooler is very different from the world of a public schooler.
The world of public school is divided into segments: ages divided by grade, days divided by period, life divided by school vs. work vs. activities.
The world of a homeschooler, on the other hand, is organic. It’s all one world: work and play, learning and recreation. The adult world is not a distant thing to be engaged with "someday." It’s just part of the sandbox kids are playing in on a daily basis.
So the connections between "people do that" and "I could do that" happen organically.
While the public schooler is stuck in class, the homeschooled kid is home to watch the landscaper pull up and take care of the neighbor’s lawn. The possibility is presented to them: “what if I did that?” A push mower and a weedwhacker later, a new landscaping venture is born.
Of course, this doesn’t mean a public schooler can’t start a landscaping business too. Many do, I'm sure. But the homeschooler has two distinct advantages:
- They see opportunities for entrepreneurship more clearly.
- The surface area for opportunities to come to them is greater, because they’re around in the real world and exposed to them.
Both of these advantages make a big difference.
2. Freedom to Lean Into Opportunities
Back when I was working my first office job, I remember my CEO’s homeschooled kids coming into the office to run a bake sale.
They had made the connection that their dad had a bunch of hungry employees, that they had baking skills, and that those two things went well together. They made cookies and Rice Krispy bars and some cute signs and brought them all into the office one Friday around lunchtime.
If I remember correctly, they made bank.
It is our natural inclination as children to mimic the behavior of others in the real world. Just think about how much small children love toys like cash registers and play kitchens. Little kids tend toward play-mimicry; as kids get older, they start gravitating toward real-world emulation and experimentation.
When there’s less distinction between things you "have to do" and things you "want to do," between "kid stuff" and "grown up stuff," it's much easier for the worlds to blend.
And on a practical level, homeschooled kids just have more time. If you're not waiting for bells and periods and other students, your school work doesn't actually take that long.
Most kids I knew growing up could get their work done in two or three hours a day, which left them with the rest of the day to play with.
Literally. They could play, they could explore their interests, they could have fun.
3. How Play Evolves Into Entrepreneurship
Often it's an organic transition from play to entrepreneurship: such a fine line that it isn't even discernible to the naked eye.
I started my doll-making business by accident. I was playing with knitting patterns, found an idea I liked, and made the doll—just for fun.
Then I gave it to my little sister as a present—just for fun.
One of the homeschooling moms I knew loved the doll and asked if she could buy one. So I sold her a custom order—just for fun.
And then I realized that this was a process I could rinse and repeat—and make money off of. And slowly my opportunistic tendencies kicked in. But it all stemmed from play.
There are many valuable things that we're naturally drawn to. But it’s only when we're given the freedom to play that we get to go explore them, try them out, find how they're valuable and make them stick.
And since we're just playing, it's always fun.
And since it's always fun, we keep going.
And since we keep going, we're more likely to succeed.