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From playtime to payoff: creating a pipeline of children founders

Here are some of the best programs for aspiring innovators looking to learn how to build a business from scratch.

From playtime to payoff: creating a pipeline of children founders

Nearly half of young people in OECD countries – and as many as 60% of American teenagers – express an interest in entrepreneurship, yet only a small fraction of them have actively tried to start a new venture in the past decade. As a result, a huge reserve of energy and potential is going untapped, and many societies are missing a valuable opportunity to teach important life skills to the next generation.

Thankfully, things are changing. The number of entrepreneurship programs aimed at children between the ages of six and eighteen is growing steadily as communities around the world recognize the lifelong benefits of learning to think, strategize, and execute like a founder. Thanks to these initiatives, a new generation of young people is cultivating important proficiencies, such as creativity, financial literacy, problem-solving, and critical thinking, while exploring the benefits of adopting a growth mindset.

In this article, we’ll be delving into four particularly impactful entrepreneurship programs, before explaining why learning venture building principles from a young age can help empower the leaders of tomorrow.

Lemonade Day empowers young entrepreneurs

Serving over 90 communities in three countries, Lemonade Day is a non-profit organization that aims to teach young children about entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The program was founded in 2007 by Michael Holthouse, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, with the following mission: to “​​help prepare youth for life through fun, proactive and experiential programs infused with life skills, character education, and entrepreneurship”.

Lemonade Day participants learn how to start, own, and operate their own lemonade stand business. By doing so, they acquire valuable life skills that they can use in any career path they choose.

At the core of the Lemonade Day program is the entrepreneur workbook, which teaches kids about budgeting, marketing, sales, and customer service. This workbook is designed to be fun and engaging for kids, while also providing them with essential business skills. The workbook is supplemented by other materials such as a mentor guide, which provides resources for adult mentors to help guide the young entrepreneurs through the process.

Lemonade Day also offers online resources such as games and activities to help kids learn about entrepreneurship and financial literacy. These resources are available to everyone and can be used to supplement the physical materials provided to participants.

The program culminates in Lemonade Day, where kids set up and operate their own lemonade stands. This gives them an opportunity to put into practice what they have learned and experience first-hand what it means to run a business. Kids are encouraged to use a portion of their profits to donate to a local charity of their choice. This not only teaches them about giving back to the community but also helps to instill a sense of social responsibility.

The Thiel Fellowship supports young innovators and entrepreneurs

The Thiel Fellowship is a program founded in 2011 by investor and PayPal founder Peter Thiel. It aims to support young entrepreneurs under the age of 20 who demonstrate exceptional talent and entrepreneurial potential for building innovative companies.

The fellowship provides financial support, mentorship, and resources for two years. Fellows receive a $100,000 grant and access to a network of successful entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts. Additionally, the fellowship offers resources and support for building and scaling companies, including legal and financial assistance, office space, and access to capital.

The program is highly competitive, with thousands of applicants each year. Fellowship alumni have gone on to build successful companies in various industries, including technology, healthcare, and finance. They are part of a thriving community of entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators who are working to change the world through their companies and projects.

The best example is probably Dylan Field, founder of collaborative web platform Figma, who was selected as a Thiel Fellow in 2012.

BUILD is helping the next generation of entrepreneurs

BUILD is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower youth from under-resourced communities to become entrepreneurial leaders and succeed in the 21st century economy.

Since its founding in 1999, BUILD has served thousands of students across the United States. BUILD's program is a four-year entrepreneurship and college readiness program that provides students with the tools, skills, and resources to start and run their own businesses. The program is designed to help students develop skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, financial literacy, and college readiness.

Students in the program work in teams to create and launch their own businesses, with support and mentorship from volunteers and staff. The program also includes workshops, events, and field trips that expose students to a variety of industries and careers.

BUILD has a track record of success, with over 95% of its students graduating high school and 84% of its graduates enrolling in college. Beyond the program, BUILD also offers ongoing support and resources to its alumni, including mentorship, networking, and career development opportunities.

SHAD is empowering future innovators to create an impact

SHAD is a non-profit organization that aims to empower exceptional high school students to become the next generation of leaders and innovators. Since its founding in 1980, SHAD has served thousands of students across Canada and internationally.

One of the ways SHAD accomplishes this mission is through a four-week summer program that provides students with an immersive and interdisciplinary experience in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). The program is designed to help students develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and leadership abilities, as well as to inspire them to pursue careers in innovation fields.

During the program, SHAD Fellows participate in hands-on workshops, team projects, and receive mentorship from industry professionals and academics. Additionally, the program offers opportunities for students to network with peers from diverse backgrounds and to engage in social and cultural activities.

Many SHAD Fellows have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and leaders in various industries. SHAD is committed to creating an inclusive and diverse community of future innovators who are equipped to create positive change in the world.

Why young people should become venture builders

Venture building, and entrepreneurial activities more generally, can empower young people for a variety of reasons. Not only does entrepreneurship boost creativity and problem-solving abilities, it also promotes the value of taking ownership of our ideas, including the challenging process of bringing those ideas to life. In addition, the venture building process requires critical thinking, risk-taking, and even a little science, all of which can positively impact children’s development.

The social aspect of venture building is also crucial. By embracing entrepreneurship, young people will likely work with peers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, building up their confidence and knowledge base while also teaching them the importance of collaboration and networking.

Venture builders who start early in life will not only learn a lot and have fun. They will also fully understand the old adage: the best way to predict the future is to create it.

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