When I was about fourteen years old, I signed up for something called Junior Achievement. It was a happy-go-lucky non-profit group that promoted business and entrepreneurship skills in children. Or basically, it was a bunch of kids in a room every Thursday night acting like middle managers with adult supervision.
My group ended up coming up with a business called Roc Creations. This was a clever play on our core product: cheap, homemade rock necklaces. We thought it was a brilliant, failsafe plan. After all, who likes necklaces? Everybody, of course. And how cheap are rocks? Pretty darn cheap, man. We just spent one Thursday at the beach, the next Thursday painting, and the Thursday after that drilling holes and tying string through them. We figured it was a solid plan, well executed.
Sadly, after a few weeks we realized we’d made a huge mistake. We’d bet all our chips on a losing hand. The necklaces failed to generate enough buzz and excitement at the flea markets, despite our screaming rhyming chants at terrified housewives, and we quickly tumbled into the red, piles of dead inventory and drill bit invoices mocking our poor judgment.
But then, like any good business, we evolved! We quickly changed our name to Roc-Cal Creations, and printed off a quickie run of cheapo laminated calendars. We tied them together with a dry erase marker, slapped some magnets on the back, and went door to door, neighbor to neighbor, selling these “reusable fridge calendars” for four bucks apiece.
Well, we managed to sell enough of them to get back in gear. We started to make money and established a strong business partnership with the lady in the markers aisle at Staples. Yes, it all ended well, but not without some late nights under a dim lamp with a dollar-store calculator, a stack of graph paper, and a pile of Laurentien pencil crayons, trying desperately to finish the numbers for our annual report, which was actually printed on the inside of one of our folded-up calendars.
It was a great experience and it really got my buzz going for running a business. That’s why I think it’s always fun when you see children running some sort of strange, hilarious, or terrible business. Because really, you’re just watching them learn stuff they don’t learn at school and have fun doing it.
How cute are the twins selling lemonade on the street corner? The gymnastics team running the barbecue outside the grocery store? Or the kid who takes your grocery cart back if he gets to keep the twenty-five cent deposit?
Those kids are all playing the game. So I say: go on, kids. Do it well. Next time you’re selling some rock-hard cookies or salty date squares at a Bake Sale, sign me up. Because we’re not just buying some mild indigestion, are we? No, we’re investing in the future.
Last week I visited my old home town east of Toronto and spoke to local high schools on the first day of school! Thanks to the folks at Austin and Dunbarton for hosting me!