Yesterday I had the great pleasure to do a very special session of Pitch Practice for a group of teenagers from the Boss Up 101 organization at Atlanta Tech Village. The 20 teenagers are preparing to participate in a pitch contest. Each one has come up with their own idea for a new business, and they are each going to have the opportunity to pitch for one minute to win a grand prize of $250. These kids were so excited and so eager to learn, and they excited me for the future of entrepreneurship. Based on that meeting and the previous days meeting talking to college seniors at Auburn University, here’s a few things I think that the next generation of entrepreneurs need most.
One thing that I believe the world is sorely lacking today is simple encouragement. Not flattery, or false dreams, but encouragement. What does that mean? Encouragement means nudging someone up to the edge of the diving board so that they can jump off and fly. Encouragement means taking them to the contest and telling them that they are capable of doing it, if they try. It doesn’t mean they’ll always win, but it means helping them to try and learn from that effort, win, lose or draw.
We have the opportunity to encourage everyone around us every day. Yesterday I had the opportunity to encourage 20 kids certainly do not have all of the advantages in life that a lot of other people have. However, their own determination, hard work, and great attitude can take them just as far as anyone else.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. Until a teenager hears, sees, and knows what entrepreneurship looks like each and every day, they can’t possibly have a vision for themselves for what they are entrepreneurship journey will look like. It is up to us to give them this vision, to explain to them the ups and downs of the roller coaster ride of being an entrepreneur. It’s up to us to teach them that every day is a grind, and that when you do the little things every day for a very long time good things happen.
Until they have a vision of what entrepreneurship could be, they will be unable to see themselves in that place. We are the only ones you can give them that vision.
Other than a small investment, what is the common thread that runs through every high tech incubator and accelerator? The answer is instruction. It’s learning. There are very specific things that every entrepreneur has to know how to do in order to start, grow, lead, and operate a new business. Those things are learned. The next generation of teenagers coming through high school today are taught a lot of book knowledge but very few life skills. As the current generation of entrepreneurs it is our job to teach them how to survive in the world of starting your own business. They can learn it the hard way or they can learn it from us.
Once they take the leap, they need someone to walk with them along every step of the way. Every entrepreneur needs at least one mentor. That’s something that anybody who has ever been an entrepreneur at any time in their lives can offer. It doesn’t take 10 or 20 or 30 hours a week. It takes an hour or two, and that brief time each week can make all the difference in the future of a young entrepreneur.
Knowing that they have someone they can go talk to and then actually being able to talk through a problem, challenge, and opportunity, or anything else that’s going on in their entrepreneurial venture give them the freedom to try it and talk about it afterwards, whether they succeed or fail at it.
The Next Entrepreneurs
There’s a whole new generation of entrepreneurs growing up right now what else can we do to help them create the next Microsoft, Apple, Google, or Amazon?