“Raising an Entrepreneur” offers tips to nurture a child’s creativity, independence

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Author Margot Machol Bisnow with her entrepreneurial sons, Elliott and Austin (l to r).

When business and parenting are mentioned in the same breath, or in the same book, the bottom line usually involves encouraging the parent to employ some type of transactional behavior with the child(ren), such as paying allowances for chores; exchanging money, points, privileges or treats for proper behavior; or — I kid you not — teaching them double-entry bookkeeping to track those allowances and brib … um, rewards.

This type of advice is prescriptive, typically involving lots of colorful minutiae: charts with oodles of stars or stickers, cool apps that sometimes are more complicated than actual double-entry bookkeeping. And, maybe even more important (because there are so many moving parts), this advice feels as if you’re doing something proactive and consequential.

Similar to training manuals for just-promoted junior executives, these types of parenting books have you set goals, make plans and lay out steps to build  “better” children, starting now and working overtime into the future.

In “Raising an Entrepreneur: 10 Rules for Nurturing Risk Takers, Problem Solvers, and Change Makers,” author Margot Machol Bisnow, the mother of two entrepreneurial sons, stands this approach on its head and reverse-engineers the mechanisms of childrearing to deconstruct what it really takes to raise successful kids.

Bisnow, like other parenting writers, begins her journey in the now, interviewing many successful young entrepreneurs, artists and philanthropists and discussing their achievements. But then she travels back in time with them and their mothers to explore what made them the people they are today.

The interviews, broken into manageable pieces to highlight each of her 10 rules, are fascinating and surprising. The rules are simple and straightforward, yet they’re necessary lessons in mindfulness, self-discipline and trust. If your child is already showing signs of incipient capitalism, the book is a goldmine of ideas that have worked for other parents trying to nurture creativity, risk-taking, drive and determination.

If your child has little appetite for running a lemonade stand, operating a dog-walking service or developing the next Pokémon Go app, you may be asking, “So why do I need this book? I don’t want my kid to be the next Jeff Zuckerberg, I just want him to be safe and happy and have a decent job.”

You need this book because the kind of upbringing that makes entrepreneurs successful carries over into success in all walks of life. You can’t make a baby Bill Gates or a mini Meg Whitman, but you can enable one to develop if the temperament is there, while raising a child who will be secure, creative and fulfilled, no matter what career path he or she chooses.

Bisnow’s “rules” are foundational rather than detail-oriented and are more about mind-set than micromanagement. Her recommendations can help you more effectively spend your parenting energy, bringing peace and purpose as well as clarity and wisdom to your parenting efforts.

Her admonition to let kids fail and pick themselves back up will seem counter-intuitive, even cruel, to some parents, but it’s the heart of successful parenting. Children must learn, with gentle guidance and loving support, to live their own lives.

Parents do immense damage when they don’t let children do this. Protecting them from life’s challenges and disappointments, or doing things for them that they should do for themselves, does not make children happy and confident; it makes them insecure and incompetent. It tells them that their parents neither believe in nor trust their abilities.

Taking the lessons from “Raising an Entrepreneur” to heart can help parents step back and see the whole parenting forest, and remind them that:

“Good timber does not grow with ease;
the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.”
— J. Willard Marriott

Resources for young entrepreneurs

Hive @ central. This free entrepreneurs’ “discovery space” at Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix was created as a partnership among the library, the city’s Community and Economic Development Department and Arizona State University’s Entrepreneurship + Innovation group.

  • Upper-elementary, middle-school and high-school kids can learn all about starting and running their own businesses or nonprofits.
  • Serious young entrepreneurs can meet and work with other problem-solvers and innovators, get mentoring from local business leaders, attend workshops and programs and consult the center’s many print and online resources and knowledgeable staff.
  • Hive @ central is on the second floor of Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
  • Learn more: phoenixpubliclibrary.org/hive.

AZ Children’s Business Fair. This third annual downtown Phoenix event celebrates child entrepreneurs.

  • Kids ages 6 to 14 come up with their own business plans, create their own products and sell them for one day in a booth they design.
  • More than 100 booths are expected at the fair, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Arizona Center, Third and Van Buren streets in Phoenix.
  • Visit azchildrensbusinessfair.com to register.

JA BizTown. Junior Achievement of Arizona. This nonprofit partners with more than 50 school districts and 250 schools to help thousands of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders each year through a simulation that teaches economic concepts, workplace skills, personal and business finances, work ethic, economics, leadership and teamwork.

  • During in-class lessons, students explore career options, interview for jobs, create business plans, calculate operating costs and design marketing campaigns.
  • During the town simulation, students work as employees and entrepreneurs, open bank accounts, vote and pay taxes, market their businesses and more.
  • Learn more at jaaz.org/ja-biz-town.

Rising Tycoons. This Arizona academy offers camps and classes where teenagerslearn entrepreneurial skills. risingtycoons.com.

Books by child entrepreneurs

“The Making Of A Young Entrepreneur: A Kid’s Guide To Developing The Mind-Set For Success,” by Gabrielle J. Jordan. This independent and ambitious young lady started her own jewelry company at age 9, and wrote a book about it at age 11. She talks directly to kids about the beliefs and skills they need to create their own businesses.

“Better Than A Lemonade Stand! Small Business Ideas for Kids,” by Daryl Bernstein, illustrated by Rob Husberg. The author was 15 when he wrote and published the original version. This update has 55 simple, low-cost, small business start-up suggestions, along with plenty of specific “how-to” information.

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