I'm Raising An Entrepreneur - Make Mine a $Million Meetup LA 2010
I worked at a young age. My father gave me a job counting his company’s inventory each year starting when I was around 8. My dad had a typewriter sales and service company. He had contracts with most of the large hotels in Las Vegas and he had a team of technicians that would be dispatched to various accounts if a ribbon was stuck or an IBM Selectric II typeball was broken. As I got older, I was given more duties and eventually a regular schedule. I got to work in all aspects of my father’s company and learned valuable lessons about maintenance contracts, accounts receivable, real estate, management and more.
I’m doing it differently than my dad. I read an article in Inc. in 2005 that had a tremendous impact on me. I had just visited Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and purchased some chocolate from a boutique called Vosges when I found an article on raising entrepreneurs (this is when my daughter was 5). I read that the mother of the founder of Vosges was an entrepreneur and raised 2 out of 3 entrepreneurs. I was very motivated about not letting my daughter work for me. Here is the link to the article: http://tinyurl.com/22mbsfx Unlike my dad (who fired me twice for not being up to his standards), I’m trying to save my daughter from being traumatized by my exacting business standards and teaching her to launch her own company.
I encouraged my daughter, Olivia, to start her first company, Sierra Company right after I read that article. Olivia was 5 or 6. She thought of the company name and we agreed to the business concept: she would be an outsourced personal assistant for $0.25 an hour. We made business cards for her and created an email address and I helped her pitch a few people (friends and family). That company didn’t last long and I was ok with that. I have started and abandoned about 20 companies since I was a kid.
The next company I helped Olivia start was Fun Exercise http://www.funexercise.net when she was about 7. Fun Exercise makes and sells exercise DVDs for kids. Fun Exercise was a blast! Olivia loves the camera (video camera that is) and she learned a lot of great lessons from that company. One of my vendors created a spread sheet where Olivia could punch in her selling price and instantly see what her gross profit per unit would be. She tested a $5 price point all the way to a $20 price point. We discussed value and target market. She felt that $5 was a good price point even though she liked the profit margin at $10 better. This company has been put to the side for now and Olivia may or may not go back to it. Olivia might be like me and have 15 companies before she finds one that really sticks for her.
Olivia’s current company is Bananafoot http://www.bananafoot.net an ecom site that sells mindfully made products. The products themselves are either bio-degradable or BPA-free or the packaging is minimal or bio-degradable. I’m Olivia’s advisor and employee. Olivia is using Social Media for her marketing currently but also attends a lot of business events to spread the word about her company. She attends and participates in about 1-2 Toastmasters http://www.tmdistrictone.org meetings a month to help her develop her speaking skills. We worked on her elevator pitch and uploaded it to Make Mine a $Million recently http://tinyurl.com/23z6ml8. She attended the Make Mine a $Million Los Angeles Meetup on April 20th, 2010 and gave her elevator pitch to a room full of 40 women entrepreneurs including Nell Merlino, the founder of Make Mine a $Million and Take Your Daughter To Work Day as well as the amazing Stacey Soleil (@staceysoleil).
It isn’t easy trying to raise an entrepreneur. The biggest challenge is that Olivia doesn’t like Social Media (unlike mommy). I could suggest that she outsource it but that is one area that I feel it’s more effective when done by the person with the message. One of the easier lessons for Olivia (who has a very generous heart) has been teaching Olivia about micro-philanthropy with her business. Olivia will be giving some of her proceeds from one of her product lines to the Burbank Green Alliance http://www.burbankgreenalliance.org. The easiest part of teaching Olivia about business is how to network – she has the gift of gab! At the Make Mine a $Million Meetup, Olivia took 40 business cards with her and came home with 3. I personally watched her speak with tons of people from that event. I feel that these are the kind of skills that are important to develop early.
I took Olivia to see the movie Oceans last night for market research. Plastic is one of the greatest and worst inventions. The movie was uplifting and sobering at the same time. I was careful to discuss Olivia’s product lines with her and how each product specifically impacts the environment after the consumer is done with it. I explained that each time Olivia speaks with someone about her products that she is educating them about plastic and rubber alternatives. I explained that commerce is a powerful tool for change. The movie had a lot of great lessons in it – only 1 out of a 1,000 sea turtles make it from the nest to the ocean to reproduce. I told Olivia that it’s the same in business – only the toughest, fastest and luckiest survive.
Olivia can choose to be a homemaker or an entrepreneur (or both!) and I’ll be happy. The most important thing is to mentor my child in an area that I feel will be valuable to her education. It’s that Chinese Proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The photograph is from the Make Mine a $Million Los Angeles Meetup on April 20th and from left to right: Julie Fogg (@juliefogg), Olivia Osen (@oliviaosen my daughter), Nell Merlino (@nellmerlino founder of Make Mine a $Million and Take Your Daughter To Work Day), my Donald Trump doll and Stacey Soleil (@staceysoleil).