A few months ago, the world heard about teenager Nathan John-Baptiste, who built a £50,000-a-year tuck shop empire from the boys’ toilets. Dubbed the Wolf of Walthamstow, the schoolboy had 11 employees working across three schools before his operation was shut down. It’s entrepreneurial spirit we don’t expect to see in children. But it’s not as rare as you might think.
I’m fronting a campaign by cloud accounting software company Xero that has found while children as young as seven receive an average of £570 a year from pocket money and gifts, nearly half of them go on to earn more from side businesses. From selling old toys on eBay to cleaning their neighbour’s cars, it’s a remarkable start for the third of British kids (32%) who say they would like to be a business owner themselves when they grow up.
When child entrepreneurs came into the Den it was always a big moment. Last year 15-year-old Arminder Singh Dhillon came in with his mum to pitch Boot Buddy, his own invention that cleans muddy boots and shoes. He walked away with £60,000 from Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Touker Suleyman – the youngest ever entrepreneur to receive investment in the Den.
But while kids are clearly savvy when it comes to earning money, it seems they aren’t so shrewd when it comes to saving their earnings. The Xero research found that half of parents (49%) admit their children understand the idea of saving, but rarely do it.
With poor cashflow management cited as the reason why two thirds of small businesses (65%) fail in the first five years of trading, and 27% of small business owners admitting (pdf) they don’t keep proper track of the time and materials spent on a client’s assignment, it’s more important than ever to instill budgeting and cashflow sense in our entrepreneurs of the future.
I think it’s vital to teach children an understanding of good money management as soon as they start handling it themselves. Every school should teach enterprise – it is so relevant to every aspect of life. Sadly, in UK, many teachers don’t have the time, support or knowledge to discuss money management with the kids. Something else always takes priority. But it is vital to teach these skills to our children. As this research shows, our relationship with money is set as early as seven years old.
Starting a business has certainly become a more acceptable career choice than it used to be, but we need to teach our children how to realise this burning ambition. It’s good to get started young – when I was 11, I delivered 181 papers for £1.81 (1p per paper) and was earning £1 an hour in a local cafe at 13. While I quickly learned there were better ways to make money, that work ethic has never left me. I have no idea whether my children will choose to become entrepreneurs – they certainly talk about it – but my job is to equip them with as many tools as possible to make the right decisions when the time comes. Shouldn’t all of our children have that chance?
Saah Willingham is an entrepreneur and ex-Dragon’s Den investor.
On – 27 Sep, 2017 By Sarah Willingham