You know this child. The neighbor’s son or daughter selling lemonade on the corner during a hot summer day. A daughter who charges siblings interest to borrow money or loan them possessions. The budding artist who sells her artwork to friends at school. Meet the next generation of entrepreneurs―who may very well change the world as we know it.
The rate of startup growth has increased quite meaningfully in the last year. Reports indicate entrepreneurship is alive and well across the United States, with regions of start-up innovation emerging across the country at an increasing rate. There are a growing number of success stories that debunk the myths that you have to live in Silicon Valley or have to be…well…“old” to sow your entrepreneurial oats with success.
Where there was once a lack of resources to educate and promote entrepreneurship among young people several years ago, a strong passionate community has quickly arisen to embrace, mentor and fund our next-gen entrepreneurs.
This week in In Process (Trusted Counsel’s bi-weekly podcast show), we speak with Monica Lage, executive director at Break into Business, a non-profit organization dedicated to training entrepreneurs age 9-17; and Professor Richard Linowes, management educator at American University in Washington, D.C.
“The most successful children entrepreneurs have a total determination and focus to drive forward what they believe needs to exist,” said Monica. “That has to come from a deeper source of passion―coupled with that determination to keep pushing since it’s so easy in the early days, especially, to call it quits.”
“The making of a great entrepreneur comes from a clarity about what kind of needs you want to address, and then just building the tools and team necessary to address that need,” said Richard. “It comes down to finding your passion and building a business around it.”
During the course of the podcast “Children Who Mean Business: Developing Next-Gen Entrepreneurs,” parents, investors and business mentors will learn:
- The benefits of educating children on real-world business and entrepreneurship
- How to recognize a child’s propensity for entrepreneurship
- Resources available to promote entrepreneurship, from elementary school to college
- Characteristics of the successful entrepreneurs
Stream the conversation with Monica and Richard in the player below to learn how to best foster entrepreneurship in young people. You can also subscribe to In Process on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show on your smartphone.
Children Who Mean Business: Developing Next-Gen Entrepreneurs
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Speaker 1: It’s time for In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information visit Trusted-Counsel.com. Now, with In Process, here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.
John: Hello and welcome to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn: I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John: We are partners in Trusted Counsel.
Evelyn: So, John, here we are. We’re going to talk about young entrepreneurs, really, really young entrepreneurs.
Evelyn: When we’re working with them, if they’re 21/22, we’re like, “Oh my God. They’re babies.”
John: I was thinking we need to get to them earlier. Maybe that’s the …
Evelyn: Real key to success.
John: Can we sign a client who’s only seven years old? Can we do that? No. This actually arose, this conversation … Today we’re talking about young entrepreneurs. How to foster entrepreneurism for young kids, which actually spawned out of a conversation we had about how to teach your children to take ownership and responsibility, and how do you foster that. I got three kids between the ages of two and seven, which I really would like to encourage that. So that’s how we came to know about Monica Lage and Breaking Into The Business. Then, also, Professor Linowes out of American University who teaches entrepreneur classes, and who was also the teacher and professor of our marketing director.
John: I believe she said he was the best professor she’s ever had.
Richard Linowes: Oh, that’s very nice.
Evelyn: High grades.
John: So, welcome. Let me introduce our guests and then we’ll jump into it. Monica Lage is the executive director of Break Into Business located in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 2013, Break Into Business has trained over 500 entrepreneurs aged nine to seventeen who have launched over 150 profitable businesses. Wow. Earning thousands of dollars in profit. Prior to Break Into Business, Monica worked with the Boston Consulting Group. Monica has her undergraduate degree in business from Queens University in Canada and her MBA from Harvard.
Professor Richard Linowes is a management educator at American University in Washington D.C. who strives to prepare enlightened business leaders. He is an educational innovator who has pioneered new teaching methods that strive to have students learn by doing. He has strong international interests and has worked with executives and their families from around the world. He teaches global entrepreneurship, business policy and strategy, strategic management, cross cultural management and sustainability. His professional management experience includes several years with Accenture and Goldman Saks where he helped plan international expansions. He has taught in several countries. Professor Linowes earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton, his master’s from the University of Michigan, and doctorate degree from Harvard. Monica and Professor Linowes, welcome to the show.
Monica Lage: Thank you.
Richard Linowes: Very happy to be here.
Evelyn: Great to have you. So, Monica, let’s have a chat. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing with children and how this came to be.
Monica Lage: Sure. So our goal at Break Into Business is to coach young people to launch real businesses. There are no business plan competitions at Break Into Business. That’s something we feel really strongly about. So all of our programs are really pushing kids towards making those real sales. We do that in various ways, but it started out … It’s great because the first thing we teach our students, as their trying to come up with their product ideas, start with a problem that you’re seeing in the world, and something that you’re really passionate about.
So that’s what happened for me. I was a senior in college. I’d studied business. I was about to graduate and head off to the Boston Consulting Group, and I had fallen in love with business. I didn’t have parents who’d been in the business world. I had really no exposure to business before college, and I chosen it almost by default. I like math. I didn’t want to do engineering. Seemed like a safe bet. But I loved it. It opened all of these doors for me. So, to me, there was a huge problem there. I could’ve easily chosen the wrong major. I could have never kind of stumbled upon this thing that I love so much.
So, you know, one of my best friends at the time got together and said, “Let’s do something about this.” So we were in a really entrepreneurial season as seniors. We’d started a couple things within our college community that had been a lot of fun. So we said, “All right. We’re going to start a summer camp.” There’s camps in our college for sports and drama and arts and all these things, but there’s no business camp. There’s no entrepreneurship camps. So we started it as a senior project in 2007. We had 30 kids come to our college campus. We had them all launch businesses. So even from the beginning that’s what it was all about. It was a huge hit. I mean, it was first year total chaos trying to figure it out, but the kids had a blast. They learned so much. They were tossing around words that we had only learned in our third or fourth year of college. We just felt like, “Wow. We’re on to something here.”
So, you know, we went off and started our careers, but we would take vacation time from our crazy demanding jobs, travel back to our college campus, and run this summer camp every year because we just loved it so much. That passion was really there for us. So we did that for several years, but life got crazy. I went off to pursue my MBA at Harvard. She started a very successful business in Toronto called RateHub.CA. So it felt like we needed to stop making our annual pilgrimage back to our college campus, but it stayed with us, with both of us. It really stayed in our hearts. So, ultimately, when I landed in Atlanta it felt like now’s the time to reinvest in this. So since 2013, I’ve been working on growing up the next generation of entrepreneurs here.
Evelyn: So how did these kids find you? Is it because their parents want them to go or does it spit?
Monica Lage: That’s a great question. It varies, but it’s very, very word of mouth based. We do almost no … Well, we really do no formal marketing, but we have a really strong and passionate community who love what we’re trying to do and help spread the word amongst their friend groups. What we see a lot is a parent hears about Break Into Business. They hear about the program and a light bulb goes off with the parent. They think, “Oh, goodness. This is what my son or daughter needs.” A lot of parents have at least that one child in their family who just seems wired for it. We hear stories that their charging their siblings interest when they lend them money or when they lend them possessions. You know, they’re selling their artwork to their friends at school. These are my kids. Parents hear about us. They think of their own son or daughter, and they send them to us. So we have this amazing groups of young people. Our core age is nine to fourteen in our summer programs, and they’re strong. They’re a job to work with.
John: So what’s the curriculum like during the summer camps or during the camp?
Monica Lage: Yeah. So, you know, we move quick. So our students come in on the first day and a lot of them have zero formal business experience. Maybe they’ve tried a lemonade stand, but not a whole lot. We got from zero to real sales in just four days. So they come in on the first day …
John: Oh, wow.
Monica Lage: Yeah. There’s a lot that happens in between, so we have a small army to make this happen, which is part of the magic of Break Into Business. So they come in and we put them in little teams of about three or four students each. They’re teamed typically by age, and we take them through this process of coming up with that product idea. So we talk about the things like solving a problem, being passionate. We do market research out in the communities out where we’re at. So they’re walking around with clipboards doing surveys, which is awesome. They love that. They come up with these ideas. They create budgets. They launch promotional campaigns. They’re using social media. They’re creating websites. Really an underline goal through this is we want to trick them into learning as much as we possibly can. It should never feel like learning, but we want them to walk away with real tangible skills because that was what we felt like we were missing when we went out into the workforce.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Monica Lage: So on the Wednesday of the week, we host a big Shark Tank pitch event. So we invite entrepreneurs and executives from around the city. Our roster of sharks is insanely prestigious at this point. People just love coming in and hearing these kids. They bring a $20 investment each, and they invest in their favorite business. So the kids walk away with even more seed money. Then the next day they launch. It’s a really quick turn around, but they’re out there on the Thursday of the week making sales, swiping credit cards. So don’t tell them that, “I’m sorry. I don’t have cash with me,” because they’ll just tell you, “That’s okay. We take credit.” They’re hard to say no to. They tend to do really, really well when they run their businesses. Folks love to host them because they bring so much energy and passion to any environment that they’re in. Then the Friday we just celebrate and pursue some more enrichment topics around the stock market and things like that that they tend to me really interested in.
John: So, Monica, we were talking about the camp and its curriculum. I guess, one of the things that Professor Linowes brought up on the break was who funds the businesses?
Monica Lage: Yeah. That’s a great question. It’s kind of a dual sources of funding. So one primary source is our parent community will help fund the businesses. So this adds a lot of logistics to our program, but it’s so important. So our parents agree to … On a shopping trip for the Monday night of the week. So they get a shopping list and they go out and help the kids find what they need. But we are so strict about tracking those expenses. So all the receipts come back in the day. We have a very firm no donations policy. So you’re taking napkins from home, we will charge you for those napkins. We want kids to really be learning to make these tradeoffs. So do I want the fancy mason jars or will the plastic bags do? So they’re really walking through these and having really in-depth conversations and sometimes heated conversations in their teams about where should we invest and where should we pull back. These are just laying the foundation here. As they get bigger and bigger with their business, it’s going to be the same conversations on a grander scale.
Then the other source of funding is from our sharks, of course. So we’ll put in on average about $100, a $100 plus into the businesses on the Wednesday of the week. So that tends to be bonus investment money. So the sharks will be really excited about one team’s idea for how they would spend it and they will go off and take their business to the next level.
John: That’s really cool.
Monica Lage: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: Now, can you tell us some of the … We’re really interested in hearing some of the success stories or some of the cool ideas that people have had and have they operated it past the summer camp?
Monica Lage: Yeah. So our goal for the summer is we just want kids getting started. So we force them to launch within a few days because we’ve seen that the magic is making that first sale, the eyes light up. It’s so great. You know? They’re running around the room and they’re so excited. So we want to get them to that place in a week. So for some of them the idea that they launch during the week at camp is the idea they fall in love and they continue to pursue that. For a lot of them, and this is totally fine with us, that is their foundation and their starting point. They take what they’ve learning, they take everything and they apply it to their next venture. That’s great too. We encourage students in both of those ways.
We have an advanced program that runs during the school year where we bring in the top students from the summer. These are students who are very motivated and want to pursue that next level business. So we give them a lot of opportunities. We have a fall market coming up where they’ll be selling at Ponce City Market. So these businesses will look more professional, more next level. They’ve had some more time to spend on them. They’re very tied into the student’s passions. Then we pick the five top from that group to pitch for $1500, real money, in February from some absolute rock star sharks. They’re kind of our top sharks as well. Ford Fry, celebrity chef in Atlanta. We have Shelly Brown coming who’s an amazing entrepreneur and wife of Zac Brown. So some different folks who come in and invest in them.
Our first winner of the final pitch a couple years back was Curious Katherine. She was nine years old at the time. She had a candle business. She’s gone on to sell over a thousand candles at $14 a pop.
Monica Lage: Her college fund is well underway. She’s a dynamo. She’s in retail stores. She’s selling online. She’s got an Instagram presence. She’s just doing an amazing job. She just started middle school, so things have been a bit busy. But she’s still working on it.
In our crew from this year we have some really strong, really strong batch of entrepreneurs. What I love is with these kids a lot of them are really starting with that burning problem that they’ve experienced. So we have a young lady named Amara, she’s also nine. She’s very bad allergies, so she’s got some nut allergies. She actually had a reaction during the week of camp this summer where she was in the hospital over night and came to camp the next day. That is commitment. The reaction did not happen at camp. It happened at home. Just to be clear. But she’s developed a whole line of products, allergy alert products. Bracelets, labels, stickers that you can stick on a Tupperware container that are dishwasher safe. So it’s really targeting the younger student who might not have that voice for themself yet. So a preschool student, an early elementary student where their parent can basically deck them and all their possessions out that say nut-free, nut-free, nut-free. You know, as a parent you can imagine being terrified to send your child into a world without people being sure of what they’re sensitive to. So she has a whole line called Allergy Busters.
Then we have another student, Aaron. He’s thirteen. He loves animals. His dog needs to take medicine, and they were spending lots of time and energy trying to get medicine into the dog. He has invented a flavoring for water. So you can flavor your water to taste like bacon and different things like that. It’s a powdering that you put in, and you can hide the medicine in the water. His dog laps it up. It’s amazing. He has videos of the dog just going to town. Woof Water will be on sale at Ponce City Market in a few weeks.
Richard Linowes: Woof Water is a good name.
Monica Lage: Yeah. Right. I know.
Then another favorite from this year, we have a young lady named Ivy. She loves to cook. She wanted to provide opportunities for other kids to be able to cook things on their own, but that is hard when you’re young. So she developed a line of dried, homemade pastas. They’re healthy. They’re four ingredients where they come in a really cute jar, and the idea is kids can actually prepare because it’s as simple as putting them in water.
John: That’s a good idea.
Monica Lage: Yeah. She’s working on a sauce line where they hide tons of vegetables in the sauce, but they still taste really good. So for moms, they love it because it’s packed with secret vegetables.
John: Absolutely because right now we puree our vegetables. The kids always want to help cook, too, but often it’s very difficult or messy. I really like that one. That’s really great.
Monica Lage: Yeah. She’s a total dynamo. So Little Chef Ivy is her name.
Evelyn: I’m interested to ask, and Richard, maybe you can actually even walk through this, one of the things that we face in representing entrepreneurs and building their businesses is entrepreneurs and investors will often get very uncomfortable with the idea of failure.
Monica Lage: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Evelyn: Which is so key. Really, failure is a key to success going forward. The whole idea of picking yourself up. Truly, I think, the American way is built off of, “Let me try a lot of things, and I’ll just keep going.” Our structure of our society is really built off of being able to do that. So how do you address the concept of failure with these kids?
Monica Lage: Yeah. We talk a lot about the concept of experiments. So what we want our kids to do is fail in ways that don’t discourage them to the point where they won’t try again. So the first step for us on that during the week is market research. So sometimes we get kids who go out and they’re so excited about an idea, and they come back and they’re crest boned because everyone they’ve talked to, “Not into it.” We celebrate. We give them huge high fives. It’s smiles. It’s cheering on our end because how awesome is this? You have figured out before you even invested a cent or more than two hours that this isn’t the idea. This is great. This is an amazing outcome. So we celebrate those things, and then, you know, those students who launch their business and maybe aren’t as successful as they hoped or Shark Tank, those are actually the kids we see coming back and they’re more motivated. They’re more because, again, they’re failing in a safe environment. It doesn’t feel … I think with these kids it doesn’t feel like failure to the extent of if you’ve invested your life savings. So this is when we want them to learn those small failures are more disappointments.
Richard Linowes: That’s great words. Great words.
Monica Lage: Yeah. They can bounce back from them. We celebrate them. We help walk through them with these kids. I’ll never forget a group. They were the only team that didn’t get an investment in Shark Tank, which I hated that that happened. They were in tears. So we talked to them. We said, “Guys, the sharks don’t know everything. Prove them wrong.” Most profitable business the next day. They wrote an email to the sharks, and they said, “Hey, this is what happened.”
Richard Linowes: That’s nice.
Monica Lage: They’ll never forget that.
Richard Linowes: It usually take a couple years to that.
Monica Lage: That’s right. That failure turned into just a huge victory and a huge lesson for them.
Richard Linowes: The recovery process is certainly something that’s important, and that’s why sometimes venture capitalists check for the support network around the person in case they go through some tough times.
Monica Lage: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Evelyn: Yup. Absolutely.
Richard Linowes: It is like a stripe on your shoulder if you’ve had some failures. So you’ve learned from it.
Evelyn: Absolutely. It builds your toolkit. That’s always the way I put it.
Richard Linowes: Absolutely. When I talk to students who are thinking about starting a business, we always say, “Make your mistakes on someone else’s salary. Learn the business. Learn how it’s done. Meet the customers. See cycles and stuff like that. Then when you’re ready, go off on your own.
Monica Lage: Yes. That’s great. That’s great advice.
Evelyn: Makes perfect sense.
John: So Professor Linowes, you’re in, obviously, the higher age range when the students get to you. What have you noticed as far as when kids come to your class, how prepared are they if they haven’t taken something like a program Monica provides?
Richard Linowes: Well, Monica’s program is amazing. It’s like putting them on overdrive. My students are just sort of waking up to thinking that maybe being an entrepreneur might be something they like to do because it’s become kind of a popular thing. But they also intrigued that they might be able to create their own jobs, and have that be something that they love to do. So I really push the idea that they’re coming here and working with me to learn how to be a vital contributor either to a community where they’re selling products or an organization where they’re trying to make things work. So we try to run the class as a boot camp where they do that.
John: Welcome back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century. We are here with Monica Lage, executive director of Break Into Business, and Professor Richard Linowes of American University. Professor Linowes, entrepreneurship has been very hot lately. I mean, how have you seen that change over the last couple of years, and how has that impacted, I guess, the popularity of your courses on campus?
Richard Linowes: First, I’ll say that I came to teaching because I left Wall Street because I wanted to sort of fix the business world. So I came in trying to sort of do things in schools that would get people focused on their core mission. When I first came in, yes, there were a couple people who took an entrepreneurship course, but that didn’t mean they were heading in that direction. Now, there’s this whole community with startup weekends and hack-a-thons and the mystery around making apps that touch people’s attention. All these things have grown so fast. Now, there seems to be … They’re like six other faculty and it’s not just me. We have a incubator on campus where people can try out their ideas before they leave school, and maybe even get some initial funding from the advisors that hang around this incubator and the whole network that it grows. So there’s a lot more support. I think probably Silicon Valley taught that to us because everyone goes to Silicon Valley to understand how does entrepreneurship happen so naturally there. It’s because there’s such a vast infrastructure around there. So other places are trying to do that same kind of thing to make it so that everybody pitches in.
Evelyn: That’s very inspiring actually that it’s grown like that.
John: So I do have a question about entrepreneurs that come into both of your classes. Monica, you mentioned earlier sometimes parents will see a kernel inside of a kid that’s just naturally gifted about it. But what about the people that … I’m sure you see in your class, Professor Linowes and Monica, that are not, maybe don’t seem to grasp it. Is it something that you guys are able to teach them? Can everybody learn to be a successful entrepreneur?
Richard Linowes: Actually, well, since you guys are Atlanta, I should share with you that I showed this video of Ted Turner when he was a young man. After he’d launched CNN and some things, he tells his whole life story. He so humble. He said, “Well, I never learned that. I never went to business school.”
Evelyn: What happened? It wasn’t humble after that.
Richard Linowes: Well, I guess, CNN changed the world.
Evelyn: Yes. In both good and bad ways.
Richard Linowes: I do think I would encourage people to look for their passion just like Monica was saying. Find something you’re passionate about, see an unmet need, and go for it. Do something creative. An economic engine that can solve that need. If you do a good job, you’ll make a nice profit.
John: Is that the number one characteristic that you think an entrepreneur requires is passion? What other elements are there to be successful?
Richard Linowes: First of all, you need a great lawyer.
John: Thank you.
Richard Linowes: You need a great accountant.
Evelyn: Yes, absolutely.
Richard Linowes: You need someone who’s going to level with you. Tell you like, “Are you kidding? That’s not going to work.”
Evelyn: That is not a beautiful baby.
Richard Linowes: Yes. You have to keep the optimism there. But I think you don’t necessarily have to have all the smarts. You can get the team around you. You got to work with people well. You got to read your customers well. You have to care about your customers, and if you care about your customers, then you’ll hustle to meet their needs. As long as either you have to head for numbers or your accountant has to head for numbers to make sure your costs aren’t out of control, you can flourish.
Evelyn: So, Richard, at American University as part of the curriculum there is there a process or a class that students take where they have identified where they’ve actually built their business plans and there’s kind of a similar competition, almost, to what Monica and Break Into Business has done with the youngers?
Richard Linowes: Very much so. This is the kind of stuff that’s been growing. In fact, every October there’s a global entrepreneurship week that’s really done all over the world. So on our campus we have a startup contest, and we have a venture idea contest offering money. Then we have people … If they come up with a good idea in a class, then they can devote time in an incubator and build a team around them to try to build a real prototype to get the thing going. So it’s not necessarily business students. Some of the most interesting ideas are coming from people outside the departments of business, which, of course, is a little embarrassing for business faculty. But one woman, this was featured on CNN actually, came up with the idea of recycling restaurant food that was untainted and making it available to food shelters.
Evelyn: Food banks.
Richard Linowes: She got that whole thing going through apps. So she wasn’t a business student, but she got people around it who could help her figure it out.
Evelyn: So interesting. Well, and actually I think that kind of makes sense because we often see that the combination of someone who has a business mind with someone who is actually the creative, if you will, or the scientist or the engineer is pretty key combination to have because, you know, they’re very complimentary as opposed to I have to be the one and only. I’m the one who drags it to the end.
John: Yeah. I don’t think that a business mind is necessary to good ideas, right? I guess it’s almost more important to have a mind for unmet needs.
Richard Linowes: Yeah. I mean, a lot of people who start businesses had a problem and they fixed it for themselves. They found out there were a lot of other people that had the same problem.
Evelyn: So then is there a similar Monica in Break Into Business uses market research as kind of an identifier of is this actually a valid kind of business idea, product, and service as sort of the program at American University. Does it kind of track what they’re doing or is it different?
Richard Linowes: Okay. Great. I would say we do it over several classes. So I used to teach the only class. Now there’s like five classes that you can take plus the incubator. So the class I teach, I’m having them study innovations that they think are pretty cool, and then the second half, to identify an unmet need and think about whether or not a business could address it. Then they can go to a business plan class where they actually develop a full blown, well thought out 50 page business plan, which could catch the attention of funders. Then if it continues, then they would go into the incubator where they actually start to try to build the prototype. There aren’t that many people who take the full route, but it’s available.
John: So are you seeing an increased … Your students who graduate, I’m sure you keep up with them a good bit. Are you seeing an increase in the people that are actually making the jump from taking the class to actually becoming entrepreneurs now versus, let’s say, ten years ago?
Richard Linowes: I think because there are more people taking these classes, I’m seeing more people do it, but I don’t … As I tell people in my entrepreneurship course, you might be an entrepreneur, you might be a customer of an entrepreneur, you might be a financier of an entrepreneur, you might be a spouse of an entrepreneur. You should understand the challenges of an entrepreneur.
Richard Linowes: Be an agent that can support it because all the cool things that are happening are coming from entrepreneurs.
John: So have you kept up with any of your students? Have any of them had any interesting success stories after they’ve left?
Richard Linowes: Okay. So I’ve been teaching for a long time so that’s one advantage of it. I’ve been teaching for 31 years, so I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. Of course the ones I hear about are the most spectacular ones. So I can share those with you, but I’m not saying that this is at all typical. But the one guy, Jason Cryer, took $10,000 from his father, moved to Hong Kong, starting exporting clothes to the U.S. Built that up so big that the largest Chinese producer bought his company. Now he sits in New York and designs clothing for Walmart, Kohls, and so on with his staff. Sends them electronically or goes down to Walmart. The next week, shares it with them. Sends it electronically to Shanghai where they figure out what factories are going to do it. Then they beam it out to 200 factories to produce it. He imported 63 million items of clothing to the United States last year.
Richard Linowes: Everything in Walmart. Everything in Kohl’s and lots of other things. He talks about these things being made in the same factory from the same fabric. But because they’re so smart with information technology, they can still make it all look so different. Then I have a woman who’s from Mozambique, she came as an older student with a child already. She wanted to do something for women in Mozambique. So when she graduated, she went back and worked in a bank for a while. But then she came up with the idea, “Oh! Let’s deal with global warming and health issues and economic issues all at the same time. Let’s get rid of charcoal, and instead burn ethanol stoves.” So she developed a plant to convert vegetables into ethanol and had a Dutch company move to South Africa that makes little stoves in the past for yachts. She sells this all over villages all over Africa now. Hillary Clinton picked her up and put her in this organization. They’re clean cook stove things, and she’s considered one of the entrepreneurs that was brought to the state department of women entrepreneurs in Africa. So she’s like my mascot for our sustainability.
Evelyn: That’s amazing.
Richard Linowes: Then one that maybe you guys experienced is the group called Fruit Guys. They started in San Francisco. They provide fresh fruit to offices. Now, I think they’re in most cities in the country. So if you want a healthy lunch, that’s the thing to do.
Evelyn: Golly, we do need a healthy lunch. That’ll probably change our lives, John. What I love, and we do have to take a quick break in a moment, but what I really love is about entrepreneurs and their ideas is it actually makes you think through … It wouldn’t occur to me to deliver fresh fruit to offices. That that could actually be a business. That 64 million pieces of clothing could actually be imported into the country. It’s just so amazing. It just expands your mind. It’s just amazing.
Richard Linowes: Well, most entrepreneurs don’t go through that growth process. Most [inaudible 00:33:23] stay pretty small.
Evelyn: Right. Yes.
Richard Linowes: But it’s the amazing people like David Packard, Hewlett-Packard, who watched something in the garage turn into the multi-billion dollar business. That completely changes things.
Evelyn: Yes. Absolutely. Built to last.
John: Welcome back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century. We are joined by Monica Lage, executive director of Break Into Business, and also Professor Richard Linowes of American University.
Evelyn: So, Richard, we know that you have a business bootcamp that has, perhaps, a little unusual way of teaching your entrepreneurial students. Can you talk to us a little bit about how that works and what you do there?
Richard Linowes: Sure. So if you wanted to learn bad basketball, you wouldn’t just sit in a lecture. You’d get down on the court and bounce the ball and make shots. If you wanted to learn swimming, you jump in the pool. So we try to do that in the way we run our class. We begin the day with a whiteboard filled with the news, with world news, domestic news, technology news, marketing news, stock markets, interest rates, currencies, commodities. The students put that up on the board every day. We spend the first 20 minutes talking about what’s happening in the world. What’s it mean for business? Then we have students pretend to be leaders of the group, and they stand up and give two minute motivational talks trying to move the people, like a locker room coach trying to help the team bounce back at half time. Then I have people look at unmet needs in their lives, and then try to figure out is there a way that an organization could address this. Maybe it’s a business, maybe it’s a government agencies, maybe it’s a non-profit. We don’t know on the front end. We’re just studying the problem and trying to figure out how an organization might address it. I also used to live in Japan, so I try to sort of bring cross cultural things. So for my global entrepreneurship course, people have to have a cross cultural buddy. So I tell them, if you go out clubbing, you can say, “I’m going out to do my homework.” Go clubbing and be telling the truth.
Evelyn: So how does that work?
Richard Linowes: It’s great. You get some really nice relationships. People sometimes go away with each other on spring break. Kind of fun. So like a Saudi connecting with a Korean.
Richard Linowes: Or an American connecting with a French person. So it’s fun. I say extra credit is you date a member of the family.
John: So American University is pretty international. Have you seen much differences in the way that the different countries … Because I think Lorena told me a recent class of yours had something like 24 people from 24 different countries. Has there been a …
Richard Linowes: It’s so amazingly international. Maybe it’s because the title of my classes. But in a global entrepreneurship course I have 18 nationalities in a class of 34.
John: Wow. How do they approach it differently?
Richard Linowes: They all come in and many of them just want to sort of get to know America.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Richard Linowes: So you see a lot of them having buddies who are Americans. It’s kind of fun.
John: Do they approach entrepreneurship differently or is the same? Do they have different aspects, I guess, viewpoints on it?
Richard Linowes: Good question. There are definitely differences. Japanese are afraid of failure. You don’t want to feel shame. In the Arab world, you’re not risking just your own reputation, you’re risking your family name. So there’s different attitudes and acceptance of risk and failure in different places. I mean, you probably have that in this country too. But in California, you get patted on the back if you fail.
Evelyn: Right. But that’s really … That part of it I think is really interesting because that whole idea of … So do these students generally stay in the United States and start building businesses or do they go home? Because I think if you’re Japanese and you have that ‘I don’t want to lose’ face, how do you actually go home and start a true entrepreneurial business?
Richard Linowes: Great question. Great question. I’ve probably spent a lot of time in my office hours talking to students about this. It’s not easy because they also feel family obligations. So that’s the thing. First of all, some of my students go into family businesses. So a couple years later, they’re going to be running the business. So one guys from Thailand in his project in my class, his family owns a hotel. He suggested why don’t we do medical tourism with the hospital. That was his business plan.
Evelyn: That’s very innovative. Yeah.
Richard Linowes: I came and visited him a couple years later to find out how it was going.
Richard Linowes: So that’s fun. I got to see him in Thailand and see him acting on his plan. That’s interesting to see that.
Evelyn: Actually, that is a really nice fit for it really. The whole idea we often think of entrepreneurialism as ‘I’m starting a new business. I’m doing something completely different.’ But the whole idea of going home to a family business and then building kind of innovation and technique into expansion of that business is also a really interesting side of it.
Richard Linowes: Very interesting. So important we’ll usually find that the best family businesses the son or daughter, whoever’s taking over the business, takes it in somewhat their own direction that reflects their personality.
Evelyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So we wanted to talk a little bit about resources, both for the kids that Monica’s working with and then also the students in your classes. So what are some of the resources that each of you kind of recommend and utilize in your classes? Monica?
Monica Lage: Yeah. Sure. A lot of the stuff that we use has been built internally just because there’s not a lot out there for middle schoolers who want to learn about entrepreneurship, especially in the way that we want to teach it, which is not textbook. It’s not. So Richard and I are totally on the same page on that one. But as they leave our program and the in between, there’s a few … Entrepreneurship is so hot right now. There’s a lot of great things that they can tap into. Shark Tank, obviously, has done huge things for entrepreneurship in America. I love to encourage my students to watch it. They love to watch it. It’s great. So we try to teach them to watch it really with a critical eye, not from a spectator attitude, but more if you were the shark, if you were the entrepreneur, how would you approach this. So sometimes we’ll watch clips of it at camp and we pause and say, “All right. Who’s in? Who’s investing?” So getting them to think about it like that. I love the podcast How I Built This, which has become quite popular. That is a really fun way to just hear the true stories behind all of these businesses that have grown to be so big and to see all of the setbacks along the way. That’s my favorite part. Everyone thinks it’s overnight and it’s fun and it’s all doing radio shows with cool microphones. It is not. There is so many hard and upsetting moments in between. So seeing those stories unfold, I think is great for everyone.
Richard Linowes: I think that’s great advice. How I Built This sets up NTR podcasts and so it’s available through the internet. It’s a wonderful way to hear the stories. We’re talking about can you learn from failure. We actually have a course learning from failure. But along with Shark Tank, there’s a Texas version of it called West Texas Investors Club. I’m not sure how they’re doing now after all the hurricanes, but people found that to be more folks-y version of Shark Tank. I guess then if people are already in business, the program The Profit, he’s a little bit hard nosed accountant type, rather than a good OB coach. But he comes in a helps the businesses that are floundering get control of their cost or their inventory. Real practical, no nonsense, let’s get this business working again. So for people in business, that’s a great show to watch.
Evelyn: I think that’s also a really interesting part of it too because I think people kind of miss the idea that I have a business that maybe it’s going down in revenue and profit. How do I actually get it rebuilt? What am I personally doing wrong, in a sense? So I think those skills are absolutely critical. So, Richard, in your opinion, and we talked a little bit about passion, what makes a great entrepreneur?
Richard Linowes: I think it’s a clarity about what kind of needs you want to address and then just building the tools you need and the team you need to address that need. So I say find your passion and build a business around it.
Evelyn: Monica, what do you say?
Monica Lage: Yeah, I mean, I think just total determination and focus to drive forward what you believe needs to exist. So that has to come from some deeper source of passion. I would totally echo that. But you know having that determination to keep pushing. It’s so easy in the early days, especially, to call it quits.
John: Professor Linowes, you touched on this earlier, but I’d like to hear both yours and Monica’s opinion on this. The support network, how do you go out find mentors? How do you teach the younger kids who they probably never networked. They don’t really know how to go about this. How should they find their mentors?
Richard Linowes: First, I salute you as a parent to ask that question. There’s another TV show called Biz Kids, which is interesting and maybe a little bit sensational, but I think a trusted friend, someone who would give someone a chance to do things. Maybe ask for your kids to draw a budget for their allowance. If the kid wants to buy a dirt bike, make them explain what the costs are. Itemize it. Talk about where the money’s going to come from. How much it’s going to cost to operate. Just sort of make it part of life so it doesn’t seem so unnatural.
John: Well, I think we’re at the end, but this has been great. I’m super excited. I think I’m going to have to send my kids to your class, Monica.
Monica Lage: Two more years. We start them at nine.
John: Right. Maybe they can …
Evelyn: Oh, come on. You can make an exception.
John: Once you said that one of the kids has earned enough money for college tuition, you had me immediately. Then we’ll graduate them up to Professor Linowes.
Richard Linowes: Okay. Great.
John: Well, we’d like to thank both of our guests for their time today. If you’d like to learn more about Monica and Break Into Business, please visit BreakIntoBusiness.com. Professor Linowes is faculty member at American University at Washington D.C. The university website is www.American.edu. We hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you’d like to download this episode, you can find our show on iTunes as In Process Podcast. If you’d like to be a featured guest on our show, please email us at InProcess@Trusted-Counsel.com.
Thanks for joining us.
Evelyn: Thanks, everybody.
Monica Lage: Thank you.
Speaker 1: This has been In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information visit Trusted-Counsel.com.