When I was a little kid, my dad’s job was eliminated at a company he had been with for years. He later told me he earned a valuable lesson that he passed on to me: The best way to create full independence in life is to be your own boss. That was my introduction to the concept of entrepreneurship.
My dad taught by example. As a small boy standing off in the corner of our garage, I watched him build a business and was motivated by his drive and his support. When I started working, myself, launching a car wash business out of my red Radio Flyer wagon, which I pulled from house to house, fearlessly knocking on doors, Dad was one of my first customers.
Both my parents, in fact, supported all my crazy entrepreneurial schemes and challenged me to think even “bigger” and “crazier.” Towards this goal, one of the most useful tools they gave me were books. That might be one reason I eventually founded what has become one of the largest business book publishing companies in the country.
I never stopped believing that reading broadens kids’ minds and inspires their ambition. Here, for the holiday gift-giving season, are some recent books I recommend — none of which my company published — to encourage your own little kidpreneur:
Kid Start-up: How You Can Be an Entrepreneur, by Mark Cuban, Shaan Patel and Ian McCue (ages 9–12). This book offers a kid-friendly, accessible approach to becoming a business owner. It’s easy to read and includes pictures, diagrams, interactive activities and interviews with successful kid entrepreneurs featured on Shark Tank.
It suggests ten businesses that any kid can start, including selling bottled water or starting a lemonade stand, with practical, step-by-step instructions on how to turn the idea into a business. One of my favorite aspects is how the book discusses real sales tools. It covers things like leveraging social media and identifying high traffic events, and offers real life advice, including insight on how even failures can be useful. It’s a strong foundation for any future entrepreneur.
The Startup Club: The Big Idea by JJ Ramberg, Melanie Staggs and S. Taylor (ages 9–12). Ramberg is the host of MSNBC’s Your Business and a mother of three, so she knows what she’s talking about. Ramberg could never pass a lemonade stand without buying something, but she’d always ask the kids how much their expenses were and if they were making a profit.
Most of them probably couldn’t answer. That’s why Ramberg wrote The Startup Club. It’s the fictional story of two friends that don’t have enough money to buy the things
they want so they start their own business. The characters do it all, from figuring out their finances, to reworking their marketing and dealing with competition. Throughout the story, kids are introduced to the concepts of revenue vs. profit, pricing, competition and more. This book is effective because it’s fun storytelling and doesn’t beat kids over the head with “lessons learned.”
Starting Your Own Business: Become an Entrepreneur! by Adam and Matthew Toren (ages 7-11). This is part of the Dummies Junior series, combining the series’ hallmarks of simple steps and a friendly approach, with vivid, full color designs and short page counts for the younger set. The Toren brothers , founders of YoungEntrepreneur.com,
have come up with a guide that presents simple entrepreneurial principles, such as “how to come up with a business idea,” “how to get the word out” and “how to take care of customers,” in kid-friendly language.
With accompanying worksheets and quizzes, the book is perfect for young learners, walking them through the steps that turn bright ideas into profitable businesses.
Be a Young Entrepreneur: Be Inspired to Be a Business Whiz, by Adam Sutherland (ages 9-12). This is another great resource for kids who want to learn about business, with solid tips on starting their own enterprise. Everything from choosing a business and business name, to market research and social media outreach is addressed. Profiles of successful young entrepreneurs, practical dos and don’ts, “whiz-biz” quizzes and easy-to-digest tips are included. At 64 pages, with amusing illustrations, this is a complete and compact introduction to entrepreneurship.
Finally, I couldn’t resist the Billy Sure: Kid Entrepreneur series by Luke Sharpe (ages 8-12). The series stars 12-year-old inventor and CEO, Billy Sure, and as some of the titles in this series illustrate, like Billy Sure: Kid Entrepreneur, and The Stink Spectacular, these are just fun reads about the wild and wacky adventures of a kidpreneur. I wouldn’t say kids are going to learn too many valuable business lessons here, but following the exploits of Billy Sure will inspire their imagination, and that in itself is invaluable.