How many times were you asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I consistently answered, “I want to be a teacher, with the exception of one year when I decided I wanted to be an actress.” I was raised in a family of doers. My dad was a Jack of all trades, holding down jobs that required apprenticeships and trade expertise. My mom was a late bloomer, earning her Master’s in Social Work when she was in her 40’s, subsequently launching her career in patient care. I was taught from an early age that you hustle and work hard for every dollar you earn. While I had many entrepreneurial dreams as a child, I was not encouraged to seek a career outside of the norm. So my year of creating, editing, and selling classroom newspapers was just a fun way to pass time, not a real career option for me.
Fast forward past university and corporate life, and I found myself in a position to realize my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. It was a very exciting time in my life, and my enthusiasm spilled over to my two children and husband who, unbeknownst to them, were enrolling in Entrepreneurship 101, taught by me.
What I learned quickly was that my children had no idea what an entrepreneur did. When I spoke with my business partner about this discovery, she shared a similar story. Her children did not understand what it meant to be an entrepreneur either!
How could this be? Our children are growing up in a generation of Shark Tank, Uber, YouTube, and Apple. Innovation is in their faces non-stop!
As we dug in a bit deeper we realized that entrepreneurship is introduced in elementary school, but it is not really explored in depth. Schools participate in Junior Achievement, which is an incredible program, but it’s not enough. We learned that real entrepreneurship classes and programming are not introduced in most public schools until children reach high school.
We decided at that we were going to do our part to try to change this – which brings us to the birth of Kidzpreneur: A pitch competition for children ages 5 – 13.
We know that we want the program to be a pitch competition, (think Shark Tank for kids), but we didn’t want the soul crushing critiques. So, we’ve met with many of St. Louis’s notable entrepreneurs and asked them how they would design the competition. We’ve been able to take all the feedback and distill it down to a program that we feel will uplift our young participants, while teaching them critical life skills like self-confidence, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability, trial & error, and in some cases, failure.
Our judges will offer feedback that will open minds and encourage teamwork – with a framework that will judge based on creativity and each kid’s ability to articulate the problem and their solution.
The Kidzpreneur experience will bring children face to face with incredible St. Louis Entrepreneurs like Maxine Clark (Build A Bear), Kara Newmark (Sweetology), Erin Joy (Black Dress Circle), and Talia Goldfarb (MySelf Belts and a Shark Tank competitor who received a deal from Daymond John). In addition we will feature appearances by some already-successful young business owners from Knead Love Bakery, and Sissy and Snap Accessories. These business leaders will discuss their entrepreneurial journey and share their ‘why’s’ during a session on April 6th at the Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur, MO. We are excited to talk with them about how they developed and launched their own companies.
This initial Kidzpreneur session is open to the public and will be live streamed on Facebook, so everyone is welcome to attend or tune in!
The Kidzpreneur competition on April 13th, also held at the Danforth Plant Science Center, will begin with a speed round of pitches by age group – designed to narrow down our competitors to the top 3 young entrepreneurs in each group. Our finalists will compete in front of an audience and judges representing SPARK, Washington University, and local startup leaders like Judy Sindecuse (Capital Innovators) and Tom Pernikoff (Tunespeak). Winners will walk away with cash scholarships and prizes donated by local St. Louis businesses and attractions!
The Kidzpreneur competition session is also open to the public, so we are inviting everyone to come join us during the day to enjoy onsite demonstrations and exhibitions from local startups, STEM providers, and educators.
The ultimate goal for Kidzpreneur is to have participants and attendees walk away from this experience seeing the greater possibilities. Our motto: If you can imagine it, you can do it!
All Kidzpreneur events are free to participants and attendees. Please register to reserve your spot.