As time passes, I am as consumed with teaching Caribbean entrepreneurs as I about being an entrepreneur. It’s been three years since I wrote Why Caribbean Parents Aren’t Raising the Next Mark Zuckerberg. I’ve come to the realization that I’m not either. There are mitigating factors. 😀
Three of my four children are now out of secondary school and in one way or the next they are all pursuing some type of entrepreneurial activity. I won’t tap myself on the back just yet. It’s actually quite interesting to see the current crop of young people on Montserrat and some older ones have been launching businesses. COVID-19 probably spurred a few along and for that I am grateful.
But I’m struggling with how to best support my crew as the way they need me is shifting. Also they had the nerve to change our plans. Why I thought a child at 10 would still want the same thing at 17 is beyond me. So it has been a process of recalibrating my plans and adjusting my expectations for them as they are becoming who they are meant to be.
Here are a few things that I am learning and ways in which I am supporting their entrepreneurial dreams.
Don’t Assume They See You Working Hard and Will Have the Same Work Ethic – I work too much. That’s what they tell me and that is not attractive to young people. They don’t mind hard work but it must come with balance. Time to hang with friends and to enjoy the fruits of their labor. What is the purpose of being a Caribbean entrepreneur if there are no benefits to be had now and in the future? I know we see the memes all about the hustle and the grind and team no sleep so that we can enjoy life in the sweet by and by. It’s not enough and it’s not smart. We live in the beautiful Caribbean. We should take the time to enjoy all aspects of it. The beach and the mountains aren’t just backdrops for an Instagram post, they can be for healing and great stress busters.
Stop Overcompensating For Being One Parent Short – I can’t speak for single dads but I know many single moms who are wearing themselves out to make sure their children have it all. Truth is, having the latest pair of sneakers and a smartphone like the kids with two parents doesn’t make up for being a dad short. Children know the difference. Don’t try to make them feel that it’s enough. It creates a false belief that stuff fills voids and we know that’s not true. It is quite okay to say no. They won’t die because you say there is no budget for that. Delayed gratification is important. It will teach them how to wait out tough times to get to the pot of gold. Caribbean entrepreneurs must know how to wait.
Teach Them Your Road Map But Expect Them to Adjust It – All of life is made up of teachable moments. I get the eye rolls the minute I say “Did I ever tell you about the time?” I still grab paper and pen when I need to flush out ideas but, my crew will bring me their mobile phone or send me a text message with what they are working on. The way in which things are done will continue to change. However, they can still learn from your mistakes and successes. Technology is there to support us but the principles to success still remain solving a problem, identifying who has the problem and figuring out how you are going to get them to connect with and buy your solution. The tendency in this microwave world is to forgo process for vanity metrics. Show them process and systems are important for Caribbean entrepreneurs just as they are used elsewhere. You will need to do this over and over. I will keep ignoring the eye rolls to get my point across.
Know When to Be Mom and When to Be the Coach – Moms have always had to be the coach. Football, cricket, dance class, and Caribbean entrepreneur coach? I don’t get why things are different now. But they are older and they want me to listen without trying to fix it. I’m a fixer. I’m a mom. My kids have a concern, I want to resolve it. They expect to bring their ideas to me and I’m just supposed to listen and not put on my business strategy hat and tell them the best way to get the result they are after. This is what people pay me to do. It’s been a tough pill to swallow. I’ve had to ask them to tell me when they need me just to listen so I don’t start shooting off suggestions they never asked for.
Give Them a Chance to Sell Something Early – When I think lemonade, I think of American TV shows and commercials where the little kids are always selling the drink every summer. Selling things to raise cash for the things they desire to have is a good practice to foster. They will learn about meeting customer demand, how to sell in various situations and negotiate prices. They also gain the confidence of knowing their efforts were not in vain. In moments when they are unsuccessful, ask them what they think would have improved their offer or product. Allowing them to learn in every situation, is critical. Celebrate their effort, no matter the outcome.
Show Them How Caribbean Entrepreneurs Leverage Their Natural Abilities – There’s a reason schools use the students to fundraise. They are cute, they are naturally affable and don’t have many of the hang ups adults do about asking for what they want. It’s really hard to tell a five-year-old asking for a dollar for their walkathon No. Encourage your children to practice their sales pitch with you. For those that are introverts, preparation will help them to be more confident in asking for the sale.
Tenacity is a Valuable Skill – Have you ever told your child to ask me later? They don’t forget. Being tenacious in going after a goal is a skill they will need all through life. I don’t want to see them in pain and if I can’t fix it for them then sometimes I want to say “leave it, you don’t need to do that anymore.” But that’s not usually the best response. Evaluate why they want to quit the sport or the activity. Remind them that quitting halfway lets down the team. Encourage them to see it through until the end of a season of term. They will discover that it was simply a phase and they do want to continue or it will give them closure and a point from which they can decide on what is next.
Caribbean Entrepreneurs Must Search for Answers – Children ask the most awkward questions about personal stuff but you need to answer them as honestly as you can and as appropriate for their age. When it comes to a business idea or any other task they have to do, you need to show them how to search for answers on their own. “Ask Google” has been my go-to response, which results in more sighs. They want me to just tell them. *rolls eyes. If they are going to be problem solvers then they must take the initiative to find different ways to achieve a result. Mom or dad telling them the answer has got to be a last resort or for verification purposes.
Caribbean Entrepreneurs Need a Budget – I know. Most of us did not grow up with an allowance. No one was paying you to make your bed or take out the garbage. Nevertheless, on a monthly basis our children have needs. New shoes, money to go to the basketball game or to get their hair done. Share with them what that monthly figure is that you have allocated, even if it is $20. They must learn that what they require can’t surpass that amount or if it does, there must be a plan for how they will raise the balance. They will learn the importance of living within their means and also why a side hustle can make those extra needs easier to acquire.
Encourage them to Focus as a Caribbean Entrepreneur – My definition of a Caribbeapreneur is that we are leveraging multiple passions and multiple skills to generate multiple streams of income. However, you don’t need to do them all at the same time. With all of the information coming at us, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Your children are going to get a ton of ideas the minute they start with the first one. Encourage them to write them all down but stick with the one they started and work as much as they can to make it a success. The learnings from the first will help them do better when they move on to the next idea. It really is important for Caribbean entrepreneurs’ long term success that we master the businesses we start.
We are all learning and growing daily. I am sure this list will change in time as my children continue to grow and evolve. I hope you will encourage them to create secondary streams of income even if they are employed elsewhere. For those still in school, find a way to embed the habit of entrepreneurship in how you raise them.
Are there other tips you can add to this? Share in the comments.
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Nerissa Golden is media and business strategist and the author of seven books, including In Plain Sight and The Making of a Caribbeanpreneur: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth. Follow her on Instagram or LinkedIn for more tips and ideas to help you grow as a Caribbean entrepreneur.