The Power of an Entrepreneurial Mindset | Bill Roche | TEDxLangleyED

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25 years ago I walked into a classroom

of 15 year-olds and I gave them my pitch

I offered to help them start a business

but there was one condition

they all had to agree to work with me

and it had to be a unanimous decision

now I have no idea how this would play

out you see this was an experiment for

me and right here in the middle of the

room there was a boy and he was sitting

there and he was slouched down he was

clearly not interested in what I had to

say in fact at one point he sat there

and he said this is a waste of time why


so I addressed him right head-on and I

said hey you know what this is a real

business you guys get to be totally in


you're the decision-makers you get to

set your own goals and at the end you

get to keep the profits well with that

he sat up and I knew he was on board and

a week later when I came back he was

actually standing in front of the group

and he had the entire class

brainstorming they were coming up with

different marketing ideas and he was

leading the whole thing at the end he

had the highest profit now what was so

interesting was when I sat down later to

do a debriefing with the principal and

the teacher and they shared with me that

this was a boy that typically did not

participate in school in fact he rarely

passed in homework assignments he

frequently skipped classes and yet they

were fascinated by his level of

engagement and they wanted to know what

it was about this project that captured

his imagination entrepreneurial skills

when we think about what people need

today they need a strong set of

entrepreneurial skills and what I mean

by that is creativity critical thinking

problem-solving and communications and

but they're not enough skills are no

longer and we have to help people

develop young people develop an

entrepreneurial mindset now when we

think about the future it's really

important that kids today that they

they're flexible

and they're adaptable need to be able to

see change before it happens they need

to be able to identify opportunities and

have the confidence to move foot towards

them really what it's all about

is actually being able to be constantly

focused on growing and developing and

improving you see and I want to point

out right from the very beginning that

I'm not talking I'm not suggesting in

any way that everybody needs to be

entrepreneur what I am saying is that

young people today regardless of whether

they work for themselves and start a

business or if they work for an employer

what they need is a strong set an

entrepreneurial mindset that's going to

enable them to be successful an

entrepreneurial mindset is actually

critical to success in our rapidly

changing world so that brings us to an

important question and the question is

can an entrepreneurial mindset be

nurtured absolutely in fact as I started

specializing this area I realized very

early on that not only can it be

nurtured but it's important to start

young so I created a program and it's an

entrepreneur project for elementary kids

and for students between the ages of

nine and twelve to start their

businesses and they actually develop an

entrepreneurial mindset by launching a

business venture so they have to create

business plans they develop products and

marketing materials and at the end they

participate in a real-life event called

the young entrepreneur show it's like a

trade show they get to interact with

customers and they earn real money the

program is facilitated which i think is

the most powerful piece is that it's

facilitated by the classroom teacher and

it makes topics like math and English

language arts and social studies more

meaningful and relevant for kids it's

already reached about 40,000 kids and

I'm really excited to be able to share

some of their stories with you here

today now the idea of coming up with a

product to sell for real to customers is

incredibly exciting for kids and in fact

they take it very very seriously

sometimes the students will create

products that you know people enjoy

other times they go a little bit deeper

and they think you know what can i how

can i solve a problem or

how can I make a difference in the world

by creating a product Mimi is one of our

students that decided to come up with

this cat toy and a toy that looked like

a cat I should say and she took this two

materials a mock suede and a mock fur

she cut strips sew them together and had

a cat face at the front and a tail and

she really wanted to have a fun name for

this so she called them roadkill kitties

and if that wasn't enough she took a big

branch that had fallen from a tree in

her garden she mounted it on top of the

table and then she had all the products

hanging up here so as you walk by all

you could see are these feline creatures

like in dad at you and then she'd take

them down she was all about showmanship

so she'd take them down and lay one on

the arms customers would come up and the

customers would smooth it down and it

would roll up and Mimi's product came

alive the roadkill Kitty came alive

Mimi's business came alive and Mimi came

alive you see Mimi wasn't strong she

wasn't a strong academic student and yet

had perhaps the most successful business

in her class and what was so exciting

was that she was able to achieve that

success by showcasing her

entrepreneurial and her artistic flair

the product development stage is also

very powerful because students starting

to come up with an idea but then they

have to use market research they do

prototyping and then they get into

production so it's very rich with

learning opportunities Tyler was very

determined that he wanted to create the

sock puppet and he is just market

research to really perfect the design so

when he asked the question what color

would you like everybody see him teal

one of the options was tie-dye and

everybody seemed to pick that choice so

it was an obvious design decision the

problem he had though was when it came

time to pick the the hair at the top and

the tongue inside and there didn't seem

to be a general consensus in his survey

data so he really was unsure what to do

now he immediately went right to the

teacher and said hey what do I do about

this and the teacher handled

beautifully the teacher said you know

what toilet this is your business you

have to make that decision yourself and

you've got great creative and critical

thinking abilities so can't wait to see

what you come up with so Tyler left and

we weren't really sure how this would

play out and a couple of days later he

came back and he had a solution he

actually put a snap up here on the head

and a snap inside the mouth so these

pieces could be removed and then he made

a bunch of extra design so people could

come up to the table and customize their

puppets and he didn't stop there he

actually made a bunch of extras and sold

them as accessories and was able to

increase his profits substantially as a

result of his creativity what we've been

looking at here really is is some key

features and and the entrepreneur show

is what they're working towards so this

is the final sales event where they they

interact with the customers and it's an

incredibly dynamic so it gives the

students an opportunity to think on

their feet and even solve problems along

the way as they're you know using the

communication skills to kind of pitch

and talk to customers now is that an

event just a few weeks ago before the

holidays and there was a boy there and

he was struggling because he had a

really great product he made this really

cool Christmas ornament out of twigs and

string it was just beautiful but he had

them hanging on a tree

and they weren't selling so he came out

with me and he said you know I'm having

a problem and and I swell to step back

and just look at what your customers are

seeing and what he came up with was that

maybe the problem was that the

decorations were part of the tree and

they weren't actually for sale so he

decided to take one down and then he

just stood here talking to customers and

he said then I can bring him over and

show them the different designs I said

great give it a try so I walked around

the gym and as I was coming around the

corner and Luke says bill I've already

sold three and it's all they've been 10

minutes as I saw you now I am not

exaggerating it was that level of

intensity and what was so interesting to

be is as I was watching his face I had a

flash of a conversation I recently had

with a teacher and she said that if you

can't teach

pride with a textbook but you could

certainly see pride on Luke's face that

day what we've been looking at is the

process of learning and the idea of the

process of learning is so important here

and when we think back to that original

experiment that I had what was the

driving force there was truly the fact

that the kids were in charge they get to

make their own decisions and they're

learning or something that's real to

them and meaningful and that's really in

essence the whole driving force with

this project but what's ultimately

important is the fact that the kids are

actively developing core competencies

and these entrepreneurial skills that I

mentioned up front they're actively

developing them in order to achieve

success with their projects and in order

for all of this to work there's two key

features and the why first one is that

the students have to have a freedom to

make mistakes and so when we think about

entrepreneurship entrepreneurship is

actually messy there's no one path or

right answer so it's really important

that the students have the freedom to

explore and experiment and treat

mistakes simply as learning

opportunities the second is that

students need to have the chance to

really reflect on their experiences and

be able to identify and internalize you

know what they're learning so as an

example they start a business they know

they can say I am a business owner or I

am an entrepreneur because I did it or I

am creative because I solve that problem

so that self reflection stage is really

key because it gets them a chance to

really define who they are as

individuals so I want to give you a

couple of examples of how they reflect

on on their experiences so when asked

what did you discover about yourself

this young boy said I learned that I'm

far more creative than I thought it was

when asked what did you learn this young

lady said I learned that if you take

risk you will succeed and taking risk

means thinking outside the box so words

of wisdom from a 10 year old now the

next one is purely for fun and it's a

question we always ask and we get some

serious answers

and in this case what tip would you have

for other young entrepreneurs that are

just getting started and this young boy

said wear deodorant the actual statement

was wear deodorant the young

entrepreneurs get nervous the room gets

warm and you don't want to be stinky so

we've looked at the really the value of

the process of learning and now I'd like

to look into some broader benefits of

this entrepreneurial experience and the

first it set of shifts culture and I

really this really became clear to me

one year when I'm working one of the

teachers reached the 10 year mark and I

asked her I said what's the difference

between one year one and now and she

said in year one I asked my kids how

many of you think he can have a Bastardo

business and one or two hands went up in

your ched she asked the same question

and every hand went up now when she

asked them why they all agreed but one

of the students captured it best and she

said I went to my first entrepreneur

show in kindergarten and I've been

thinking about my products ever since

so the entrepreneurial experience it not

only helps them discover that

entrepreneurship is a possible career

option it also helps them realize that

there's more potential for them as young

people they can do things that maybe

they didn't realize they could before

the second benefit is that it is really

about unleashing potential and one year

I was working with the students in this

particular case this student I walked in

it was about two years ago and and his

name was Keegan and Keegan had what we

call we call him a soap guy actually

because he had this really cool soap

product and he was standing with poise

and confidence interacting with

customers and so on and when I asked him

why it was fun he said it's fun because

I get to be me and I looked over at his

mom and she was crying and I realized

wow there's more to this so when a few

months later he was actually giving a

presentation in front of a group of

educators and as he was standing there

he said school isn't easy for everyone

and he went on to explain that he has

learning disabilities and often

struggled with school so with this

project he said he could think outside

the box

and he discovered that

he was far more creative and he had more

talent than he realized before and he

was able to discover things and it gave

him high hopes high hopes think about

how many kids out there feel anxiety

about the future this project really in

helps them or this type of project

really helps them discover new potential

the entrepreneurial mindset also helps

kids spark leadership and really one of

the students this really I got a call

one day from on a Friday afternoon and

this was about a boy that had social

performance anxiety and mild autism and

he had a real challenge with speaking in

front of groups and in fact he had to

always give presentations one-on-one but

yet at his entrepreneur show he was

standing there calling people over and

he ended up selling out his product and

did tremendously well at the end of the

project his mom and mom said he was in

it to win it and what was so cool was

that he was able to really sell his

products and and interact with customers

and he definitely had a win with that

program one of the features that I

haven't told you about is that the

students donate 10% to charity and and

his class wanted to donate to the SPCA

but in his situation what he did was he

wanted to donate to a mental facility

that was just opening up it was a wing

of a hospital that was going to support

these kids with anxiety and so he went

in there and he stood up in front and he

asked if he could speak in front of the

audience now this is a boy with social

anxiety and he stood in front of the

group and he said he talked about his

entrepreneurial experience and he talked

about why this organization was

important to him and then he announced

he was donating 50 percent to charity

really when we look at this

entrepreneurial experience an

entrepreneurial mindset helps kids

discover that they can make the world a

better place it really helps them

discover that they can have careers that

are fulfilling a meaningful and and even

and be self-reliant it helps them to

discover their passions and their

talents and their interest and it helps

them discover that they can actually

achieve success not only in the future

but in school today one of our


he had the severe behavioral problems

and would blow up every day in class he

would scream and shout and leave the

room and and so on and at the end of the

program he flourished and a year later

he came back and he had a gift for me

and he said what do you see and I said

there's three stones and they're smooth

or colorful and they're special and he

said I'm special too and that's how I

want you to remember me let's get out

there and help kids develop an

entrepreneurial mindset and let's help

them use their special talents to put

their mark on the world thank you very