The importance of entrepreneurial role models
When young entrepreneur Jodie Cook (nee Cole) was invited to be a Startup Loans ambassador in 2012, it was through her social media startup. Little did she know that the experience would spark a whole new venture.
James Caan was the chairman of Startup Loans, a scheme offering loans to 18-24 year olds at the time. Jodie and eleven others were selected as examples of young entrepreneurs who had started their business for less than the value of a startup loan and were growing their businesses successfully. In one board meeting, Mr Caan asked the group “how many of you have a parent who started their own business?”
Jodie, whose mum has been self-employed for over decade, raised her hand. So did ten others. Eleven out of these twelve young entrepreneurs had parents who started a business. Coincidence? We thought not. So Jodie and I got in touch with Birmingham University to find out more. The professor of business and entrepreneurship explained that this scenario is very typical – there is a very strong correlation between parents and children’s tendencies to be self-employed.
Okay, so why is this? Well, it could be genetics although the evidence for this is mixed. What the data seems to suggest is that there is something surrounding the influence of a role model. Businesspeople parents do not tend to give lessons in business to their children, their outlook on life and work habits rub off on their kids. This is backed up by a study showing students increasing their entrepreneurial intentions simply by relating to story bound entrepreneurial role models.
This means that if we want our children to grow up aspiring to high-achievement in any of their endeavours, they need entrepreneurial role models around them. Children learn about the world through their parents and they spend lots of time with their teachers. It stands to reason that children become familiar with these roles and this begins to shape their ideas about what a job and career looks like; ask a 6 year old what they want to be when they’re older and they’ll give you an answer!
In TV and literature, Children have role models in traditional jobs like Fireman Sam, Postman Pat and Bob the Builder and kids understand the roles of doctors, nurses, footballers and policemen because they have regular exposure to them. But what about entrepreneurs? In virtually every example you will find businesspeople are portrayed as greedy, selfish and mean. Think about the impressions Mr Burns, Ebenezer Scrooge and Matilda’s dodgy car dealer dad give. Has anyone seen the Lego movie? The evil antagonist? Lord BUSINESS!
Given that being enterprising helps children learn new skills and attitudes and given that our economy needs more innovative young entrepreneurs to create jobs and grow the economy; don’t we need more entrepreneurial role models?
That’s what compelled us to create a series of children’s storybooks introducing positive entrepreneurial role models. Clever Tykes is inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs through its series of three stories for 5-10 year olds (reading age 8) and is being used in schools in primary enterprise education.