How to Be an Entrepreneur (According to a Middle Schooler)
Don’t worry, we’re not actually letting a 10-year-old write this. When we say “according to” we’re talking about influence—where did this entrepreneurial spirit come from? The foundations for ArtByAdina.com actually started when Adina was in middle school. For some reason she had this insatiable hunger for coming up with ideas and scrambling to the nearest napkin or scrap of paper to fervently scribble out the plans, whether she realistically thought they’d ever end up coming to fruition or not. Let’s reflect on what an entrepreneur might look like and if you start to get a sense of “hey, this sounds familiar” while reading then you will know you are well on your way to figuring out how to be an entrepreneur, yourself (for all you know, you may have had it in you all along)!
Being the middle child, our founder and the eldest were always trying to think of ways to manipulate the youngest (never “manipulate” in a bad way but, to them, the third kid was basically born to be their toy). Basically, as soon as they knew there would be another sibling, the competition was on. Who could influence her more/better? Each kid came up with little fake businesses, Joke Food & Fun being the older brother’s, and Adina’s Angels being, well, you get it. To this day they have no idea how they came up with these names, maybe they just thought they sounded cool, because their “products” and “services” did not really match up with the verbiage (probably not what Adina would recommend to people aiming to brand their businesses nowadays). In fact, the names were quite random—JF&F “sold” everything from his own version of Pokemon cards called Emu, to fake tickets for fake theme parks (that the youngest would need quite a bit of imagination in order to feel like she was on a ride while being slid down the stairs via futon or laundry basket). Adina doesn’t quite remember everything Adina’s Angels "manufactured" other than tiny clay teddy bears that the youngest sister could place into different scenes, from bedrooms with tiny intricate clay furniture to mini swimming pools (all “sold” separately, of course, as add-ons to the play sets).
Whatever else the two eldest children came up with, they decided their baby sister had to obviously have some fake money in order to make the fake purchases—other wise it’d be… fake thievery? Well, where does one get fake money but from a fake job?And how does one get a fake job but by having a fake degree from a fake school? Yeah, these kids really went all out torturing their favorite toy—eh, "customer."
Crazy or genius? Oh, the mind of a child. Something was in the workings there though, gears in heads turning ferociously, every day, before any of them hit the 5th grade. And there were always battles on whose customer this kid would be, whether that involved the classic whining and name-calling of youngsters to the more mature fake ad-making and persuasion game. Adina was probably only around 8 at this time.
When Adina got to 4th or 5th grade, she decided to take her "business" ideas to school (where she figured there was less competition since she didn’t see any of the other kids doing so). She and her friend used to get in trouble for talking a lot in math class but the teacher forgave them when they would gush over the little dog brought in whenever Mrs. B couldn't find a dog-sitter. It was some sort of little white fluffy thing, Adina recalls, and the girls thought it was so cute because of the bows it always wore. One day they decided there should be more accessorizing available to dogs—better yet, a whole clothing line for pets (they probably did not realize that the dog was most likely humoring their teacher and was not really in love with the idea of wearing them)! The next few play-dates the friends had at each other’s homes they would dedicate to drawing up business plans for Woofums Wardrobe. Nothing really ever ended up happening with that, as you may have guessed. Play dates always had plenty of distractions (ie. ice cream, Neopets, outdoor adventures, and making up dances to songs). However, our founder was not discouraged.
In 6th grade, Adina became newly obsessed with Sculpey, the oven-bake polymer clay she used to make those miniature bears with, after another friend reintroduced it to her. She started cranking out all kinds of little creatures and when other kids would catch a glimpse they would go, “make me something!” She wondered if people would even pay for these figurines. So she took some paper and made two little envelopes, one that said “OUT—please take one” (filled with tiny order forms where you’d check off whether you wanted a tiny handcrafted sculpture on a bracelet, a magnet, as a pencil-topper, or other), the other envelope "IN" for completed orders. Adina taped them to her locker and went to class, and low and behold, when she arrived back at the end of the day, the 2nd envelope was stuffed with slips! For a while she went on charging 25-50 cents (probably less than the cost of the box in which the mini creations were placed before being hand delivered to classmates... she was not yet familiar with overhead) and excitedly ended up with a locker full of coins from her Sculpey Stuff. Eventually there were distractions, production slowed, and she went off to focus on newer obsessions.
Why are we telling you about seemingly random and dare we say perhaps even silly businesses, if one can even call them that, the concepts for which seemed to disappear just as soon as they were invented (scratch that, the handmade creations are actually being brought back to life now that our founder is no longer 11 years old, and these can be seen on an Etsy page as well as reached through our website)? Does any of this sound like you or someone you know? Are you always trying to think of the next big thing? Then you already know how to be an entrepreneur. Trust us, it’s in you—and if, like Adina, you sometimes wonder if your best ideas came about when you were a kid and you feel you may not be quite as imaginative anymore, think again! Most people have this curious, adventurous quality somewhere, even if it is hidden deep down inside of them, and it can be woken up and given new life if you nurture it.
But how do you pull an idea out of nothing? If you’re sitting there racking your brain now, feeling as though you simply cannot think of anything, you’re not brainstorming efficiently. You can do one of two things if you are having a creator’s block of sorts. For both methods, you will need a pencil and paper because you’re going to do a little brain exercise—remember when we talked about inspiration in the beginning? Here is where it comes into play:
Solve a problem: Think about all the apps that have been invented for your daily life. Most, if not a game, were made to make life easier. The creators thought about something that did not yet exist (but that people could really love because it would help them in a way they had not thought about before), and they made it happen. Make a list. Start with 3 categories if you can’t think of much right away. Name 3 “problems” or “frustrations” in life and make a 2nd column where you can jot down a concept that might be able to help solve each. Once the juices start flowing, don’t stop—you can write down as many as you think of and then weed them down later when you try to figure out what could happen most realistically. In the beginning though, don’t limit yourself. Don’t judge anything as too “silly." When people who once thought the earth was flat were told otherwise, they decided the explorer preaching this fact was simply crazy, just like when people first heard someone figured out a way to make man fly!
Make an update: At first, piggy backing off of someone else’s work might sound like stealing. When you think about it though, it’s not. Countless ideas out there in the world came from something that already existed but which someone decided to improve upon. The Uber guy? He knew there were taxis, private chauffeurs, and limos—but he wanted to make what he felt would be a “better” (or at least different) option. The Candy Crush guy? Does no one recall Bejeweled? Mr. Candy Crush is sitting on loads of money not because he necessarily nabbed an idea but because he built upon what existed and made it his own (it then was up to consumers to decide which they liked best, and the people have clearly spoken). We’re not so sure those very successful guys ever quite read a book specifically on how to be an entrepreneur, we bet they just got an idea and, well, started. You can, too! Jump in, give it a go. Will your idea be the next big thing?