Yesterday, we hosted our first Children’s Business Fair, a one-day market for children, ages 6-14, to showcase their very own business. In our own learning community, this was the final exhibition of learning after a four-week Entrepreneurship Quest, where our young learners dreamed up, planned, and created their own businesses to share with the world- and hopefully, make some profit to boot. All session, the heroes eagerly anticipated the day of the fair, where they would have the chance to showcase all of their hard work.
As a school that emphasizes personal agency and autonomy, we stressed the importance of allowing each hero to make decisions about their business, and to do as much of the work on their own as possible. As parents and guides, we watched from the sidelines, supporting by listening and asking good questions to help shape their ideas. Often times, this meant having front row seats to the various struggles our young learners encountered- from creating their first business plans, calculating variable costs, hashing out a marketing plan and pitch to potential customers, to managing the ins and outs of a month-long project with a looming deadline. Wanting everyone to succeed, we resisted the urge to step in and provide easy answers. We reminded ourselves of the learning born from struggle. We tried to remain Socratic, even when the math was REALLY hard. We provided a lot of encouragement, growth mindset praise and inspiring stories of perseverance and grit to get over some of their hurdles.
Little did we know, one of our biggest obstacles would occur on the day of the Business Fair when we woke up to bitter temperatures and 30 mph wind gusts- less than ideal conditions for open tables of merchandise and ample foot traffic. A few flying canopies resulted in an immediate break down of the tents and banners. Sign-in sheets, brochures, and any other items vulnerable to the long and frequent wind gusts were tucked away.
Of course, for any passionate and dedicated entrepreneur, the show must go on. This is “where the road meets the rubber,” as they say- and so, our heroes set up their tables, our wonderful parent volunteers jumped in to help, and our mentor judges visited each young entrepreneur, giving individual praise and feedback. Customers came and sales were made. The hot chocolate booth, run by our youngest heroes, was a huge success. Our budding entrepreneurs enthusiastically supported each other, finding the most joy in visiting their friends and seeing the products of weeks of dreaming, planning and collaboration.
We all may have wanted clear skies and pleasantly crisp fall weather- perfect for strolling and window shopping. We wanted the tents and displays and visual appeal to look as we had intended. We likely wanted our young learners to see the fruits of their efforts through some hard-earned profits. Naturally, we wanted their risks to pay off and their landings to be soft.
Yet, this isn’t really the way the world works and our heroes learned perhaps one of the most important lessons in business and in life- that things don’t always go the way you want. There will always be things, like the weather, that you can’t control. Ultimately, what we really want for our young learners is an entrepreneurial mindset: resilience, adaptability, and grit- character traits born from struggle, from unplanned events and bumpy landings.
These are the skills they will need to launch into the world as successful adults. These are the skills our heroes displayed in spades yesterday, adding a new story of perseverance and grit to our own growing collection as a community.
In reflecting on yesterday’s events, I can’t help but glean some wisdom from The Rolling Stones. As they say, “You can’t always get what you want- But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
(Repost from November 11, 2018)