“Come, let’s sit by the fire pit,” the 6-year-old boy said, tugging my hand so hard that I thought it would fall off. I watched as he raced ahead to find a spot for us.
Not soon after we sat down, the boy got up and began pacing back and forth. “Time for me to go home now. I’ve had a nice vacation, but I have to get back to work.”
“Work? What kind of work?” I asked.
“I’m president of the Paper Boats Club. I teach people how to make paper boats, but I need to get more workers. We need to make 5,000 boats!”
“What are you going to do with all of those boats?”
“Sell them for two dollars each.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of money. What are you going to do with it?”
“Well, I’m keeping half, and the other half will go to the workers because they have to be paid,” he replied.
Several weeks later, I took a trip to the school playground. It was a rainy day, and the children were clad in their colorful rain gear, floating hundreds of paper boats in the mud puddles. The young boy was in the corner, teaching kids how to make them. As I watched, I noticed that he was not his usual exuberant self. I asked him what was wrong. “We have a BIG problem.” He proceeded to tell me how the teachers no longer had room for their paper boats.
The boy had run into his first operational issue. He was forced to deal with a force much larger than himself— The Teachers. Standing there, I was amazed by his maturity and acceptance of the fact that The Teachers were more powerful than him, and that they were not to be overruled. I also marveled at how he showed problem-solving skills and bravery in the face of obstacles, and how he skillfully recruited workers at recess to join his club.
At such a young age, this boy had developed a profitable business model. He found a drawing on the Internet, and while he could not read the instructions (he struggles with dyslexia), he figured out how to make a paper boat. This boy is an entrepreneur, I remember thinking, and I have no doubt that he will create many businesses in his future. I am privileged to know this young boy. He is now 10 years old, and I have the honor of making him breakfast every day. You see, he is my son.
Entrepreneurs are born, not made. My son’s innate talent was not taught to him, and I can see some of me in him as he faces the obstacles that come with running a business. As entrepreneurs, I believe it is our responsibility to support today’s business minds and develop the talent of young people. Through our guidance, we can fan the flames of entrepreneurial interest and make a mark both in business and the lives of those who lead them. For me, it starts with my son.
Elizabeth Gage is the chairman and CEO of Firo Communications. Fun fact: Elizabeth was an actor with the Stratford Festival of Canada and completed 100 performances of “King Lear.”