The Boy Who Would Be Entrepreneur

By Elizabeth Gage, an EO Toronto member and president and CEO of PCM Interactive.

“Come, let’s sit by the fire pit,” the 6-year-old boy said, tugging my hand so hard that I thought my arm would fall off. “OK, I’m game,” I said, and he raced ahead to find a spot for us.

It was the end of a beautiful day in the desert, and people were finally unwinding. Some teenagers were swimming in the pool and a group of men were perched on bar stools trading golf stories over beer. Not soon after we sat down, the young boy got up from his seat and began pacing back and forth. “Time for me to get home now. I’ve had a nice vacation, but I must get back to work.”

“Work? What kind of work?” I asked.

“I’m president of the Paper Boats Club. I’m the leader and teacher. I teach people how to make paper boats. I left John in charge while I was away, and now I need to get back. I need to get more workers. We need to make 5,000 boats!”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“Sell them at $2 a piece.”

“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 said.

Several weeks after returning home, I arrived at the school playground. It was a rainy day and the children were clad in their colorful rain gear, floating paper boats in the mud puddles. There were hundreds of boats. The boy was in the corner teaching kids how to make these paper boats. As I watched, I noticed that he was not his usual exuberant self. I wondered what was wrong.

I approached him. “How did John make out while you were away?”

“Not bad, but we have a BIG problem now.” 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 and had to deal with a force much larger than himself, “The Teachers.” There was some sadness in his eyes as he watched his “workers” race their paper boats in the mud puddles. 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.

At the age of six, this boy had developed a profitable business model that he turned into a reality. 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. He also figured out how to get his supplies for free. Each day he stealthily loaded his knapsack with paper from his mother’s home printer. He also showed tremendous sales and leadership skills when he skillfully recruited “workers” at recess to join his Paper Boats Club. And he showed problem-solving skills and bravery in the face of obstacles. He realized instinctively that he could not overrule The Teachers. This boy is an entrepreneur, and he will create many businesses in his future.

I am privileged to know this young boy. He is now nine years old,  and while he still struggles with dyslexia, 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. As a woman entrepreneur, I have learned that to bounce back from a challenge, you must accept when you lose (this means you’re going to win next time) and walk away from the naysayers. The best support for an entrepreneur is being with other entrepreneurs. I value my relationships with my colleagues at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). EO is a dynamic, global network of more than 7,500 Entrepreneurs in 38 countries. Not only is there an immediate, unspoken bond and camaraderie, but there’s a ton of support. As leading entrepreneurs, it is our responsibility to develop the entrepreneurial talent of young people, for this is our legacy and the economic future of our community.

For me, it starts with my son.

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