Family & Education

Talking Entrepreneurship With ‘Kid Start-Up’ Authors Shaan Patel, Ian McCue

BY Barbara Danza TIMESeptember 14, 2018 PRINT

“Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban has teamed up with young entrepreneurs Shaan Patel and Ian McCue for a new book that encourages kids to become entrepreneurs.

“Kid Start-Up: How You Can Be an Entrepreneur” walks young readers through the basics of entrepreneurship, beginning with defining “entrepreneur,” and encourages them to think through and start their own businesses.

Patel is the founder of Prep Expert, an online test prep company that completed a deal with Cuban on “Shark Tank” in 2016. McCue is the founder of Spark Skill, a company that runs technology youth camps.

I asked these co-authors about their entrepreneurial experience and how to encourage entrepreneurship in kids.

The Epoch Times: At what age did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Shaan Patel: Although I was always an entrepreneur as a kid (i.e. selling Pokémon cards in elementary school), I didn’t know I wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time, because I didn’t know what an “entrepreneur” was. No one told me! That’s the point of our book, “Kid Start-Up,” to teach kids that becoming an entrepreneur can be a career path, just like choosing to be a doctor, lawyer, or fireman.

Ian McCue: I was fortunate to meet many entrepreneurs as a kid, and as a result, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur since fifth grade. I believe that exposure to entrepreneurs is crucially important to children and parents alike. “Kid Start-Up” shares the stories of entrepreneurs, from kids to Sharks, to inspire students of all ages to start their own businesses.

The Epoch Times: In what ways, if any, did your parents encourage your entrepreneurial ambitions?

Mr. Patel: My parents actually discouraged my entrepreneurial ambitions as a child. When my dad found out I was selling Pokémon cards in elementary school, and not just trading them, he got very angry and made me stop. He said I should focus on school to get a “real job.” It wasn’t until I started having success with other businesses when I got older that he realized entrepreneurship could be a legitimate career path I could pursue.

Mr. McCue: My parents were always supportive of my entrepreneurial ambitions and encouraged them by connecting me with other entrepreneurs, watching “Shark Tank” with me, and eventually helping me to navigate the legal and regulatory aspects of owning and operating a business as a kid.

The Epoch Times: How do you think parents can recognize if their children may have the mindset of an entrepreneur?

Mr. Patel: Does your child have a natural affinity for selling? If yes, they were born to be an entrepreneur. If not, the art of selling can be learned, and they have plenty of time to learn.

Mr. McCue: Children who ask a lot of questions, look for creative ways to complete tasks, or enjoy selling or making things have the mindset of an entrepreneur. These traits can be taught by asking: What is a common problem that we face, how can we solve it, and to whom can we sell our solution?

The Epoch Times: What’s the first step that parents should take if their children express interest in starting a business?

Mr. Patel: Help them sell. If you can assist them in making a few sales, then they will see that selling really is possible!

Mr. McCue: Parents should help their children generate their first few sales. These sales are what differentiate a business from a hobby. Share your children’s businesses with friends, family, and dynamic teachers—and ensure that they have a safe way of selling to them!

The Epoch Times: Some popular entrepreneurs today say that school isn’t built for someone with an entrepreneurial inclination. Do you think parents should prioritize entrepreneurial ventures over school if the child is so inclined?

Mr. Patel: No. Entrepreneurship and school aren’t mutually exclusive. School teaches you great skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur: writing, reading, accounting, economics, finance, marketing, etc. Entrepreneurship teaches you great skills to be a successful student: discipline, self-control, time management, etc. Children can be both successful entrepreneurs and students!

Mr. McCue: Parents should view school as a complement to entrepreneurship. While most entrepreneurs don’t require advanced degrees, reasonable levels of education are helpful in bringing new products and services to market, and in being effective salespeople for their businesses!

The Epoch Times: Do you think all parents should encourage entrepreneurship in their kids?

Mr. Patel: Yes! If more kids were encouraged to be entrepreneurs, we would have a lot more problems solved. That’s what great entrepreneurs do: solve problems.

Mr. McCue: Absolutely! Even if your child has another career path in mind, the skills that kid entrepreneurs develop—time management, self-efficacy, and sales—are beneficial in many aspects of school, work, and life! If they decide to pursue entrepreneurship as a career, that’s great, but it’s far from the only positive outcome of starting a business as a kid.

The Epoch Times: What’s the greatest benefit of being a kid entrepreneur?

Mr. Patel: You can fail early. Failure is the necessary evil of entrepreneurship. It is better to fail when you are young than when you are older. The more you fail and learn as a kid entrepreneur, the more likely you will become a successful adult entrepreneur.

Mr. McCue: The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is the time that it takes to achieve success. The stakes are lower for kid entrepreneurs, and thus, the greatest benefit is having more time to fail, learn, and succeed!

The Epoch Times: Do your parents play a role in your entrepreneurial ventures today?

Mr. Patel: Yes. Today, my parents are very supportive of my entrepreneurial ventures, unlike when I was a kid, because they now see entrepreneurship as a real career path. My parents still help me with taxes and other business paperwork.

Mr. McCue: My parents help with curriculum development and the legal aspects of my technology summer camp company, Spark Skill.

Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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