Entrepreneurial children can make real-life cash

Kids as young as eight are going into business — and teaching others about start-ups

London based Kidpreneur is a new festival for budding start-up founders who are still at school.

London based Kidpreneur is a new festival for budding start-up founders who are still at school.

 

My sons are just eight, 10 and 12 years old but they already display an unnerving instinct for capitalism. It makes them the perfect companions to help me review Kidpreneur — a new festival for budding start-up founders who are still at school.

The event was at the London branch of KidZania, a global theme-park chain founded by a Mexican entrepreneur, which offers children the chance to role-play in a variety of real-life jobs.

Kidpreneur was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a programme of activities in 170 countries. This event was compèred by my children’s favourite television presenters Dick and Dom. So I expected a degree of excitement, perhaps even a thank you. Instead, their first question was about how much they would be paid.

I could blame KidZania, which was created not just to let children sample grown-up jobs but also pays them for doing so. Its currency is Kidzos — which can only be exchanged for products in the on-site gift shop.

Kidpreneur takes this a step further by planting the idea in young minds of setting up on their own. The goal is to make Kidpreneur an annual London event and roll it out across the company’s 24 sites worldwide.

One eight-year-old speaker founded a company that teaches young people how to build robotic toys — it already employs 10 people

The young delegates at Kidpreneur heard first from Henry Patterson, 13-year-old founder of gifts brand Not Before Tea. Henry started, aged five, selling horse manure from the stables next to his family’s rural Bedford home. At eight, he set up a dog-walking business. Not Before Tea started as an online sweet shop, adopting a phrase Henry’s grandmother used when her treats jar was offered round. Aged 10, he wrote a children’s story book and turned the illustrations into a range of christening cards, baby-changing mats and nappy pouches. Turnover is “in six figures”, he says.

Asked what he plans to do next, Henry announced that he was preparing to buy a house. For a moment, the hyperactive adult comperes were lost for words.

My middle child, who has always been the first to write his Christmas and birthday present lists, was also agog. He fixed me with an excited expression that said “I need to do something like that”.

The thought occurred to me that I could be sitting next to a budding Richard Branson, if only we could persuade our local city farm to part with its dung and get him registered at Companies House.

Next on stage was Callum Daniels, an eight-year-old who has set up I Code Robots to teach young people how to build and programme robotic toys.

The company started trading this year, employs 10 people and runs classes at the former media centre for the London 2012 Olympic Games, through a partnership with Loughborough University London. His mother was at his side and explained how her son showed promise from an early age, building his first robot aged four.

My youngest son is the same age as Callum and shares his passion for making stuff. My boy’s construction material of choice is Lego, and is often to be found in his bedroom creating a new vehicle.

This child also has a knack for creating objects from the most unlikely materials. Over lunch, he refashioned our black KidZania lanyards into a pair of braces, which he slung over his T-shirt, attaching the clips to the belt of his jeans. Proud as I was of his style, I was struggling to think how we could turn this into a viable business plan.

What he and his brothers were really itching to do, however, was to have a go at the 60 salaried jobs on offer in the regular KidZania space.

They spent the rest of the day variously as paramedics called to the scene of a fire in the KidZania hotel; dressed up as policemen going out on patrol; ferrying packages between companies for the KidZania delivery business. They also trained to be pilots on the British Airways flight simulator, but for this they had to pay for their tuition rather than receive a wage. By the time we had to leave, each child had 22 Kidzos in his pocket.

This seemed a decent sum until we got to the gift shop. Most of the toys cost at least 100 Kidzos. They could only afford a matching pencil and sharpener, for which the boys had to pool their cash.

And what did we learn? First, if it is money that motivates you, forget a career in either public services or as a delivery driver.

My youngest showed me that being creative does not necessarily mean you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. He might not have a flashy gift from KidZania but he spent the rest of weekend proudly flashing his lanyard braces to passers-by.

If only I can find a way of marketing them as a hot new fashion accessory online, and find a decently priced manufacturer. Then we might be in with a chance of paying off the mortgage.- Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017.