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Entrepreneur Lessons From A Nine Year Old

Kuel Life Featured Images February 2022 11 2

Entrepreneurial Mindset: Michelle Oliver

This post is the first in a series that speaks to the mindset around taking the entrepreneurial leap and the essential strategies that apply to most businesses, during different stages of growth.

Many women have ideas about starting a business, but few execute. There are a number of reasons for this, one of the major ones being overthinking, or analysis paralysis.

Unique Strategies For An Aspiring Entrepreneur:

There are as many opinions and approaches to launching and growing a business as there are diets to help you lose weight. And like diets, much of the advice is contradictory.

“When it comes to researching a startup idea or business strategy, it can be overwhelming and this stage of exploration is often enough to stop anyone in their tracks.”

Although there are some fundamental principles that apply to every diet and to every business strategy, the combinations of these elements and how they are implemented can differ vastly. Additionally, depending on the type of business you are considering, there are unique strategies that make sense only within specific industry verticals.

When it comes to researching a startup idea or business strategy, it can be overwhelming and this stage of exploration is often enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

To complicate things even more, further investigation reveals more contradictions. Such as the ongoing controversy as to whether entrepreneurs are born or made. All of this can lead the aspiring entrepreneur into an avalanche of doubt and other negative emotions that result in paralysis.

Entrepreneurial Tales:

Often, the initial ideas that entrepreneurs entertain come from an organic child-like approach. In stark contrast to the above tendencies, they move from ideation to execution at an alarming rate of speed and often gain traction simply due to the energy behind the launch and the implementation of intuitive action.

This approach alone without a strategy can also leave you in the ditch, but there are many valuable lessons here. Here’s an example from one of many entrepreneurial tales from my childhood.

“This discovery opened up a world of possibility in my mind.”

I’ll begin this tale with the spoiler alert that in the end, the initial idea literally never launched (you’ll understand what I mean in a minute). However, the overall idea followed many of the patterns necessary to a startup.

Supporting Big Ideas:

The idea came from learning about hot air balloons – pretty sure it was a result of the education I received from watching the Wizard of Oz. This discovery opened up a world of possibility in my mind.

I must have been about nine years old and already had a habit of ushering the neighborhood children into supporting my big ideas. I gathered a few of the younger ones and explained the possibilities that were in store for us and the adventure began.

Intuitive Strategy #1 – Build An Audience Before You Launch:

Lifting off into the sky with no idea how we might return deserved an audience. We were certain everyone would want to observe this remarkable feat. We spent the first-day making tickets, which we cut from construction paper and decorated with crayon drawings. And we had two price points – front row and standing only. I don’t remember how much we charged, but each one carried a price.

“The solution? Sell something people love – no, not puppies…entertainment!”

Intuitive Strategy #2 – Know What You Need:

We then made a list of what we would need – a giant box, helium balloons, ropes, bags of sand to keep us from floating away too fast, snacks and diaries to record our journey. Most of these materials could be sourced from the sandbox, the garage, the kitchen, and our personal belongings. The balloons were another story. This is when we realized we needed funding for our project.

The solution? Sell something people love – no, not puppies…entertainment! A quick romp around the neighborhood provided us with enough interest from the kids for a talent show, so we created the lineup, cleaned the garage, recruited moms and big sisters to bake, made up the programs and set the date.

Intuitive Strategy #3 Marketing And Sales – Upsell, Cross-Sell, Promote, Promote, Promote!

We went door to door selling tickets and the following Saturday we had an audience packing our driveway (bring your own chair for some). We sold baked goods and lemonade and even handmade button-like items that you could pin on your shirt that said support our balloon flight – not very catchy, but it falls under category #3, as we set the stage for the big event.

“Team dynamics require attention in every organization.”

Intuitive Strategy #4 – Take Good Care Of Your People:

After determining the cost for balloons, we split the proceeds between all of the performers and had a dress-up dance party in our basement. There was drama as I recall, but that story is for another time. Team dynamics require attention in every organization.

Intuitive Strategy #5 – Repeat What Worked The First Time As An Entrepreneur:

With funding for balloons and even more raving fans, we set the date for the balloon launch. Again, we sold tickets door to door and even added a bring a friend for 1⁄2 price program, which sold more tickets.

Some of the kids brought refreshments to sell. And we had pre-show entertainment by a guitar player as well as a girl who showed the tricks her dog could do when you paid for a treat for the dog.

“Needless to say, our hearts dropped a little with each one,.”

Intuitive Strategy #6 – Embrace Failure, Ignore The Haters, Be Resilient And Pivot Fast, But Keep Your Audience!

The big day arrived with a big turnout, lots of excitement along with tears from my little sister who didn’t want to fly away in a balloon and leave our new kitten, so she gave up her seat to another flight candidate. Needless to say, our hearts dropped a little with each one, as sandbag after sandbag was tossed from the box and our balloons still neglected to lift us off the ground.

Jumped Out Of The Box:

Our older brothers were in hysterics as they mocked us for our utter failure. One of them picked up the guitar and started singing a made-up ballad of sorrow. One of them bellowed out “Where’s the good witch now?”

That’s when I had an idea. I jumped out of the box, whispered to my sister to run, put on her magic fairy costume and grab her wand and some scissors. I grabbed the guitar and shoved it into the hands of the owner with the command to “sing”. And I stood up on a chair and announced that since we weren’t leaving after all, we would have ongoing shows and auditions were now open that afternoon for Wizard of Oz.

“With scissors in hand, I offered balloons for sale at 5 cents each.”

With scissors in hand, I offered balloons for sale at 5 cents each. The boys were ushered away by kind parents and I told everyone that my little sister would now grant wishes for everyone there. Everyone applauded and we all ate cookies, drank lemonade and thought about the possibility of our dreams coming true.

The “I Can” Mindset Of An Entrepreneur:

This childlike “I Can” mindset comes from the need to create, from a vision we become obsessed with. We will allow nothing to prevent us from doing everything possible to turn the dream into a reality and we assume the best. We just “know” that everything we need will show up to assist us and there is zero fear in asking for attention and charging for it.

Basically, we simply assume the value of who we are and our ability to create what we want. I mean, why would we have this grand idea if it were not to be expressed?

Enthusiasm And Belief Of An Entrepreneur:

As I got older, the fundamental process never changed. Always starting with a clear vision and the enthusiasm and belief to go after it with everything you have is what allows you to pick yourself up quickly.

Doing what it takes, means you have to learn. You have to upgrade your skills, your mindset as you go. With a little luck, guidance and strategy, you will materialize the dream and have some level of success before you are overcome with the next big, audacious idea.

Of course, we need strategy and coaching to guide us, but don’t discount the value of lessons from children.

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About the Author:

Michelle has been starting and building businesses, professionally training and coaching within the small business sector over the last 34 years. Even as a child, the entrepreneurial spirit drove her to build communities and provide services to others and this continued throughout her life at each stage.

When her children were born, her passion for child development and education inspired her to commit many years to intense study in these areas. She was instrumental in 2 Waldorf charter school initiatives, started and grew 2 pre-schools, led numerous homeschooling collaboratives and started and ran several home businesses during this time. You can find Michelle on her site and you can follow her on IG.