National Children’s Day, which in the UK is held on 12 May, for 2024, serves as a reminder to celebrate the joys of childhood, protect children’s rights, and foster the innate curiosity and creativity of every child.

There are lots of ways to nurture the talents of our children, enabling them to flourish in their uniqueness, while fostering an entrepreneurial, change-maker spirit, to support them in helping others throughout their lives.

In an episode of the ‘Raising Entrepreneurs’ podcast, with host Tameka Montgomery, coach and entrepreneur Vipin Thekk reveals fascinating insights from his research into the upbringing of children — and the habits of their parents — who grew up to become successful entrepreneurs.

Some key patterns emerged from the research that was carried out through his social impact network Ashoka, which revealed three key strategies or, as he refers to them, “fertilisers” for children’s entrepreneurialism.

Here’s what they are…

1. From an early age, the parents of the study exposed their children to what Vipin describes as “alternate lifestyles or opportunities”. By this, he means diverse cultures and experiences, which ultimately serve to “plant the seed of empathy” in children.

This could be anything from eye-opening travel, to making new connections within a community or, as in the case of one entrepreneur, simply taking the family to eat at a different world cuisine restaurant every month, where they would talk to the waiters, look at the pictures on the wall, and immerse themselves in a different culture. 

2. The research also showed that from an early age these parents were nurturing the inherent curiosity of the child. So, rather than pushing their children into piano lessons, dance classes, or football lessons, for example, they were looking at what their child was showing an intuitive, natural interest in and taking the lead from there. He tells the story of a mother who nurtured the passion of her young son’s love of transport and signs, taking him to sign fairs around their community in the US. Incredibly, at the age of just 14, the boy invented a screen that when placed in front of school buses, serves as a shield, reducing the vehicle’s carbon emissions. 

3. These parents also all gave their children opportunities to take leadership and practice responsibility.

In Richard Branson’s autobiography, Losing My Virginity, he describes a time in his youth when his mother dropped him a mile from their cabin in the woods, and told him to find his way home by asking for directions. This experience, he says, fundamentally changed the way he looked at risks. Finding practical ways (perhaps not as extreme as this!) to help children practice leadership, can be a powerful strategy. Family meetings where children set the agenda, run the meeting and do the follow-up, is one example. When taking a holiday, giving children the chance to lead on the planning of one of the day’s activities, is another.

These were foundational in leading the children to grow into adults with a deep sense of self belief, which Vipin believes is “a huge component of being an entrepreneur”.

Model empathy

Children learn from their parents’ actions so modelling behaviour is another key approach to fuelling the curiosity and empathy that we wish to nurture in the next generation. Creating opportunities at home for authentic human connection; getting children outside, away from screens and phones, and amongst people. This allows them to spend time making real human connections that furthers their awareness of social problems and develops their empathy — a quality which comes up again and again as central to entrepreneurialism and change-making.

Help children be comfortable with being ‘wrong’ or not knowing

According to the late author and education consultant, Sir Ken Robinson, children are naturally creative until they learn what it means to be wrong. In his famous TED Talk, ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ (an essential watch!), which has now amassed over 76 million views, he made the key point that, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”, and that by the time children get to adulthood, “most kids have lost that capacity.”

Children have no fear of being wrong, naturally; it’s something they get taught (which he argues commonly occurs within the education system); and it’s a killer of creativity. We need to ensure that children are allowed to pursue different answers and solutions; feel comfortable with not knowing, and approach things in their own individual way.   

Empowering through entrepreneurial opportunities

Businesses have a key role to play in nurturing entrepreneurism in young people, as well as schools and parents. They can partner with schools to introduce entrepreneurial education programs that ignite curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving skills in children.

Workshops, seminars, mentorships and guest lectures featuring successful entrepreneurs can inspire young minds to think outside the box and pursue their ideas fearlessly. By instilling an entrepreneurial mindset early on, businesses can sow the seeds for future innovation and enterprise.

Businesses can empower children to take ownership of their own projects and ventures by offering entrepreneurship competitions. Through these initiatives, children can pitch business ideas and receive feedback from industry experts. Businesses can provide resources such as funding, workspace, or technology to help children turn their ideas into reality. 

Useful links and resources:

ITN BUSINESS’ UPCOMING PROGRAMME: Prioritising Children’s Health

To highlight the health and wellbeing of the next generation, and showcase how we can enable them to flourish, our upcoming programme Prioritising Children’s Health will explore the solutions aiding children’s health, providing them with the best possible start in life.

There are commercial opportunities for leading organisations at the forefront of children’s health to be featured in the programme and spearhead their own news item. If your organisation wants to share what you stand for and be part of this important conversation, please contact ITN Business’ Head of Healthcare Programming Georgia Gerstein or Programming Director Jamie Connolly.