How do we help young entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality? Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence designs trailblazing programs to do just that for young students. Their goal? Teach entrepreneurship and business development to children, ages 6-18.
“We spend time assessing a child’s interests and strengths and bring in local professionals to help them to reverse engineer a business plan to put those dreams into action,” explains CEO and founder, Svetlana Papazov. As a church planter, lead pastor, business consultant, and collective owner of five successful businesses and one nonprofit, Svetlana Papazov and her husband Michael are passionate about bridging the gap between sacred and secular. Their organization Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence hosts two camps: Real Life KidPreneur and Real Life TeenPreneur.
Below, Meghan Jordan, one of Real Life’s leadership team members, speaks to a precocious teenager, Zoe1, about her experience after attending a Real Life KidPreneur Camp during the week of July 19th to 23rd, 2016 in Midlothian, VA.
1. Thinking Strategically about Her Small Business
What did your child do with the knowledge they acquired from last year’s summer camp? For 8th grader, Zoe Gonzalez, the answer is simple: launch a business and run for President. Class President, that is.
I knew I was speaking to a refined young lady when California sushi rolls topped the list as her favorite food. It was an ordinary Saturday morning for the preteen: family breakfast, plans for an afternoon outing, business strategy discussions—the usual. I sensed Zoe understood the gravity of our conversation. She asked for clarification on a question, presenting the information in such a way I could have mistaken her for an adult. Only moments later a giggle fractured the silence, and I was jarred by the reminder that this was a twelve year old before me.
Though well acquainted with Dr. Svetlana’s vision and influence, it was my first time to encounter anyone associated with the KidPreneur and TeenPreneur Camps. I knew Zoe’s answers would provide key context as to KidPreneur’s impact, chiefly whether or not students were able to recognize how their economic and business strategies played out in the real world.
“I have a small business called Knicks and Knacks,” Zoe began excitedly. “I make and sell slime from an at-home storefront. I also sell lemonade, chokers, and other stuff.”
Speaking with Zoe left me with the distinct impression of productivity. I couldn’t help reaching into the recesses of my memory to recall what I’d done at her age, and an important revelation crossed my mind: from a lack of not creativity or passion, but guidance and encouragement, did I and many other young entrepreneurs fail to establish our own childhood businesses.
2. Learning to Grow, Plan, and Support Small Businesses
Zoe launched her business in Spring of 2017 alongside older sister, Chloe, who graduated from Real Life’s TeenPreneur program last summer. Together, these ambitious girls have developed a line of goods with teens and preteens in mind, but it was not without the help of their camp business mentors and coaches.
Jackee Gonzalez, the young entrepreneurs’ mom, stated, “Zoe and Chloe’s levels of confidence have increased as well as their ability to recognize opportunities – whether they develop them or not. The camps create a good foundation to talk about business at home with your children. Overall, our experience was a week well spent. I feel like KidPreneur and TeenPreneur are on par with other STEM camps and help kids develop skills they will use that will become part of their fabric. Opportunities like this shape they way they see the world.”
And Zoe’s vision includes expansion. “I’d like to make Knicks and Knacks bigger; to make it less DIY and instead sell professionally made items from across the State.” I was impressed by such clarity. “I thought creating a business would be so easy,” Zoe laughed, “but it requires a lot of planning.” All that planning has strengthened her resolve to back other entrepreneurs.
After having invested countless hours establishing the foundation for Knicks and Knacks and developing a brand voice, Zoe says she views small businesses in a new light. “Now I feel that I should support them and buy goods from them,” she explained without the slightest trace of resignation.
3. Applying Entrepreneurship Principles to Everyday Life
A distinct collaboration between Zoe’s business efforts and personal life emerged. “I was going to run for class president and with having taken the [KidPreneur] courses, I realized I couldn’t just run and win. I was the only one who created a campaign; I used the power of persuasion to win!”
The principles Zoe learned from KidPreneur have been actively applied, serving as a bridge between her everyday life and business practice. She demonstrates an awareness that the character we develop at home and school must be translated into work and vise versa.
One last nugget of wisdom? “Just because someone is older, don’t be afraid to talk to them,” she encourages other aspiring entrepreneurs. We all have to begin somewhere, and if you’re really tenacious you begin building that cornerstone in middle school.
Dr. Svetlana Papazov is a wife, mother, church planter, entrepreneur, educator and business coach. Pulling from her diverse experience in small business, academia, and ministry, she launched Real Life Church, a marketplace church that integrates faith and entrepreneurship. She is also one of our City Directors for the recently launched Richmond City Network. Look for Dr. Papazov as she speaks at our cg2017 Conference.
1. Zoe pictured on back right with white shirt. Chloe on right with black shirt.