By Katie Moosbrugger

After years of guilt-ridden hours working behind a computer at home, I can finally say it’s rubbed off on my kids – at least in a positive way for now. This past fall I learned my eight-year-old son started his own company at school. Well, sort of.

I kept hearing him talk about a cleaning squad at school. Then suddenly he became really interested in different types of mops, disinfecting wipes, and air fresheners. He was also asking me all kinds of questions about my website business. Come to find out, he started a business at his elementary school (with the help of his very encouraging teacher) where he and a “team of managers” clean classrooms for imaginary school dollars that can be used to “buy friends for lunch” and other fun perks at school.

While I’m proud of the entrepreneurial spirit, I’m even more impressed with the teachable moments that have emerged. Who knew all the valuable life lessons that could be learned from this fun exercise? Lots of these are traits and skills are not necessarily taught but learned over time. It’s been a fun experience at school, but it’s also easy to encourage kids to get entrepreneurial at home too. Here are some of the wonderful lessons learned so far…

Solve a Real-Life Problem – These kids recognized a need and sought out an innovative solution. Every busy teacher wants a clean classroom, right? Why not gather up a group of fun classmates to work together, earn school bucks, and provide a needed service!

cleaning_squadSet Goals and Prioritize Time – They keep a notebook of ideas, rules, and objectives. They search for opportunities to work, like when it’s too cold or rainy to go outside. Or if there’s downtime in the classroom, they’ll prospect new clients (a.k.a call other classrooms and ask if they need a cleaning). They even had the chance to strategize business ideas with the CFO of a local facilities services company (see pics!).

Maintain Accountability – Their entire business model is based on trust. If you work hard and do a good job, you’ll get recognized as one of the Top 10 Squad Team Members, or get a title like “Personnel Manager” or “Stock Boy.” If not, you might get a warning or a suspension from the squad. Those involved on the squad work hard to build trust, accountability, a strong work ethic, and ultimately earn more school dollars.

Be Likeable – A good leader is not necessarily someone who is popular, but someone who is likeable. All the kids on the squad are learning empathy towards one another, as well as with their clients. Relationship management is key to their success. They use good manners to find new business opportunities and they’re generating word-of-mouth referrals.

Exude Confidence – You can’t sell if you don’t believe in what you do. These kids are proud of what they’re doing. So much so, they diversified their business and are now “selling” chair massages and other helpful services to classmates and students in other rooms.

Don’t Give Up – This cleaning squad idea has started to spread within the school, and now other classrooms are competing. But it hasn’t dampened their spirits. The original cleaning squad found new ways to market themselves (blog, logo, posters, hats, t-shirts) and are confident enough to offer free cleanings in spite of the competition.

Give Back – Perhaps the best lesson of them all. In addition to offering free cleanings, the squad donates their hard-earned “dollars” to other kids who are low on their school buck funds for one reason or another.

Bottom line – kids have talents and initiative – and are hard workers! It’s not hard – nor too soon – to find ways to encourage young kids to be entrepreneurial, especially if it’s fun and rewarding. The lessons are invaluable. If chores are becoming a chore, maybe you can suggest they turn their talents and tasks into a “business” – complete with a bank account and the chance to deliver services to neighbors, friends and family. I won’t lie… I’ve been working hard to expand the cleaning squad business here in my own home!

Do your children run their own “businesses”? If so, share ideas for fun kidpreneur ventures below in the comment section!