Why would you want to expose a child to the world of business so early? Well, because there are a lot of lessons that children can learn from running a store. Even for a young child, this experience can be very enriching. Briefly, here are just some of what they can learn:
- brain storming
- goal setting
- business operations
- financial education – value of money, the cost of things, etc.
- working life
One of the main reasons why I encouraged Aristotle to run his store was because I wanted to start him on the basics of financial education – something I feel even some adults lack sufficient knowledge on. Some people might feel that teaching children too much about money can make them mercenary, but I believe such lessons are not only useful but essential. As with everything in life, it is how and what you teach your child in those lessons that influence their views on money later in life. But more about this topic in a later post. For now, I want to share Aristotle’s recent experience in running a store…
The Inspiration that Started it All
Being the second child in the family, Hercules is usually the “hand-me-down” child. Most of what he owns gets handed down to him (that’s if Aristotle doesn’t claim it back for himself in the mean time). So Daddy decided to buy Hercules a toy. Since Hercules is also into dinosaurs (not surprisingly since anything big brother is into must always be good), Daddy bought him this Schleich Stegosarus:
When Aristotle saw it, his big brown eyes turned green with envy. He was desperate to have a Schleich dinosaur of his own. He applied all his wiles in effort to gain himself one, but Daddy, being equally skilled at this game, deflected all his efforts. In the end, Aristotle asked me if he could run a store to sell things so he could raise enough money to buy himself a Schleich T-Rex. The idea had merit so I agreed. After hashing out the details a little, this was what we came up with…
Why a Cookie Store?
Cookies are low value items and generally fairly easy to sell. I figured that it would be difficult for a child to receive too much rejection from potential buyers if he was selling something too niche and expensive. Additionally, since Aristotle has an aunt who owns a cafe, I was also hoping to ride on her good will with her customers to get some “warm buyers” who could help make Aristotle’s first retail experience a positive one (no sense in killing off his budding enthusiasm with a cold market).
Cookies are also great because the raw materials are easy to source and Aristotle could be an active part of the process. Baking the cookies was also an activity we could enjoy together which made this whole project more fun. The main difficulty we encountered was when a certain younger brother tried to eat up some of his raw materials before he could make the cookies. Let me just state for the record that it is tough keeping a toddler away from the M&Ms. Actually, scratch that. It’s tough keeping the kids away from the M&Ms. Even our little chef was prone to stealing a couple of M&Ms when my watchful eyes were distracted.
The Learning Experience
Running a store is a terrific experience for any child. Perhaps an older child might have taken away more from the experience, but I think Aristotle also gained a lot from it. He learned about creating a goal and developing a plan to achieve it. He came up with ideas of things he could sell while I pointed out the pros and cons for each idea and made suggestions he could think about.
There were lots of practical mathematical lessons (some of which probably went over his head but would definitely be easier for him to follow the next time around). In shopping for the raw materials, we talked about how much the materials cost versus how much we need to sell the cookies for. I tabled the concept of profit. He learned about working out how much money his customers owed him and how to give change.
There was a mistake I made… I gave Aristotle a calculator for back up on the sale day. I guess it’s true what our Math teachers used to tell us – calculators stop our brains from working. Even though Aristotle knew the answers to the mathematical problems he was presented with (for example a simple subtraction equation I have seen him do effortlessly numerous times like 10-7), the calculator in hand had frozen his brain’s ability to think and he couldn’t process the answer without punching numbers on the keypad.
He learned about presentation – from setting up his store to dressing neatly and “professionally”. He learned about handling food for sale (and tried very hard not to touch them directly with his hands but to use the tongs). He learned about selling and promoting his products. He practiced his communication skills with “new” people he had never met before.
Of course, at the end of the day, Aristotle is still only five and with the attention span of a five year old, he started to get tired of the exercise before the lunch hour was up. Perhaps we started a little too early. What we probably should have done was to shorten the hours of time spent manning the store to just the lunch hour and having the store over a few consecutive days.
Even though we had a fairly warm customer base to work with, we also approached passer-bys who were not so encouraging and the numerous declines was starting to take its toll on Aristotle when he told me he didn’t want to do this any more. Admittedly, it probably would have helped if more customers knew the motivation for the store – I’m sure a number of them thought I was riding on the cuteness of my son to peddle my goods. Those that discovered Aristotle’s goal with the store were only too eager to help him achieve it. They even applauded his initiative in doing so.
The final straw for the closing of the store probably came when Aristotle couldn’t resist the temptation of his own merchandise any longer and stole a cookie for himself. That opened the door to Hercules who was by then clamouring for his own cookie. I don’t think I need to add what happens when you have two little boys that are high on sugar.
Despite the way it all ended, Aristotle did manage to make enough money to buy his dinosaur (based on revenue earned – Mummy will consider the cost of goods sold as the price of a lesson in business for Aristotle) and even a little over to donate to charity. He also learned it was hard work to run a store (and hopefully, it has also taught him a thing or two about appreciating his toys and the value of money).