Perhaps you recently watched 10-year-old Jack Bonneau, from Broomfield, Colorado, on ABC-TV’s Shark Tank, show pitching his lemonade stand and marketplace business and picking up a $50,000 low-interest loan from billionaire venture capitalist Chris Sacca.
First, kudos all around — to Jack, his parents, his teachers, his mentors and his principal — for all the dedication they invested and the direction they gave him to land this deal and attract the publicity that has followed.
But, here’s the big question: Should we be surprised by such prodigious business acumen? Afterall, the lesson here seems that students in primary and secondary schools across the United States are much more capable than many of us believe.
In fact, Jack was incredibly poised in front of the show’s entrepreneurial giants, who also included Lori Greiner, Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran, who all declined to invest. “I wasn’t really nervous at all,” Jack told me, in an interview.
The student said he was equally unfazed by the reasons some Sharks gave for turning down the opportunity to make a deal with him: He should be focusing 100 percent on school instead of managing a growing enterprise.
“I understand where they were coming from. I respect their opinion and took it to heart and listened to it,” Jack said. “But it wasn’t too hard to hear because I know I have a good balance in my life.”
I believe Jack is on to something here. Entrepreneurship might not be a fit for every kid, but why not have schools teach everything from math to civics through the lens of building and running a business? For those of us who are entrepreneurs, looking back at our own schooling, wouldn’t middle school have been that much more engaging if we had learned how to build a business that we cared about?
Especially nowadays, when that traditional job, the paper route, and other long-time opportunities for kids seem to be disappearing, why not teach entrepreneurship in school?
As Jack’s example shows, kids are naturally entrepreneurial; a commercial mindset and concepts such as profits, losses and expenses, or risk-taking and problem-solving, are often part of their mindset. If students are given the right experiences and provided by their parents and teachers with the right perspective, the skills that are needed will develop.
All that’s needed is to allow students to get comfortable identifying issues and solutions, taking chances and experiencing failure.
Jack, who two years ago, when he was 8, launched Jack’s Stands & Marketplaces at a local farmers market, is now a sixth-grade student at STEM Magnet Lab in Adams 12 Five Star Schools, known in Colorado for encouraging students to start their own businesses and use their passions and ideas to solve problems. Adams 12’s business mantra “fail fast and pivot” is an example of the right mentality.