Growing Rich Before Growing Up

UPDATED: June 15, 2009
PUBLISHED: June 15, 2009

Mark Victor Hansen has a succinct way of conveying
how much entrepreneurial potential kids have:
They could eliminate poverty. He’s done the math,
and he believes that if only a small percentage of
them directed their innate powers to create, build and lead, the prosperity
that would result from the new, innovative businesses they
created would rebuild the world economy.

In his new book, The Richest Kids in America, Hansen learns from child millionaires how their experiences taught
them strength,
self-confidence and leadership—qualities all parents want for their children. Hansen enthusiastically believes a Rockefeller
in every
single child, and parents are capable of influencing their kids in ways that will channel their potential into adult-sized

Though many parents believe their children are capable of anything in the future, what they should realize is that
their children
are capable of anything today, Hansen says. “If you look at all of the big names in entrepreneurship, almost
every one
started when
they were a kid,” he says. “Bill Gates began programming computers at 13. John D. Rockefeller began raising and
selling turkeys at
the age of 7.”

While writing his book, Hansen met 19-year-old art prodigy Olivia Bennett, who owns an art business worth $1.5 million.
Another, Ephren Taylor, began developing video games at 12 and today is the youngest African-American CEO of a publicly
held company.

Hansen vividly recalls his own introduction to entrepreneurship
that began when he was just 9—with the
love for a bike and 376 boxes of greeting cards. When
his family moved to Denmark to learn the language and
culture, Hansen became enamored with a low-handlebar
racing bicycle not yet available in America.

His father wouldn’t give him the money for the extravagance,
but he did agree to let Hansen try to earn the bike
himself. He found his golden path to success in selling greeting
cards on consignment for Boys’ Life magazine. He sold 376 boxes of
cards in a month, far more than necessary to purchase the bike.

Hansen remembers the joy and freedom he experienced when he
realized there were ways aside from mom and dad to get a coveted
bike or other possession. “For me, the pride of ownership follows the
pride of ‘earnership,’ ” he says.

Parents: A Supporting Role
All parents want to grow the seeds of creativity in the fecund
minds of their children, but Hansen says the parent’s role should be
about nurturing and encouraging—not doing the child’s work.

Hansen sees “helicopter parent” behavior as counterproductive.
Kids have it easier for a while, but they never learn to do things on
their own. “All of the kid entrepreneurs in my book are self-sufficient.
the most important thing that the kids figure out
they can’t go back to mommy and daddy to get their
problems solved,” he says.

With kids’ natural ability to know what interests
and excites them, they will discover their own
passions. But parents can teach children how to
capitalize on those interests by encouraging them to
think creatively about how to make them pay financially.

Another way to help kids see business opportunities is by teaching
them to think critically about value—to look for niches that are
nonexistent or things that are low-valued but could be optimized.
The parents of many of the successful kids in Hansen’s book also
taught practical matters such as business plans or bookkeeping.

“The best thing you can do is give your kids the inspiration to have
the aspiration to give themselves perspiration to have a destination
that is worthy of them,” he says.

A parent’s role in teaching about finances is vital, as well. “The
kids I met started with nothing. Their parents supported them, but
they never gave them money,” Hansen says. Rather than handing out
the credit card when kids want to go shopping or allowing them to
believe that everything they have appears out of nowhere, teaching
kids the principles of earning money can help them understand early
how to make themselves rich outside of mom and dad.

“Kids should be able to have whatever they want, and they
have to have some basic allowance, but with work assignments
to earn the right to have whatever they want. They have to earn
it, with pride and forbearance,” Hansen says.

Nurturing the Passion
Asked what single trait he noticed most consistently in every
child millionaire he met, Hansen says, “Every single one was
rip-roaringly excited. They are passionate and enthusiastic.”

One of the kids he met, Allyson Ames, has been passionate
about baking longer than she can remember. She says she used
to sneak downstairs while her family was sleeping to bake
and decorate.

By the time she graduated from The Culinary Institute of
America at 19, she had developed a business plan and put it
into action with her mom’s help. The result is a shimmering
Wonderland Bakery full of confections and dazzling baked
goods that rival Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Such passion can also get kids through the obstacles and
setbacks that invariably occur for all entrepreneurs, regardless
of age.

Entrepreneurialism can imbue kids with strength and selfconfidence uncommon in their peers. Childhood, just like adult
life, is fraught with obstacles. How parents help their children
deal constructively with problems can make the difference not
only in whether they become self-sufficient, but whether they
become millionaires.

One girl in Hansen’s book, Jasmine Lawrence, lost her hair
from a chemical accident when she was 11 and became afraid
to go out because of
negative comments she
received. The taunts
brought her down,
but also made her
passionate about figuring out what
makes hair grow. She has earned
more than $1 million selling natural
hair care products online.

Another, Chelsea Eubank, lost
her father when she was 17. As she
dealt with her grief, she turned
more and more to her faith. Out of
that experience, she came up with
the idea to create a clothing line with faith-based messages. The
clothing line now is worth $1 million.

The Sky’s the Limit
Creating an environment that integrates business principles into
kids’ daily lives and reminds them that the world is full of endless
opportunities is the best way to foster their curiosity and creativity.

Hansen recommends sharing the lives of other successful entrepreneurs
with them through reading and other media.

“Listen to audiotapes or watch
DVDs about entrepreneurship
with your kids, and give them
biographical books and videotapes
on greats like
Bill Gates and Steve
Jobs and Thomas
Edison, and the kids’
minds will bloom,”
Hansen says.

Providing your
children a financial
education early,
before they are influenced
by the media, can also give them an advantage, Hansen says.
Their own positive experiences with money and with earning will be
indelible, providing them greater self-assurance so they will be less
susceptible to negativity.

“All of the kids I met are making millions. That’s part of the reason
I say, ‘Let’s go to the kids,’ because they’re not watching TV or inaccurate
news reports, and they don’t know how bad things are supposed
to be,” Hansen says. “They just know they can earn as much money
as they want to earn.”