Parents are one of the biggest influences on their children’s future careers, whether they choose to follow them into their line of work or otherwise. But for many of today’s children the jobs they will eventually take up have not yet been invented. So how do you prepare them for tomorrow’s world today?
Entrepreneur and mum Lorraine Allman is founder of Enterprising Child®, an organisation which helps parents and educators develop an enterprising mindset in their children from age four upwards through play. Her book ‘Enterprising Child’ was published in 2012 and is widely used by teachers and parents around the world.
Lorraine herself did not follow a conventional career path. She pulled out of completing her A Levels and got a job persuading employers in Bristol to offer placements to 16 year olds. She then worked in educational psychology and ended up managing a University department, but found it too bureaucratic. She moved to Pembrokeshire and set up one of the first business information portals for SMEs. “I rode the dot.com wave,” she says, but eventually, as with many businesses of that era, the business failed and she lost everything. “Sometimes you make the wrong decisions,” she says, although she adds that there is much to be learnt and applied from that experience.
After two years working in the voluntary sector, Lorraine returned to business setting up a Business and Educational research company, working on several substantial contracts involving young people. After that she set up Speed Mentor Central – providing online expertise, services and content for entrepreneurs and small business and was Managing Director until 2013.
In amongst all this activity Lorraine had a son, Dylan, and started thinking about the role of parents in their children’s future careers. “I realised when he was four [he’s now eight] that I was able to move from rather one-sided dialogue to more of a two-way conversation with him and wondered how children’s enterprising characteristics could be nurtured by parents through play. I asked myself where the support was for parents to nurture an enterprising mindset through play,” she says.
Combining her own experience of running businesses with researching families, successful entrepreneurs and parenting experts, she wrote and had published ‘Enterprising Child’, and although targeted at parents, it attracted considerable interest from the education sector around the world. Schools in Malaysia have sought to adopt the Enterprising Child approach into its curriculum and Lorraine is currently working with an organisation in South African developing an Enterprising and Life Skills programme for Grade 7 learners. At the end of 2014 she had secured investment to scale up Enterprising Child.
Lorraine explains why the main focus of Enterprising Child is parents. “I don’t think there is enough support for parents, particularly in this area of developing entrepreneurial skills. We are our children’s greatest role models. We have to prepare them for the future and the different elements they need to have an enterprising mindset,” says Lorraine, who is now working on a series of apps for parents with an internationally respected parenting expert, one of the UK’s leading experts on play and child development, and a speech and language therapist.
“We want to show parents how easy it is to nurture that enterprising mindset in their children through
tried and tested, fun, everyday activities,” says Lorraine.
She is also working with an award winning film company in May to film parents and children doing some of the Enterprising Child activities.
In addition to Enterprising Child, Lorraine is a role model for the Welsh Assembly Government initiative Big Ideas Wales which aims to inspire young people through positive entrepreneurial role models, and regularly speaks in schools. Lorraine talks to children and young people of all ages to get them tap into what they are really passionate about and encourages them to explore what they need to take things forward. “So many young people want to talk after the session. Careers advice at schools doesn’t really present self-employment as an option even though Britain has so many micro businesses,” she says. She has created a 35-second video to get young people to think and talk about how they define success.
As if doing all this wasn’t enough, Lorraine also runs an award-winning film club at a local primary school to encourage young people to get creative and learn enterprising skills through film and film-making.
Lorraine’s passion for Enterprising Child has clearly rubbed off on her son, who recently became the UK’s youngest successful crowdfunder after he raised money for a recipe book for charity. Lorraine coached him in crowdfunding and he made his own videos. He raised £750 through crowdfunding, £350 more than the cost of producing the book, and half of the contributions came from people he didn’t know. “He captured their imagination,” says Lorraine. “He learnt a lot from the experience. It was extraordinary.”
Dylan is now moving from the charity world to commerce. “He realises you have to make money in order to give it away,” says Lorraine. He has set up a business called Supercandylicious which rents chocolate fountains for children’s parties and sells retro sweets. He ran a stall at Christmas and made over £100. He gave £40 to charity and reinvested the rest in his business. Dylan gives talks in schools and elsewhere, has a blog, did a pitch before a former Dragon and has been appointed the first young ambassador for crowdfunding in the UK. But Lorraine says there are wider benefits than this. “He is learning so much, not just about business but developing his communication skills, financial literacy, planning skills, and of course his confidence levels are boosted every time he does something,” she says.
*Lorraine is looking for London-based families who want to be filmed taking part in Enterprising Child activities in May. If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.