Kids in Business: Networking Starts Early
What is Business?
That's the first question we asked entrepreneur Claire Burge, in our second meeting of Kids in Business.
Claire didn't miss a beat.
"Business is meeting a customer's need," she said. "You might not even know who the customer is yet. You might not have an amazing idea. But if you think about people's critical needs, that's the beginning."
Then Claire shared with us about her very first business, Simplify Learning, which was eventually bought by another education company. It was an uphill struggle to develop the business initially, because even though she saw the need for students to have simple learning tools incorporating technology, the universities she approached did not. In the end, her success was propelled partly by identifying individuals within the universities, who would help champion the idea.
"What do you think business is?" she asked. (If you ever meet Claire, be prepared for the turn-back question. She really loves to hear what people think.)
The girls sat quietly. After all, they'd already heard that business might be different from a hobby and that it might mean crawling under houses and warding off German Shepherds.
I answered the question with a rather rambly treatise on how business is also about making money—it's not philanthropy—and yet it needs to be about doing that with respect for the people who work with us. "Too many businesses use people up," I said. "That's not the kind of business I want to run. I want a business culture where managers get people to do their best, yes, but with an eye towards making sure they're in their sweet spots... and a watchfulness for when people need a break or a change."
Moving on, we talked about the challenges for women, and I wondered what my girls thought when they heard "it's a male-dominated field"... again. They'd heard that phrase in our first meeting too. But they also heard me laugh, noting that the some of the work I'm currently doing in a male-dominated field is being done with a core team of women. (I think it might have been channeling my German grandmother with that laugh, as she was a business woman many times over.)
Gender, age: these things can work against us, but Claire was extremely encouraging. She told a story of a fourteen-year-old app developer in Ireland, and she told us about her own path of pursuing knowledge about business beginning at age twelve (before ever going to college, she worked for an accounting business, a law firm, an HR firm, a recruiting business, and a software company, so she could figure out what she preferred to study and pursue as a potential career).
When asked what she'd recommend now for the girls (besides getting five jobs), Claire emphasized the importance of having older friends and talking to older people. "I grew up surrounded by older cousins, and my parent's friends all had older kids. Also, I was an only child, and my dad treated me like an adult; it really made a difference. You can learn a lot from older people," she said.
And isn't that exactly what we're doing with Kids in Business?
Photo of Claire Burge, by Kelly Sauer. Check out some of the businesses Claire Burge is currently involved with: Get Organised, Wedding Dates. Claire is also on the core team helping to develop an app with Tweetspeak Poetry.