This Is How Mark Cuban, A Shark Tank Winner, And Teen Founder Make Youth Entrepreneurship Go Viral
Entrepreneurship is rarely taught in K-12 or throughout higher education. For most youth living in the US, current school system offerings do not run parallel to 21st-century needs. Although the conversation surrounding education and entrepreneurship is beginning to grow, influential voices are changing the culture and narrative by introducing business ideas and strategies early.
Most notably, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and a leading star on the TV show Shark Tank, believes our young generation should learn about entrepreneurship at a young age. To inspire youth entrepreneurship, Cuban co-authored a new book, How Any Kid Can Start a Business, with Prep Expert founder Shaan Patel, and teen entrepreneur Ian McCue, founder of Spark Skill. Together, they hope to make youth entrepreneurship go viral by helping kids understand and become excited about building a business.
Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert and a Shark Tank winner. Patel won a $250K investment from Mark Cuban during a January 2016 episode for his SAT and ACT test-prep business, Prep Expert SAT & ACT. Since Shark Tank, Prep Expert has claimed more than $7 million in sales.
Ian McCue is the seventeen-year-old founder of Spark Skill, a technology summer camp provider. He launched the venture at age fifteen in response to his disheartening experiences at competing camps. Last year, McCue ran one summer camp location and hit $45K in revenue. This year, he projects $60K in revenue and is planning out his first seed round.
The book is intended for children ages 7-11, and provides engaging learning activities, along with ten real, profitable business ideas for kids to try out. Also, kids will find business templates and interviews with young entrepreneurs featured on Shark Tank.
The Importance of Youth Entrepreneurship
I had the chance to learn more about the book, How Any Kid Can Start a Business with co-authors Mark Cuban, Shaan Patel, and Ian McCue.
In this interview, which has been edited and condensed, the authors talk about the motivation behind the book, the content, as well as the creative process, marketing plans and upcoming events.
Robyn Shulman: Why is youth entrepreneurship so important today, and why should we make it go viral?
Mark Cuban: Entrepreneurs drive and support innovation. As I tell my kids, everything around them that isn’t organic was invented and sold by someone. That’s the heart of what entrepreneurs do.
Shulman: How does the book align with Shark Tank?
Cuban: I do Shark Tank because it sends the message to kids that anyone can start and run a business. I think this book sends the same positive message.
Shulman: Shaan, please tell me about the book in your own words.
Shaan Patel: You don’t have to be a grown-up to launch your startup. How Any Kid Can Start a Business teaches children how to discover a great business idea and get it off the ground. Kids can try one of our ten kid-friendly businesses (including step-by-step instructions) or create their own. Every billionaire was once a kid with a great idea.
Shulman: Who came up with the idea to write the book and why?
Patel: Ian McCue initially approached me about co-authoring a book related to entrepreneurship for kids. When I told Mark Cuban about the project, he wanted to help out too. We were obviously excited about Mark’s involvement!
Shulman: Was there a motivating event that sparked the idea of the book? If so, what was that event?
Patel: When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they typically respond with “doctor,” “fireman,” “engineer” or some other traditional career path. However, very few kids say “entrepreneur” because they don’t know what one is. And, even fewer know that owning a business can be one of the most rewarding career paths anyone can have. This book is intended to teach them how to do that.
Shulman: What are two primary goals of the book?
Patel: Goal #1: To teach kids what they don’t learn in school – how to start a business.
Goal #2: To foster the idea of entrepreneurship early on in children so that they grow up to start life-changing companies. Almost every millionaire/billionaire started a simple business when they were young.
We are giving our readers a head start!
Shulman: Although kids “play business,” starting in preschool, many schools are still resistant to adding entrepreneurship to the core curriculum. With this book, are you changing the narrative?
Patel: It is easier than ever to become an entrepreneur because of information on the Internet, the connectivity of social media, and free online software.
Shulman: In the book, there are ten different business ideas for kids. How did you come up with these kid-friendly examples?
Patel: Mark, Ian, and I all had a couple of the business ideas each. We also crowd-sourced some ideas on social media.
Shulman: If you went back to your childhood, which business idea would you find most appealing to try?
Patel: Definitely “Senior Tech Help.”
Shulman: Why did this topic appeal to you?
Patel: I loved computers growing up, and a lot of adults didn’t know how to use one back then. I could have made some nice piggy bank money if I offered to teach adults how to use computers and the Internet.
Shulman: You’ve built a million dollar business with Mark Cuban through your SAT/ACT test prep company, Prep Expert. What was it like writing a book with him?
Patel: Writing a book with Mark is similar to running a business with him. He doesn’t accept mediocrity and challenges assumptions.
Shulman: Who did you reach out to for feedback?
Patel: We piloted our book in a few classrooms to gather feedback from students and teachers and spread the word.
Shulman: Is the marketing plan working?
Patel: It’s hard to tell this early – the book has only been out for a few months. You can’t engineer word of mouth.
Shulman: What will define success?
Patel: If we have a great book (which we believe we do), sales should organically increase. Fortunately, we already see steady growth in book sales month-over-month.
Shulman: Regarding exposure and influence, did you reach out to education influencers to endorse the book?
Patel: Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing segments of Internet marketing with lots of untapped potentials. Although we haven’t explored this space yet, we intend to.
Shulman: Ian, where did the mission “Make Youth Entrepreneurship Go Viral,” originate?
Ian McCue: Our mission to “Make Youth Entrepreneurship Go Viral” originates from the apparent shortage of young business kids.
While entrepreneurship is widely discussed, youth entrepreneurship is largely ignored and unsupported. The majority of potential entrepreneurs are never exposed to this atypical path, and thus they never have the opportunity to explore it.
We strive to “Make Youth Entrepreneurship Go Viral” because it is the most impactful way to shift the educational paradigm from traditional learning to real-world, experiential development through entrepreneurship. The fundamental principles of entrepreneurship apply not only to business, but to many facets of life, school, and work. It is for these reasons that we aim to “Make Youth Entrepreneurship Go Viral” and repair this disconcerting shortage.
Shulman: Marketing to the education world can be challenging. How are you marketing the book now?
McCue: So far we have held focus groups and book readings, and we ran a giveaway of signed copies to encourage sharing. I recently interviewed on camera with the CEO of Scribd, and I have pushed the book in STEAM summer camps through my company, Spark Skill. Readers can see the interview on Scribd.
Shulman: What are your future marketing plans?
McCue: We will be launching a blog to share the stories of real kid entrepreneurs, and how successful entrepreneurs got to where they are. Additionally, another signed copy giveaway is in the works, as well as book signings and reading events (once school starts back up).
We plan on spreading youth entrepreneurship through sharing the stories of successful young entrepreneurs with our readers. Kids who have read the book, followed the steps, and launched real businesses will tell their stories.
Shaan Patel: Also, we plan on using word of mouth because it is still the most powerful marketing tool in the world.
Final Thoughts and Advice
Shulman: What do kids need to start a business?
Patel: They don’t need a lot of money, a location, or even employees to have a successful business. More kids in Generation Z will become entrepreneurs than ever before. Schools need to respond to this change.
Shulman: How can teachers integrate entrepreneurship into the curriculum?
Patel: Read How Any Kid Can Start a Business to their students! Kidding aside, entrepreneurship is all about practicality. Have students go out and actually sell something.
Shulman: Entrepreneurship specific courses are still a rare find in the US curriculum. What are your thoughts on this issue as we move into unknown territory regarding jobs in the 21st-century?
Patel: It is difficult to teach entrepreneurship because it is hands-on. The most efficient way I have seen it done is when a teacher allows a student to actually start a real business. The teacher can help the student optimize it.
Shulman: Finally, what’s on the horizon for the remainder of the year for you?
Patel: I have a very interesting new startup on the way! However, I can’t share too many details about it just yet.
Shulman: I’m looking forward to learning more about your new startup when you launch.