How One Dad Teaches His Kids About Entrepreneurship

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

Malia and Owen Shafer with their taco wagon.

Malia and Owen Shafer with their taco wagon.

Paul Shafer knows the exuberance that comes from being a young aspiring entrepreneur.

In college, he invented the “Gum Chum” for storing bubble gum during a meal. The small, capsule-like device had a clip that attached to a plate or glass, keeping the gum nearby until it could be popped back into its owner’s mouth.

While the Gum Chum didn’t turn out to be the next Big Idea, it wasn’t a wasted effort. “It was a good exercise that gave me something creative to do while working on my degree,” said Paul, who now lives in Austin, Texas.

After graduation, he set aside his entrepreneurial aspirations for a sales career that took him to British Airways and Dell, among other places. He and his wife, Kathleen, became the parents of two children, Owen and Malia.

But the entrepreneurial itch from Paul’s college days didn’t go away. When his 40th birthday arrived three years ago, he decided to take action.

______________________________________________

“I wanted my own children to see me living a challenging and inspiring life.  And I thought, ‘How can I encourage them to pursue their dreams if I’m not leading by example?’”

— Paul Shafer, Shafer…Power!_______________________________________________

“I find that I’m really in the flow when I’m creating things – so I figured it was time to start taking steps to fulfill that desire,” he said. At the same time, he didn’t want his research and development to absorb the limited time he had to spend with his family.

Inspiration struck after Paul watched business coach Cameron Herold’s Ted Talk on raising kids to become entrepreneurs. “I wanted my own children to see me living a challenging and inspiring life,” said Paul. “And I thought, ‘How can I encourage them to pursue their dreams if I’m not leading by example?’”

In 2012, Paul started an initiative with a simple goal: to have fun as a family while learning about entrepreneurship. Its name – Shafer…Power! – is the family’s battle cry. When the four Shafers head out somewhere, Paul yells, “Shaferrrrr” and the kids respond, “Power!”

Owen and Paul Shafer

Owen and Paul Shafer

At the heart of Shafer…Power! is an “AdVenture Bucket List” consisting of monthly activities to provide hands-on entrepreneurial experience for Owen, who’s now eight years old and Malia, now six. So far, they have run a taco wagon in partnership with a restaurant, helped bake treats at a cupcake producer and launched a dog walking service. They’ve created their own energy bars and sold them at a children’s business fair.

The Shafer kids also have interviewed several Austin-based entrepreneurs, such as Brad Cason of KirkLee Bicycles and Matt Sieler of Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages. And they’re talking with interesting people worldwide to learn about their careers and the different ways to make a living.

“The feedback has been very positive and the entrepreneurs we’ve met have been really good to the kids,” said Paul. “I think entrepreneurs are natural educators because they do such a good job of explaining things in terms that everyone can understand.” He hopes Shafer…Power! can serve as a model for business owners and others interested in teaching entrepreneurship to children.

Whether that happens remains to be seen. In the meantime, Owen and Malia are enjoying the journey. They aren’t the only ones.

“I’m having fun being with my kids and viewing the world through their eyes,” said Paul. “My sense of curiosity is back and the experiential learning we’ve been doing is exhilarating. Each day brings a more defined vision as to where we can take this thing.”

“As every entrepreneur knows, there are no guarantees but my view is that I’m on an adventure with my kids,” he added. “If we’re all learning and growing as a family, it’s a win-win scenario.”

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About Lynne Strang

I'm a writer who blogs about 40-and-older business owners. I am also the author of "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40." Outside of work, I enjoy reading, cooking, vegetable gardening and exercise (especially cycling).
This entry was posted in Business, Career Changes, Careers, entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Retirement, Success and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to How One Dad Teaches His Kids About Entrepreneurship

  1. bluecandies says:

    This is so awesome gotta use this idea with my kids

  2. What a good idea. Teaching his children and devoting so much time with them.

  3. Pingback: Friday Pick 126 | talktodiana

  4. Lynne Strang says:

    Diana, I’m honored to be your “Friday Pick.” Thank you!

  5. pattyalcala says:

    I am a late bloomer myself. It has taken me this long to get down to what I know I was put on this earth to do. Your blog is so inspiring for me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • Lynne Strang says:

      You’re welcome, Patty. Speaking of knowledge, you have a lot to offer on a very important topic. I’m sure many families will benefit from the experience you’ve gained after caring for a chronically ill child. I’m glad to know about your blog.

  6. Sheryl says:

    I’m glad I’ve discovered this wonderful blog. Diana sent me.

  7. Nice Post. It’s good and inspiring to hear about Paul spending time with his kids. But, is becoming an entrepreneur something that Owen and Malia want to do or is Paul making them live his dream? Are there any general traits that you think kids will learn (from this exercise) for their future irrespective of whether they grow up to be entrepreneurs?

    • Lynne Strang says:

      Good questions. I would think the kids are learning how to set realistic goals, manage money, work in teams, communicate with others and solve problems — which are all useful skills regardless of whether or not they become adult entrepreneurs. I’m hoping Paul will see your questions so he can respond to them directly.

    • Yes, this is a great question. For starters, I’m focusing on making this as much fun as possible and giving them the space to take it wherever they want it to go. Very often – when we interview local entrepreneurs, for example – we start by talking about their business and usually end up way off topic by talking about ice cream or other endeavors. The same holds true for their businesses — I really encourage them to take the lead as much as possible. As for them becoming entrepreneurs, that’s totally up to then. But I think the values we are teaching them such as hard work, creativity, perseverance, etc. are relevant no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

  8. Aanand says:

    Very inspirational for parents who want to do something without compromising the time with family….It could not be relevant example but some days I do walk with my kid and wife rather than going to gym.This is a way I give time to my family and be fit.

  9. Rick Toney says:

    Some good thoughts. I have not had a lot of success instilling the “work for yourself” mentality in my children. Maybe someday.

    • Lynne Strang says:

      With kids, you never know. They might see or hear something that gets them interested all of a sudden.

    • Funny story Rick….when my kids were very small, I make them work hard to memorize their numbers. If they would miss one, I would make them do a push-up (I’m kidding). My wife finally said to me, “If you make it fun for them, you might have more success.” And from that day forward, I’ve been focused on making learning fun for them, be it via playing games or acting silly, etc. And I feel like they’re really embraced this model. As long as we’re having fun, they’re so much more engaged and they’ve even started becoming proactive. We’ll see how long it works…

  10. Reblogged this on Shafer…Power! and commented:
    A fun article by Lynne Strang documenting the journey of Shafer…Power. Thank you, Lynne!

  11. Your articles are inspiring. Keep up the good cause & hope you get to reach more entrep-wannabees… like me!

  12. zeeeze says:

    I wished my dad taught me this way…Getting a college education and get a job is not the right formula anymore. Thanks for sharing

    • Lynne Strang says:

      You’re welcome. As pointed out by another poster, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Some decide to work for someone else’s business; others prefer to work for themselves. Paul’s approach exposes his kids to both.

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