By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs
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
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.”