I admire it so much when a family chooses the Acton Journey. The courage, humbleness, long-term vision and openness to growth it takes. Parents who choose a road that is narrow and unpaved, yet leading to breathtaking views. Families who forsake the status quo friendships and achievement-based peer culture for their child and take the plunge for a brand new culture that cultivates empathy, a unique and authentic identity, a strong voice and leadership. Parents who recognize that small seeds in time grow strong, towering trees that offer us shade and protection.
I’m excited to share with you one small seed of a powerful story of one of these families.
During our second session, we focused on exploring entrepreneurship with our young band of heroes in the studio. Their challenge: to create a business of their own and sell their products to real, live customers at our fall Omaha Acton Children’s Business Fair, seeing how much profit they could make and how much they would learn.
The constraint: the parents must step back and allow the children to own and drive their experience. This means the parents assume the role of a guide or coach – and leave the decision-making and effort to the child. Even if the child makes a mistake. Even if the child has a very simple booth with a sign drawn by hand. Even if the parent doesn’t think they will win a trophy.
Parents, are your insides tightening together with anxiety, just thinking about this? Yes, releasing our children to go down their journey – allowing them to learn through their mistakes and failures first hand – is one of the most difficult parts, and yet one of the most powerful learning experiences for them.
Something magical happens when children are allowed to create and then experience their own journeys. Freedom to experiment without external, authoritarian pressure. Freedom to make imperfect progress. Freedom to discover their own level of passion for something, instead of hiding behind a parent’s desires, ideas and passions.
Over time, they come out in the open, confident about where they’ve come from and how they’ve arrived to their current place. Confident about an even clearer vision for their future. All of this takes time. A mindset that celebrates imperfect progress – and embraces their unique journey of growth.
Meet George. He is a bright-eyed boy, eternally optimistic and warm-hearted. He loves his parents and lives life with such excitement – ushering joy into our studio each day! He was getting excited about his business – about which he announced, “We are making birdhouses! My dad and I make them, and I help him. He can make so many things out of wood!”
As excited as he was to do this project with his dad, I had a sense that the birdhouses might require more help from his parents than the mission allows. As we reached out to his parents (as is customary for each participant in our fair), a beautiful conversation ensued.
“What does George love to do?” we asked, when his mom wasn’t sure what another business idea might be. Right away she knew.
“Paper airplanes! He comes home from Acton and LOVES building them!”
“That sounds like a great business idea! What if you let him do that,” we encouraged her. And you know what? They did.
George and his younger brother arrived to the Business Fair with with all of the supplies for their booth – a simple white tri-fold poster with “George and Thatcher’s Paper Airplane Surprises” printed out and pasted on in a randomized, creative way, along with their slogan “You’re going to love it”, the price, and many hand-drawn sketches to decorate. Gingerly they set out their basket full of hand-made paper airplanes, each labeled with a number, and set up a variety of chocolates and candies they had brought. With contagious excitement and big smiles they invited passers-by, “Do you want a paper airplane surprise?!” As the customers drew a paper airplane out of the basket, the number dictated whether they had just won a big candy or a small candy along with the airplane. What a creative idea!
Did George and Thatcher win a trophy? No. Did they make a lot of profit? Not from an adult’s perspective. George’s perspective? It was such a rich and fun experience. After paying back their parents for their supplies, George and Thatcher took home $10 each – to which George joyfully commented, “This is the most money I’ve ever made all by myself!”
This is what it’s all about. Not a perfect business completed mostly by parents. It’s about allowing each experience to be more about the child’s journey of growth than the momentary outcome or achievement. It’s about cultivating the passion that we see bubbling up – and encouraging the confidence that springs up as a small shoot at first. This journey requires vision and support from the whole family. It’s a family journey.
Below you’ll find more pictures from the Omaha Acton Children’s Business Fair! Be sure to sign up at www.childrensbusinessfair.org/omaha to be the first to know when the application process opens up for our Spring Fair on March 29, 2019!
Here is a complete list of the winners!
Age 5-8 Most Original Business Idea: Phillips Tile & Crafts; Age 5-8 Highest Business Potential: Omaha Kids Company; Age 5-8 Best Presentation/Creativity: Color World; Age 9-11 Most Original Business Idea: Kawaii Designs; Age 9-11 Highest Business Potential: Awesome Acrylics; Age 9-11 Best Presentation/Creativity: Sew Cute; Age 12-16 Most Original Business Idea: Witch & Wizard Emporium; Age 12-16 Highest Business Potential: KM Relievers; Age 12-16 Best Presentation/Creativity: Unicorn Slimes By Bree.
Congratulations to all of our youth for embracing their journeys of growth at the fair!