I hope all of you are having a warm and relaxing December. As we wind down 2023, I wanted to share my biggest tip to educators and what they can do to push their students towards success in 2024.
I’ll preface my advice by saying that I am not an educator, but I come from a family of teachers and have the utmost respect for people in the teaching profession. It’s an occupation of great responsibility and immense pressure and I continue to be impressed by the rate at which teachers and educators are incorporating cutting edge technology in their practices.
My forte is entrepreneurship. I started my first business when I was 16 years old. I raised my first round of funding at the age of 20 and currently at the age of 26, I run a venture backed startup called Surf that has raised over $10 million and employs over 30 people across Canada. Along with running my own business, I have furthered my personal brand through building a social media presence (on LinkedIn and Instagram), writing, and releasing a book on youth entrepreneurship (called “The Young Entrepreneur”), investing in several early-stage startups, launching a motorsport podcast called Track Limits and speaking on stages around the world about youth entrepreneurship and mental health. The advice below comes from my direct experiences building a business and personal brand (both of which have provided me a lifestyle that I am incredibly happy with).
My Biggest Tip for 2024: Encourage Students to be Entrepreneurs!
I was talking to my mother a few weeks ago about the state of entrepreneurship. It was funny to hear her mention that back when she was in school, people who called themselves entrepreneurs were basically seen as unemployed (they were almost synonyms). In today’s world, entrepreneurship is incredibly glamorized and the barrier to entry to build a business has come down considerably.
It’s hard to know what entrepreneurship is truly like. It’s not easy to teach nor is it easy to learn about it from YouTube videos or Udemy courses. I genuinely believe theory will only take you so far – to be an entrepreneur and truly understand what it’s like, you need to take the plunge and start a business. But the best part about entrepreneurship is that you don’t need to jump in right away and become an entrepreneur full-time. Many successful entrepreneurs started off building their business while they were working a full-time job or while they were in school.
I believe it’s important for educators to encourage students to start a business outside of school (even if it’s something small like selling custom lapel pins or iPhone cases). The art of building a business teaches students how to manage their time, how to sell something, how to build a product, how to work with a team, and most importantly, how to pitch their vision to others (whether it’s for sales, investment, or awards).
If you’re an educator I would encourage your students to come up with a business idea. Tell them to write it down and to research the overall market size and potential competitors. This planning phase should only take a few days. Past that, get your students to build a prototype of their product (if they are building an app they can go to a platform like Whimsical or InVision to build a non-functional wireframe – you do not need to be technical to do this).
After your students have built their prototype, push them to get customer feedback. Get them to talk to their friends, other teachers, parents, and community to solicit feedback (the feedback should provide your students with a clear idea of whether their idea has legs to stand on and whether their solution solves a problem).
Even if you can get your students to the stage where they have researched an idea, built a prototype, and received feedback, that is huge. This is the foundation of any idea I have worked on and it’s a process that is incredibly important to teach to students.
Remember before they begin their entrepreneurship journey to tell them two things:
A. Entrepreneurship is not easy. The process of building a business is lonely. It’s tough and unpredictable. If you don’t like taking risks and get disheartened quickly at the face of failure or rejection, you will need to adapt to be successful.
B. Entrepreneurship is as much about your idea as it is about your ability to execute
quickly. It’s very rare that an entrepreneur’s first idea (or the first version of their idea)
is what they find success with. If your students focus on iterating their idea quickly (based on their research and the feedback they get) they will increase their odds for
To learn more or book Swish for a presentation, check out his speaking page here