failure quote

Entrepreneurship for Kids: Failure IS an Option (but that’s OK!)

Discussing Money and Business with Your Kids

“…According to recent studies… Only 32% of the boomers in a new survey from U.S. Trust, for instance, had fully disclosed their financial situation to their kids, and just 44% of parents over 67 had.” CNN

Yesterday, PickyKidPix and I drove to her soccer tournament almost an hour early. I had the time wrong by 15 minutes and I always give myself an extra 15 minutes to get lost but this trip was smooth sailing. Her game, a 5:50 start time, was late and she sat around at home all day in her jammies, restless. So we left early and sat in car and she grilled me on my failed business, a women’s golf clothing line, that I started 20 years ago.

“You never told me you had a CLOTHING LINE?! You need to do that again! Don’t you know that I like fashion?!!”

“Oh honey, a clothing line is very difficult to start. It takes a lot of money and Boston doesn’t have any apparel manufacturing.”

How do I begin to tell her? The schmata industry is a dog-eat-dog world where no one is impressed with your Ivy League degree and everyone is out to steal from you. That my manufacturers, when not stealing from me, were in the worst gang infested parts of Los Angeles, and violent crime happens on a daily basis.

She first fixated on the failure part.

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“Your company failed because you didn’t have any customers?!”

“No honey, we sold at Pebble Beach, Nordstorms and Poipu Bay, that Hawaii resort we were just at.” (No small coincidence either because, if you’ll recall, the head pro was a good friend of my husband’s.)

“What’s so hard about a clothing line?”

Gad where do I begin? Actually, I wanted to let her know that my choice of a business partner was my first fatal flaw and so I said, “When you start a business, you might think you need partners because it’s very scary but TRUST ME, you can do it on your own. You just hire people.”

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She was all over that.

“Oh, and if they are bad, you just fire them?”

She’s all about firing people. I have no idea why.

“Yes, it’s easier to fire someone you hire than a business partner. Especially if you hire her idiot sister.”

And then, wouldn’t you know it? It was time to go to the field. We ran into her best friend Charlotte, her future business partner for a long dreamed up Staples Office Superstore that these two have been dreaming up for the last five years.

The first thing she tells her friend is, “Did you know my mom had a clothing lined but it failed.”

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And then,

“Did you know that the first Staples store is next to iParty?!!” (This is the iParty in Cambridge that we go to.)

I told her that yes, I knew that and that I started my company the same time as Staples started. We were both 3 partners but the Staples founders were from Harvard Business School and we were mere undergraduates.

Immediately, she fired back, “So, partners can be GOOD?!”

Sometimes she pays too much attention to what I say! Sigh!

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I read this interesting article on CNN about What to Tell The Kids About Your Money and I’m tending towards age appropriate full disclosure.

If you’re among this tightlipped majority, you no doubt have your reasons. Maybe, as the research has commonly found, you were raised not to discuss money or, if you’re doing well financially, you worry that full disclosure could have a negative effect on your children’s work ethic. Or perhaps you simply haven’t gotten around to having “the talk.” CNN

The Three Must Knows for your kids if they are old enough or for close relatives who would be the guardians for your children. I keep it simple. All the information is on the front page of the Home Bible Directory of business cards I keep AND I periodically email a few relatives with details of how to reach our attorney who did our estate planning.

  • Your estate plans
  • Your child’s role
  • Where to find your assets

To what extent do you discuss money and business with your kids? Please share!

p.s. My girls and I have been watching Joe Zee‘s It’s All on The Line reality TV show in which he, as creative director of Elle magazine, intervenes to help struggling fashion designers turn their business around. It’s a great show to discuss why some businesses succeed while others fail. A lot of the episodes come down to hubris: can the designer take criticism to learn, grow and change? It’s not just about their design talent. In fact, all the designers are talented enough to succeed.


p.s. Final quote:

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Christine Fox

    So glad I found you!

    My daughters and son have seen my try and fail and continue to try again and are very proud that I keep trying. My youngest even pretends that she is an inventor (just like I did as a child) and makes new inventions every day. I think they benefit from seeing resilience and I’m sure one day I will get everything right and then they’ll really see what entrepreneurship can do.

    • Hi Christine,
      I think that resilience is one of the greatest gifts parents can give/teach their kids! It’s more important than having be happy because it’s a tool that will serve them well the rest of their lives and make their lives richer for being able to take risks to pursue their dreams. Thanks so much for sharing your story! It’s hard to value failure in the society we live in. Failure can be equated to losing but it’s really a gift that teaches and rewards.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Entrepreneurship 101 for Kids: Failure IS an Option (but that’s OK!)My Profile

  2. I love this! I just had a very revealing conversation with my 9yo about criticism and failure. He is enthralled with everything Wimpy Kid right now, as are many of his peers.

    “But Charlotte says it’s dumb,” he said. And then after a pause: “it must be hard to be Jeff Kinney, and write the books, and then somebody says ‘it’s dumb.'”

    Wow, kid. Welcome to my world!
    S. Pinneo / Julia’s Child recently posted…Homemade Cranberry Sauce: The Easiest Dish EverMy Profile

  3. One of the best things my parents ever did was to be open about the fact that they make mistakes and aren’t perfect – and this story does that for your kids. Also, it sounds like you has some big short-term successes!
    maryanne recently posted…Creative Christmas Countdown: Day 15My Profile

  4. Yes. I do think it’s important for children to understand that all choices, and their eventual outcomes, offer us opportunities for learning and growth. This is something that many adults struggle to understand.
    Posted by Elana

    From my LinkedIn Group Moms on the Job
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Open Ended Christmas Ornament Crafts for KidsMy Profile

  5. Thanks for your comment Elana. I also think that it’s important to teach kids that failure is a positive learning experience. It also teaches resilience, an important life skill!
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Open Ended Christmas Ornament Crafts for KidsMy Profile

  6. Such an amazing and wonderful thing to do. Teaching our kids about becoming entrepreneurs. Every great entrepreneur experiences failure it’s just a part of this great journey.

    Posted by Lisa

    From my LinkedIn Group Women Entrepreneurs Who Change The World
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Getting Kids Active IndoorsMy Profile

  7. Thanks Lisa! You clearly are an entrepreneur yourself! No one else seems to appreciate that failure can be the world’s best teacher!
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Getting Kids Active IndoorsMy Profile

  8. Tova Gold

    OMG- this post speaks to me so loud and clear right now. i too had a failed business in the “fashion industry” and unfortunately I did let it get me to doubt myself on many levels. I am now starting a new venture (can’t keep the entrepreneurial spirit away) and internal, self-defeating ghosts from my past venture keep popping into my thought patterns. Thanks for writing this. A reminder to always take the time to think about how I’d want to teach my daughters the lessons I’m still learning…
    Tova Gold recently posted…Guest Post: Dr. Phil Dembo!My Profile

    • Hi Tova,
      I think the lessons from failure are ultimately the path to success. It’s the number of times at bat that count! Good for you to start a new venture! Apply what you’ve learned and I’m sure you won’t make the same mistake twice!! You are becoming a seasoned entrepreneur and your battle scars will make you the better for it (and ultimately successful!).
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!My Profile

  9. Ann

    Interesting! I have to say, I have always wanted to “start something” but as a product designer who has worked for many start-ups I know lots of great ideas and business plans can “fail” for no good reason. You have to have optimism!
    Ann recently posted…Snowflake CutiesMy Profile

  10. I love this quote “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
    by Albert Einstein. It is so simple but so profoundly important for an entrepreneur to accept.
    Thank you for your insightful contribution!

    Lorelei Carobolante, GPHR, SCRP, SGMS from my LinkedIn Group UCLA Anderson Alumni Network
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Art Project for Kids: Making Paint Like ImpressionistsMy Profile

  11. Thanks Lorelei! Trial by fire and the number of times at bat really determine entrepreneurial success I’ve found!
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Art Project for Kids: Making Paint Like ImpressionistsMy Profile

  12. Well, I am just continously impressed by you. My father was a man of many business ventures. Some not so successful but as you said he kept at it and I learned so much from his example.
    Thanks for sharing.
    mari recently posted…Decision Making & Change: The Lies We BelieveMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Mari,
      I really want to get the word out that failure is not a bad thing and teaching kids to try, even when it results in failure, makes them resilient and ultimately successful. We have this culture about “winners” and “winning” and success is really the nth attempt that finally worked.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Dating My Husband All Over AgainMy Profile

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