Bringing Up (an entrepreneurial) Baby

Erika Napoletano February 2012 Entrepreneur MagazineLittle-known-fact about Erika: Whenever I’m having a colossally shitty day, I go to the park to hang out with kids. I’ve even written about my trips a time or two — I’m a huge fan of swingsets. But even beyond the swingsets, there’s something about taking myself out of the world filled with all of the Manufactured Adult Problems for a little bit and remembering what it’s like to see the world through eyes that aren’t jaded colored by years and years of you can’t/shouldn’t/didn’t do that.

Some folks find it surprising — the soft spot that I have for kids. My business donates its services each year to a pediatric cancer foundation. I still change my vernacular when there are kids around. And I want them — and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I find the man they’ll call Dad. And a trip to Atlanta last year got me thinking about our current educational system and just what my role will be as a parent.

How do parents bring up a kid who doesn’t fit in today’s traditional educational system? You know — a kid like me with a photographic memory who gets bored with traditional readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.

While I’m not sure that the current model in public schools really fits any kid anymore, I know I’d been lost if it hadn’t been for certain teachers and mentor figures. Mr. Crowley, Mrs. Collier, and Mr. Stanford understood how to feed a kid who was hungry for what only existed beyond the covers of a textbook and outside the classroom door. And I’m pretty damned lucky, as I grew up with parents who rewarded achievement in books and sat by for endless hours as I concocted some other History Fair project on Agent Orange or clipped countless magazine articles for a file for the next Extemporaneous Speaking competition (and drove me — to every one).

Today? I’m an adult who spent 17 years of my life living someone else’s set of Shouldas before I took the leap to pursue my I Must. And that’s the subject of my column this month in Entrepreneur Magazine:

How do we foster Generation Next? What can we as (future) parents, educators, and mentors do to ensure that the entrepreneurs of tomorrow get what they need today so they can avoid decades filled with the Shouldas before they reach their I Musts?

Click here to read this month’s column.

Stop by, give it a read, and share a comment. I’d love to hear what’s going on in your world for entrepreneurial kids — and while I still don’t think they have any business reading my Twitter stream, I think there’s an entire world of opportunity for people like us to lend a hand.

And I’m delighted (and honored) to announce that you’ll be seeing my column in another 12 months of Entrepreneur Magazine — they just renewed my contract. (Insert Snoopy Dance *here*) Thank YOU for reading — as you’re the reason I get to continue doing what I love. That’s as close as you’re going to get to a Happy Valentine’s Day wish from me. Aside from this, of course.


CONGRATS on your contract extension! Your column in Entrepreneur are good reads (as well as the REST of the articles in E). So glad you made the leap to your own thing & have spent the last few years sharing it with folks like me.

Sugar Jones
Sugar Jones

I was one of those kids. It took me years to undo the damage that all the well-meaning shoulders did. And now I have those same kind of kids. I kept my two youngest kids home to school them for the first few years. Well, sort of. We weren't always home. We spent many hours, days, and months exploring the world, taking our curriculum with us, learning as we went along. They're now in a regular school and bored... dying on the vine... so we're going back to the drawing board. We finally found a school for the one going into jr. high, but still looking for a good option for the 8 yr old. It's not because I love making things difficult. It's because I don't want them to ever feel trapped in a world that rewards mediocrity or attempts to quiet wild imaginations. My hope is that they will be amazing and fearless adults that never live in anyone else's box. That's the best thing any parent can do for a kid.