Entrepreneurship is not easy to teach. Entrepreneurship is not a pre-determined set of definitions, rules or information that one can just memorize for later. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind. It is the way we look at the world, the society and our own role in it. It is also the way we build our work habits and approach to problem solving, the way we adapt to change, the way we respond to innovation and a strong set of values.
This is why teaching and preaching about entrepreneurship requires a strong personal entrepreneurial trait. It takes a strong believer and a practitioner that can plant the seed of entrepreneurship, especially in the early years.
We’re witnessing an ever-growing movement of entrepreneurial education in Serbia, with more focus being put on the very youngest. One of these initiatives was launching the robotics and electronics courses at our Garage Lab for children aged 8 to 12. Being an entrepreneurial venture on its own, Garage Lab is destined to become more than just our educational program that introduces children to the world of new technologies and innovation. This is why we are planning to expand our portfolio of courses to include entrepreneurial education through utilization of tech and electronics. Even now, just by being immersed in an innovative environment (that was mostly the result of entrepreneurship), the children in our courses often want to learn more about some of the successful startups whose products we are using in classes, or about our local startups that were incubated at ICT Hub, an innovative ecosystem hub where our Lab is located.
Looking back, creating Garage Lab in 2017 was all about supporting entrepreneurship – in this case, hardware entrepreneurship with a focus on the Internet of Things technology (IoT). We wanted to provide space, cutting-edge equipment and tools, as well as mentoring support for local tech innovators who were thinking of building their IoT solutions, but were reluctant to do so due to the lack of funding, workspace, or support. Soon enough, we realized there that the children and their parents developed a great interest in being introduced to these technologies, and we saw an opportunity to spread both the knowledge and the entrepreneurial spirit among the youngest.
We are still experimenting with our business model. The courses help us remain sustainable for now, but do not offer a possibility for growth, especially in a small market such as Serbia. Fortunately, we’ve managed to build a very good reputation among parents and quite often, due to our limited capacities, we cannot admit all the children applying for our courses. However, we’re looking into working with companies and corporations in various different ways in order to build stability and a steady growth, without changing our mission of spreading knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit.
What we’ve seen so far is that children often understand the main foundations of entrepreneurship better than their parents. My personal opinion is that a generation shift is slowly taking place – the children of today are far more exposed to free market, private property and entrepreneurship, unlike their parents who were raised in the conditions of controlled economy dominated by state-owned enterprises and where entrepreneurship was frowned upon. This makes me a sound optimist regarding our future. I believe that the new generation will be able to adapt, innovate and improve much faster than we have ever been able to.
But why is entrepreneurship so big? Why has it become such a huge trend in the last decade? This phenomenon is visible across the globe. Even in countries that have traditionally embraced entrepreneurship, the focus is still very much put on providing skills, tools and essentials for the children and the youth to adopt the entrepreneurial mindset. In ecosystems such as Silicon Valley, one will not be considered a serious professional unless they’ve had at least several entrepreneurial experiences before their first career success.
There is a global movement of boosting the entrepreneurial spirit within large companies, known as “intrapreneurship” and it is gaining momentum. Large multinationals around the world are stimulating their employees with different programs, benefits, time off-work and various resources to empower their innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives. We can see more and more “spin-off” startup projects that have originated in large corporations. To understand why this is happening, maybe it is best illustrated by the quote by Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of the modern business philosophy: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” That being said, to stay relevant on today’s market, you have to constantly innovate and embrace change, including exploring new business models, even whole new industries. This is where the entrepreneurship comes in – it is the driving force of innovation and adaption, redefining the borders of possible and impossible, focused on creating value in ever-changing circumstances. Spin-offs are the perfect example – single mission entrepreneurial ventures of the large “parent” companies aimed at exploring new products, markets, business models and internal organization.
Entrepreneurship as a skill has gone beyond the traditional understanding, and has become a very valuable trait in the business world globally. Entrepreneurship is future-proof and this is why we must make additional efforts to teach our youngest about entrepreneurship early. And it is not an easy thing to do, because it is not a pre-determined set of definitions, rules or information that one can just memorize for later. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind.