Newsroom » Educating a Generation of Entrepreneurs: Part II

Educating a Generation of Entrepreneurs: Part II

Posted 01/27/2009 22:35

by Jayne Matthews
Baltimore Times

The difference between a philosopher and a common street porter seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom and education- Adam Smith “The Wealth of Nations (1776)

My mother was the first person in her family to complete high school and college. She was an elementary school teacher. At our house she made it quite clear that education was the ticket to a prosperous, productive life. When my brothers and I didn't show the proper respect for our studies, my mother would tell us about the hardships of her childhood and how education provided her the opportunity to make things better for herself and her children.

The matriarch of our family, my mother grew up during the depression in a small segregated town in rural Georgia. Though she had to walk many miles to the “colored” school, she rarely missed a day. If my mother really wanted to make her point to us about the importance of education she would bring out the old family Bible. Tucked between its pages was the deed to a small farm that her father purchased in the 1920's.

I recall that her purpose for showing us this faded piece of paper was two-fold. First, she would tell us that her father, despite the fact he had very little money in the bank, was given great respect in the black community because he was owner of his land. The land was such a valuable asset it helped our grandfather start a small business. The business eventually afforded him the means to hire workers to help on the farm. This made it possible for my mother to attend school past the fifth grade, instead of leaving before high school graduation to work on the farm.

Secondly, she would show us his name on the deed and the place for his signature. Instead of signing his name, he had made a big “x” witnessed by someone who had signed their full name. She explained to us that he had to make an “x” on legal documents because he could neither read nor write. My mother told us he never spent a single day in school, but was very good with numbers and money.

While my grandfather did live to see his daughter graduate from college, he was there when she finished high school. My mother says her father told people he was blessed to have a business. With the extra money he earned from his business, his children were allowed to know the freedom that comes from getting an education. It is only in retrospective that I understand my grandfather was giving his children a lesson on the value of education and entrepreneurship.


 This week Education Matters concludes “Educating a Generation of Entrepreneurs.”

Successful businessman and attorney Jimmy Wilson will share his thoughts on simple steps parents can take to help their children be aware of businesses that can easily be started based upon an existing interest or hobby. Wilson believes that in our quest to ensure that our children get a good education we sometimes do not pay enough attention teaching our children the value of starting and growing a business. He feels that blacks in American will not achieve social parity until we are equal participants in the business world.

“While every parent will not be an entrepreneur, all know someone thru six degrees of separation who is an entrepreneur,” says Wilson. “A parent can point their son or daughter to the entrepreneur as an example of the options available to the child. Two easy ways are first, concentrate on a product that a child enjoys, such as play station or a clothing brand. Then talk about the person behind the vision, dream, challenges and opportunities that brought the product into existence.

Secondly, pick a room in the house, a car, or a sports item (which so many African Americans play, but few control the intellectual property rights for design and ownership). Then explore all the components that make the room a room, the car a car, etc. Brainstorm on the number of items involved and note that each of these items represents a business category and business line that the child could own.

In the case of my son JP, he went to Seattle as a pilot and began renting a room in the house from another pilot. I shared with him an entrepreneur opportunity to grow a real estate asset management business by doing the same.

In the following years, he and a partner bought a house and rented three rooms out to other new pilots, the rent paying the house mortgage. He is currently under contract for a house in Portland where he will do the same, then 'cookie-cut’ the business model, until he owns multiple properties with a guaranteed renter flow of airline pilots.”

Jayne Matthews is a parent and an educational advocate who writes weekly about educational issues. Your thoughts and comments are welcomed at [email protected]

Article Categories

Post Tags: