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Does Your Child Want to be an Entrepreneur? Help Strengthen These Traits in High School.

Your child has lofty, inspired dreams -- dreams of building a business, of being an innovator, of changing the world.

How can you, as a parent, help your child begin to cultivate the skills they need to succeed today so that they can become the Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey or Warren Buffett of tomorrow?

The surprising answer: it may not be about learning specific skills at all.

To succeed in today’s flexible, fast-paced business world, how you think is often a more important indicator of success than what you know -- especially when first entering the workforce.

“If I were hiring some young person today to work with our business, he or she would need to be a communicator, evaluator, and problem-solver,” a successful Tallahassee-area business owner said. “I would likely hire a communication or English major who was technically savvy and bright. I would not care if they initially knew a debit from a credit or a thing about the tax code.”

There are many traits that successful leaders and entrepreneurs share, but the most sought-after qualities are those that extend beyond learned skills: traits such as motivation, creativity, persuasiveness, vision, versatility, risk-tolerance, flexibility, decisiveness and collaboration, according to

These traits are harder to quantify, harder to “learn,” and need to be cultivated with time, practice and intention.

As Steve Jobs once said: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

Here at Maclay School, we begin instilling these important traits from a young age -- by getting our Kindergarteners comfortable with public speaking, by teaching Middle School students organization and study habits, by providing Upper School students with the opportunity to customize their learning tracks, and so much more.

Taking a whole-child approach to education, one that extends beyond academics to include life skills, helps ensure that students leave Maclay with the traits future employers seek.   

“Much more than education on business itself, I feel that it is important young professionals are able to express themselves well and forcefully with both the written and spoken word, be able to look at situations critically and analyze what they see in a situation, and develop alternative actions to be taken through creative thinking,” said one local business owner.

One example of how academics and soft skills successfully merge at Maclay happens in our Jeffrey Alan Gabor Junior Interview Series.

During the series, parents, alumni and local Tallahassee business owners come to our campus to mock-interview students. Students learn how to showcase their skills, talents and personality traits in a true-to-life interview setting. This year, we also added an online video interview component, since many college and job interviews are now virtual.

“The Junior Interview series has helped me develop skills that I will continue to use in the future. It prepared me for any interview setting, teaching me how to answer tough questions an interviewer might ask and feel more comfortable on my feet,” said Maclay junior Emily Roden.

Maclay students are also exposed to creative, goal-directed, entrepreneurial thinking through innovative programs such as our Risk and Rewards course, Urban Planning, and a Shark Tank event.

Risk and Rewards introduces students to key principles for running a successful company and managing an effective stock market portfolio, teaching lessons of financial failure, loss and recovery, and culminating with a real-world investment project.

Urban Planning, a component of Maclay’s Econ class, challenges students to simulate the development and revitalization of a real city, all while reinforcing economic concepts such as supply and demand, resource allocation, taxes and subsidiaries, and business structure.

Maclay’s Shark Tank event, modeled after the popular television program, brings 8th-grade students in front of a panel of judges, where they must present and defend their business ideas.

“Our class is unique because in one semester our students are exposed to more than 20 successful entrepreneurs from across the nation,” said James Milford, Maclay’s Head of School and one of the Risk and Reward instructors. “Students will learn about their unique pathways to success (the good and the bad) in industries such as clothing, publishing, investing, real estate, banking, technology, and government. While it’s an Upper School program, we’re nurturing and refining the skills that these students have learned from pre-K through 12th grade.”

Through teaching, modeling and continuous reinforcement, Maclay School faculty and leadership demonstrate how being inspired and determined will help our students become unstoppable in the workforce.

Because, as Richard Branson has said, “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”