With JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s Your Business, co-author of It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Small Business and The Startup Club
JJ Ramberg Tells How To Help Your Kids Become Successful Entrepreneurs
JJ Ramberg, the host of MSNBC’s Your Business, has written a new book called The Startup Club which helps to teach your children how to become successful entrepreneurs through a fun, fictional story. JJ says she was driven to write the book using characters starting businesses for her three young kids—ages 7, 8, and 10—who are entrepreneurs with lemonade stands, dog walking businesses, and slime businesses.
The Startup Club
JJ co-wrote The Startup Club as a work of fiction so kids can enjoy reading it, relate to the characters, get inspired, and learn from them. Before she wrote the book, she tried looking for a fictional guide for kids but found none and decided to team up with her co-authors to write one. She believes this book offers a real opportunity to teach kids about personal finance, basic accounting, business, and entrepreneurship in a manner that they can relate to, enjoy, and learn from. The book is available in stores across the country and online at Amazon.
Warren Buffett As A Young Entrepreneur
Steve refers to Warren Buffett’s various jobs as a kid. He delivered the Washington Post newspaper (only to own it later!), sold used golf balls, sold stamps, and buffed cars. He also set up a pinball machine business and, by the age of 16, had saved up $56,000! Buffett apparently then told his dad that he didn’t really think he needed college, but his dad likely prevailed because Buffett picked up a B.S. degree and an MBA.
Why Early Entrepreneurship Is Important
JJ Ramberg believes these early entrepreneurial adventures are incredibly important to kids’ futures for two reasons. For one, they learn about money early in life, and statistics show that when parents talk to kids about money, children have far more success in dealing with money as they grow older. Their early lemonade stand ventures start to teach them the value of money, how to make it, how to save it, etc.
She suggests that parents take this a few steps further by using the right terminology and asking questions such as what their sales pitch is and how their signage uniquely represents their marketing strategy, pricing, product or service differentiation, etc. In so doing, parents setup a mindset that will help their children throughout their lives.
JJ sees entrepreneurship as not just about starting a business but about finding solutions to problems in a way that appeals to consumers. So, developing business skills early is incredibly important, and The Startup Club helps kids with that.
Play Business Games With Your Kids
JJ Ramberg also plays fun business-oriented games with her kids such as seeing an empty storefront and asking them what store they’d put in its place and why, what they’d sell, at what price points, etc., to help them figure out if their original idea was good or not.
In answer to Steve’s question on teaching this to communities that do not have a culture of mercantilism, JJ believes basic courses on personal finance and entrepreneurship for kids are really fun and should be part of the school curriculum.
Learning About Failure
Steve adds that failure is a natural part of entrepreneurship and the human experience, and learning about failure in the early years is important because it sets realistic expectations, encourages learning from failure as a framework for future success, and teaches kids how to bounce back and try again.
JJ Ramberg’s Gumdrop
In wrapping, JJ talks about a browser add-on called Gumdrop that her company developed, which automatically puts the best coupon code into the submit coupon box when you shop online. Gumdrop does all the work for you, and if you select a charitable cause, a percentage of what you spend goes to that cause. She says Gumdrop has saved people about $100 million in shopping and raised about $13 million for various causes.
So, if you have kids in your family, The Startup Club might be just the right gift to teach them about money, entrepreneurship and running a business, and developing skills that will serve them well in adult life.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: JJ Ramberg is host of MSNBC’s Your Business, which appears weekends at 7:30 AM Eastern Time. And she’s co-founder of goodshop.com. Now, I’ve asked her here today because I discovered a new book she has written called The Startup Club, which is a book for kids about entrepreneurship or starting a business, and I think it’s something every child will want to read. So, I thought it’d be a good thing to talk about today. Hey, JJ, welcome to the show.
JJ Ramberg: Thank you thank you so much. I like that intro, every child will want to read.
Steve Pomeranz: I think so, I do.
JJ Ramberg: I agree.
Steve Pomeranz: So, what drove you to write a book for children about entrepreneurship?
JJ Ramberg: I have three kids. They’re 7, 8, and one of them just turned 10 this week. They’re entrepreneurs, all kids are. Lemonade stands and dog walking businesses and slime businesses. And so, I wanted to go to the book store and find a book that had characters, that were starting a business.
Not a non-fiction, I wanted a fiction book because my kids love reading fiction, with characters they could be inspired by, and I just couldn’t find one, I couldn’t find a recent one. And so, I called my sister up and a good friend of ours who is a children’s book writer and said, we should write one.
There is a real opportunity here to teach kids some stuff, while also giving them a book that they really enjoy reading.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, some characters that they can relate to. They love stories, it’s a great way to teach, it’s a great way to learn, instead of a book listing all the things you should do as a young entrepreneur.[LAUGH]
JJ Ramberg: Well, exactly, exactly, and I mean, they really love this stuff. And I have met, my sister and I have this thing where we…since forever, we say we’ll never walk by a lemonade stand without buying something. And I always ask the kids when I buy things, what’s your revenue, what’s your profit?
And I get varying degrees of either answers or just completely blank stares. I always say, this is sort of the gateway into teaching your kids personal finance.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. So, the book is The Startup Club and I think it just came out. Tell us about that, where it’s available.
JJ Ramberg: It is available in lots of stores, all across the country. Or course, you know, you can buy it online, at Amazon.
Steve Pomeranz: But it is out now?
JJ Ramberg: It is, it is, indeed, yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, well, one of my heroes is, of course, Warren Buffett. And I looked it up because I knew he had jobs as a kid. So, I’m going to list here a couple of jobs that he has had, and I don’t think a lemonade stand was any one of them.
But he delivered the Washington Post, the newspaper, and then I guess he owned the Washington Post [LAUGH] much later. [LAUGH] He sold used golf balls. Now, every kid that lives on a golf course knows what that’s all about.
JJ Ramberg: Yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: He sold stamps. He buffed cars.
He set up a pinball machine business. And by the age of 16, he had $56,000 dollars saved, which in today’s dollars, I didn’t really do the math, but it’s a heck of a lot of money for a 16 year-old to have. And a matter of fact, there’s a quote saying that he told his dad he didn’t really think he needed college. Why do I need college if I can do this? So, he almost skipped out on college. So, obviously, he turned into quite a unique individual, but how important do you think this idea of tapping into that desire, you said all kids love, are entrepreneurs, they all kind of want to start a business, how important is that to their future?
JJ Ramberg: I personally think incredibly, for two reasons. One is you have to learn about money. The earlier we learn about it, the better. The statistics of kids whose parents talk to them about money show so much more success dealing with money as they grow older. And so, just using something they’re already interested in.
Their lemonade stand or their slime business, as a way to start to teach them the value of money, how to make it, how to save it, etc. I think it’s incredibly important, but besides that, I think if you take their little business, whatever it is, and start to use the right terms for it, right?
So, say to them, don’t just make a sign for your stand, what’s your marketing? Give them the right terms so they think of it in the right way. And start to ask them questions about pricing and why is this sign going to work better than others, or what’s your pitch to somebody?
That just gets them in a mindset that will help them throughout their life, right? Being entrepreneurial, it’s not all about starting a business. It’s about finding a problem and finding a way to solve it, in a way that consumers or your audience wants. And so, no matter if your kids work in a huge company when they’re older or they start their own thing, having that skill that we can start to develop now in them is incredibly important.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, I think you’d also want to ask the question, what would make your lemonade stand different from the one down the street?
JJ Ramberg: Absolutely. I play this fun game with my kids also. There’s an empty store front down the street from us. And so, we’ve played, okay guys, what store would you put in there?
And then we follow up, well, why would anyone go to it? What should the price point be? And we ask them all these questions to get, dig down into whether their idea was a good one or not.
Steve Pomeranz: So, I have to ask you this question, you keep mentioning this, what is the slime business? Is that a Nickelodeon thing? [LAUGH]
JJ Ramberg: You clearly don’t have a 7, 8, or 10 year-old in your house.
Steve Pomeranz: Clearly not, I’m well past that.
JJ Ramberg: It’s slime, which is just sort of a thing that you play with.
Kids just learn how to make it with glue and some other stuff. There’s literally been a run on Elmer’s glue. [LAUGH]
Steve Pomeranz: Well, you know, when my kids were growing up, Nickelodeon was really big and you used to get slimed, so I thought that perhaps was-
JJ Ramberg: Yes.
Steve Pomeranz: Was that?
JJ Ramberg: It is, it’s that stuff- They make that stuff.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, that disgusting stuff. [LAUGH]
Steve Pomeranz: Now, do your kids have businesses they’re working on?
JJ Ramberg: My sons have a company called Americans Ex-Stress. Where they make stress balls and stress paper, which makes me a little bit nervous about what am I teaching them, that they think everyone needs stress balls and stress paper.[LAUGH]
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, what’s going on there? Go ahead.
JJ Ramberg: They made a killing the other day at take your kid to work day, when they came into the make-up room at NBC and sold to all the make-up people. My daughter has a lemonade stand going on right now and a spa business, where she gives massages for a dollar every five minutes [LAUGH] .
Steve Pomeranz: All right, so what is an ex-stress paper? What is ex- stress paper? [LAUGH]
JJ Ramberg: I can’t give it away.
Steve Pomeranz: No.
JJ Ramberg: People might compete with us. [LAUGH]
JJ Ramberg: I’m just kidding, they take paper and they cover it with tape, so that you cannot rip it.
Steve Pomeranz: Scotch tape you’re talking about, they’re actually making paper and putting scotch tape on it, they’re making their own paper, is that it?
JJ Ramberg: No, they’re just taking paper and kind of covering it in scotch-tape, and so selling it [LAUGH] . They’ve got a whole bunch of products. But what was fun, I have to say, a very proud moment for me with the book, is I’d given all the founders, which are my sons [LAUGH] and a few of their friends, a copy of The Startup Club, early on a manuscript, and when they were dividing up the money, I heard them refer to, what the characters in the book did.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay.
JJ Ramberg: With the profits.
Steve Pomeranz: I think I see a sequel coming up, on this one, second book?
JJ Ramberg: I hope so.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, why not?
JJ Ramberg: Second, there’s going to be, yeah, yeah, we put a call out to the kids who read it to come up, or send in their ideas for what the business is.
Steve Pomeranz: Good idea.
JJ Ramberg: In the second book.
Steve Pomeranz: Great. You know, I’ve interviewed a number of people who are in some of the communities that really don’t have a culture of mercantilism. Or this idea that starting a business is something that they can actually do or would even think about.
I mean, if you think about who are children’s role models today. Maybe it’s rap stars or NBA players or baseball players, and there’s this idea that what is perhaps available to them is very limited and really the chance of being successful out of any of those that I just mentioned, is pretty slight.
So how important is this idea of kind of teaching this mercantilism to all children and getting this in the schools and getting this to those areas that just aren’t steeped in this kind of culture?
JJ Ramberg: I think it is a shame that schools do not focus on this more, right?
I mean, personal finance and entrepreneurship for kids…because it’s really fun. It’s fun for kids to think about what business could they start? And then, what do they do with the money? And how do they save money? And there are lots of programs that are starting, I believe, that really should be part of the curriculum.
What I think is one neat thing is over the past, you know decade or so, as I’ve been doing my show, the idea of entrepreneurship has changed. In that, I do believe that entrepreneurs are becoming real stars also and role models for people. And they’ve become kind of rock stars, and even celebrities have moved into entrepreneurship.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, that’s true.
JJ Ramberg: And so, even kids who see these musicians, etc. They also hear about the businesses they started.
Steve Pomeranz: Right.
JJ Ramberg: I think that’s really neat.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, and I also think that if you are an artist, whether it be in music or otherwise, you are an entrepreneur.
You own your own business, you’re out there learning how to market, how to differentiate yourself, how to-
JJ Ramberg: You’re selling.
Steve Pomeranz: You’re selling, you’re playing in clubs, you’re doing whatever you’re doing, or playing at parties. And you are bringing in money and you got to handle that as well, so it all goes together.
JJ Ramberg: And it’s just so much easier to start a business right now than it was a few decades ago. That kids need to understand that if they have a good idea, they can try and launch something. Now, there are many steps along the way to take about figuring out if it’s a good idea, etc., etc., but that, it is not so inaccessible.
Steve Pomeranz: I also think learning about failure is important in the early years and framing that correctly for them. So they don’t get discouraged because failure is a natural part of entrepreneurship, right?
JJ Ramberg: Without question, yes. And that will help them in their entire life, not just in their careers.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, you know finishing up, you’re an entrepreneur. You have this Goodshop.com. Tell us about that.
JJ Ramberg: Yeah, I started it with my brother 11 years ago. And we have this really cool browser add-on called Gumdrop. And basically, what it does, is you add it to your browser, takes two seconds.
And then, every time you shop online, it automatically puts the best coupon code into the submit coupon box.
Steve Pomeranz: I like that.
JJ Ramberg: In addition, yeah it’s so easy because you don’t have to go… you know when you get to Gap and you get to the end and it says Submit coupon, and you think, God, if there’s a box there, there must be a coupon… why don’t I have it?
So, this just does all the work for you. And you don’t have to do a thing. And in addition, if you select a cause, a percentage of what you spend goes back to that cause. So, we’ve saved people about $100 million in shopping, and we’ve raised about $13 million, for causes.
Steve Pomeranz: And that’s a beautiful thing. My guest, JJ Ramberg, is host of MSNBC’s Your Business, which you can see weekends at 7:30 AM Eastern Time, and she’s also co-founder of Goodshop.com, as we just mentioned. JJ, thank you so much for joining us.
JJ Ramberg: This was really fun, thank you so much.
Steve Pomeranz: To hear this segment again, to see a summary of it or just find out more about what we’re doing on this show, don’t forget to go to our website, which is stevepomeranz.com.