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Entrepreneurial Lessons from a 5th Grade Girl

February 12, 2012

This is from a speech I delivered in 2009 to 125 Girl Scouts at “Cookie College”.  My speech was about 5th grade lessons I learned that helped me be an “adult” entrepreneur. I hope this speech inspires you today to think back to who you were in 5th grade and how lessons you learned are still helping you today.

Hi Everyone – Wow, am I so glad to be here today! Besides being a women entrepreneur and running two businesses, I am also the mother of two big, stinking rotten boys! When I left the house this morning to come to this great event surrounded by 125 girls, they said “Bye see you later  – We are having a boys rule the house party when you leave”. I said oh yeah, “I’m going to a Girls Rule party when I leave and I bet you we have more fun than you!!”  I can tell by all your happy faces and the program the Girls Scout Council has planned for you, that you will have a wonderful time today and learn a lot.

     When I thought about what to talk to you about today I thought back to when I was in 4th and

5th grade. I also thought about the new show on TV called “Are you smarter than a 5th

Grader?” I realized when I thought back to being a fifth grader, that I was doing some things

that really helped me grow up to run my own business and to help others run their own

businesses. So I’m excited to share with you some of the things I did at your age which helped

me be in front of you today. I hope you like what I share with you.

       First – “Raise Your Hand Often” –  How many of you raise your hand to be selected to answer

questions in school? Or to be in charge of something in your girls scout troop? Or to do

something extra that a teacher asks you to do?  While, I was like all of you who raised their

hands. I always raised my hand. I always wanted to be in front of the class, help out a teacher,

or do something that required some leadership skills. By raising my hand often, it gave me

other new opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to do or experience if I didn’t raise my

hand to begin with.

     Here’s an example of how raising my hand helped me to be an entrepreneur. In

sixth grade (my elementary school went to 6th grade not 5th grade), I always raised my hand to

go up to the chalkboard, read to the class, present my homework. I never shyed away from it.

So when it came time for the 6th grade class to pick one student to read the 6th grade

graduation speech, guess who was chosen? You are right – it was me!  Do you know why?

Because they were use to seeing me in front of the class, taking chances, and being brave

enough to stand up and speak. It was an honor to be chosen to write and deliver our

graduation speech.

     When I left elementary school, I never stopped raising my hand – I raised it in High

School, in College, at my first job, and when I started my own business. I remembered from

sixth grade that by raising my hand and demonstrating interest in being in front of the class, I

would be noticed and it would open doors for new fun and challenging experiences. So I

encourage you to raise your hand the next time you are asked to do something you might

want to do or maybe not want to do. It will be a lesson that will always help you as you grow

up; and especially if you start your own business. You’ll be ready to take the biggest challenge

of all – which is beginning a company. 

     Second – Pay Attention to What You Like or Do Well Now –  When I was 7 years old, I decided

I wanted to raise money for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Drive. I decided to host a

carnival in my garage to raise money. I got my sister and my neighbors to work it; I created all

the games and prizes;  I made jello and milk for food; I rang door bells to get my neighbors to

come to it. I raised $150 dollars and got a gold metal for raising that much money! 

     I remember loving it so much, I planned events in high school and college. So when I got out

of college I  knew what I wanted to be – I wanted to be an event planner. So I worked at two

colleges planning events until I started my first business in 1995. Guess what type of business

it was? You are right if you said an “event planning company” AND my first big client was

planning a carnival like festival in Cicero! It wasn’t too different than planning my carnival

when I was 7 (except we had better food than jello and milk)! 

     I bet if some of you think about it really hard – there are things you already love to do or are

really good at which might become a career for you when you grow up or even a business to

start. So pay attention to what you love to do now, and what you are good at doing now as

you grow up. Trying doing more of it and then eventually see if it should be something you

should learn more about in college so you can start your own career or own business today.

     Third: Be Effervescent  –  How many of you know what the word effervescent means? Don’t

worry I didn’t know it either when I was your age. When I was in sixth grade, my teacher sent

home a report card that said “Tracy is very effervescent”. I was worried it meant something

bad. But instead it meant that I was bubbly and had a lot of positive energy. I’ve always

remembered that word and tried to live up to it.  All through my life, I have been

complimented on my positive personality. It is important not only if you want to do well in

business but also in life.  When you are selling cookies, are you “effervescent” or “grouchy”? 

Do you think you’ll sell more cookies if you are positive and happy, or negative and grumpy?

People like buying from happy people who believe in themselves and what they are selling.  

     Sometimes it is hard to be happy if no one is buying your cookies. But my father who sold

coffee and was pretty effervescent guy himself, said to me when I started my business,

Tracy you are going to have to knock on a lot of doors to sell and to make money. You are

going to get a bunch of nos. Don’t ever get discouraged. Because you never know when the

last no, will turn into the next yes. Be positive, be happy, keep selling. “  And I can tell you one

thing – he was right!


     Fourth: Be Entrepreneurial Now:
 How many of you like working? How many of you like

earning money? Well I was like all of you who raised their hands. When I was your age, I had

a job helping my aunt clean her silver, pulled weeds from the bricks at my neighbors house,

babysat for another neighbor up the road, and ironed cloths for my other aunt. I wanted to

work and earn money when I was young. I loved the idea of helping someone with tasks

around their house. I loved filling up my spare time with something different than sports or

school. I loved making money and putting it my college savings account. 
     
     The best part about doing some work when you are a 5th grader is it helps you create an

interest in working later in life and the importance of how working hard can help you make

money. When you own your own business, you have to work hard. You have to work late at

night, sometimes you have to work on weekends, sometimes you can’t do fun things when

everyone else is doing them. But you know if you work really hard, you are rewarded for your

efforts. You get paid not only with money but usually with people who appreciate the work

you have done for them. I love working because I love helping other people plan events or

helping women promote their businesses, and I love making money. But I KNOW you have to

love what you do first to be really happy; money doesn’t mean a lot unless you are happy

doing what you do every day.   


     FIFTH: Talk To Your Girlfriends About Your Dreams
– Even though I’m much older than a 5th

grader now (in fact my youngest son is in 8th grade), I still have one girlfriend from elementary

school who is still my best friend today! She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and we are still great

friends.     
     Two years ago when I was wondering if I should do something different with my career, she

was the only person who understood what I was trying to do and in a few simple sentences

helped me see what I wanted for my future. This is the same girlfriend I was in Brownies

with!! She has been my friend for all my life and sometimes only girlfriends understand

everything about you, your hopes and dreams for your future. 
     
     I can tell you that the power of friendship is something you need all through your life even if

you don’t want to be an entrepreneur. But if you do want to run your own business someday,

your girlfriends will be the ones who cheer with you when you get a new client, they’ll cheer

you up when you have a bad business day, they’ll tell other people about you and your

business, and they’ll stand by you through it all.

     So pay attention to the special girlfriends you have around you today. When you are wicked

old like I am right now, they might be exactly who you call when you need someone to talk

about your business and your dreams. They’ll always believe in you when you might have a

hard time believing in yourself. 

     FINALLY: Always Be Proud To Wear Pink-
 Who loves the color pink in here? Who loves the

color brown or grey, or black? When you get older, and you are in business – don’t forget to

wear pink so people know you “You’re proud to be a girl”. 
     
     Last summer my oldest son who plays lacrosse for West Genesee High School had six of his

friends over to our house. Because I’m not too scared to try anything (as you’ve heard from

my stories today), I told them I could beat their JV lacrosse goalie in a one on one challenge.

Well, you know boys, they thought that was not possible. So they took me up on my challenge.

I told them before we started, I needed to go put on my pink shirt. They thought that was

funny but I didn’t  – I knew I needed the “girl power” energy  to beat them. So there I was a

44 year old mom, with a pink shirt on that said “Girls Rule” and a big old orange lacrosse stick,

taking on a 16 year old boy from one of the best lacrosse schools in the country. What do you

think happened? Did I win or did I lose? Well, I lost technically but only by alittle and guess

what THEY learned….they learned girls can do anything boys can do because girls believe in

themselves and have the courage to try! My favorite picture on my office desk is taken of me

holding my lacrosse stick with my son, and his six friends (with big smiles on their faces)

because it proves that girls can do anything boys can do! So more importantly than anything

else you learn today, remember girls can do anything!!

So here again are the things I want you to remember from my talk:

  • Raise Your Hand Often
  • Pay Attention To What You Love to Do or Are Good At Doing Now
  • Be Effervescent
  • Be Entrepreneurial Now
  • Talk to Your Girlfriends About Your Dreams
  • Always Be Proud To Wear Pink 
     
    Thank you so much for letting me be here with you today. Your happy, smiling faces will be

with me all year long as I help other big girls who are my age try to achieve their own dreams

running their own businesses.  

     I know my sons didn’t have nearly as much fun as I have had with you today at this special

“Girls Rule” party! All I want you to remember to be is to stay positive, be happy, be

hardworking, and of course be effervescent!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 11:02 am

    Tracy, I am inspired as I read the words that you spoke at the Girls Rule Party. Both my career as a Vocal Music Teacher and as a Coach and Wedding Ceremony Minister had their beginnings in my childhood. The best advice that my mom ever gave me when I was preparing to go to college was, “What do you love the most?” My answer was “Music.” Later on, I also reconnected to the spiritual connection that I have always had, and when it was time to begin a new chapter in my life, I began to empower that by re-connecting to what I enjoyed and was good at. Yes, raising your hand, and saying yes tells people: Here I am, and this is who I am.

    Thanks for the fabulous reminder. Rev. Michaela

    Like

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