By Ryan MacDonald
Everyone can remember their first lemonade stand.
Hauling out the card table from the garage, drawing on a poster board with permanent markers, slaving away in the hot afternoon sun, and then counting the profits at the end of the day.
But what about the business plan? Well, like most kids, you probably didn’t even know that existed as you rushed out to meet your first customer, not thinking about your long term potential.
Enter “Venture Kits”, a line of games designed for children ages 7-13 that inspires players to think more comprehensively about what they’re doing when starting a business and shows them how to channel their inner CEO
And it all starts with having fun.
“Venture Kits blurs the lines between working and play,” said Leslie Feinzaig, the founder and CEO of the company, which she launched in 2016. “When you are at your best in your job, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like play.”
Featuring three separately themed games, including “Treats to Go”, a baking business, “Art Auction”, an activity where players learn about alternatives ways to become entrepreneurs, and “Talent Show”, Venture Kits leads the players through step-by-step instructions of how to start a business.
“The spirit of Venture Kits is a business plan that’s game-ifed and broken down into discreet child appropriate steps,” she said. “Every time you finish a step, you get a reward.”
But it’s not just all fun; there’s critical thinking involved, too.
“Treats to Go” requires players to use math skills to setting price and calculating things like price per unit, while “Talent Show” challenges its players to negotiate contracts and utilize valuable team working abilities, all skills they’ll need if they want to become successful leaders.
“When parents hear about Venture Kits, many times they think, “Oh these are going to teach my kids how to sell something,’” she said. “But I actually think of entrepreneurship as much, much bigger than that.”
— Venture Kits (@VentureKits) April 19, 2017
With a background in the tech industry where she worked for a variety of companies, including Julep, Big Fish and Microsoft, Feinzaig developed this inspirational concept after the birth of her daughter.
Though she had never worked as a toy designer, she logged hundreds of hours completing field-tests with families around her neighborhood (and the country) to experiment with what elements of the game engaged each child and their parent the most.
One of her favorite parts to witness was seeing a child lose herself in the moment and figure out a problem on her own.
“Their minds are totally engaged, and they’re really working through things, and they don’t realize where time is going.”
This type independent and educational play is something Feinzaig hopes more parents encourage, noting that the current parenting trend seems to be more focused with overbooking a child’s schedule rather than giving them freedom to be creative.
“Give your kids the time to become people by themselves,” she said. “What happens when they play by themselves? What kind of initiative are they going to have then?”
While some children and parents may be surprised to discover that these games don’t require anything electronic, Feinzaig made it a point for the kits to be free of iPhones, iPads and any other devices.
“I’ve been very deliberate in keeping Venture Kits physical. I want kids to take their eyes off the screen and onto something physical,” she said.
For now, Feinzaig is focused on developing a new generation of the activity kits to be debuted this holiday season, but at the core, the mission of will remain the same: teach children the educational values of what it means to be fearless in pursuing their dreams.
“It’s empathy, it’s listening, it’s grit. It’s trying something and then having to try again,” she said. “It’s about having an idea, acting on it, and keeping on it until you see it through fruition. That’s leadership. That’s entrepreneurship.”
“It’s about trying to sell something and failing and trying again and failing and trying again.”
And like any loving parent, Feinzaig wants all children to grow up with the belief that one day they can become the head of a corporation, despite what they may see in today’s modern leadership paradigm.
As for her own daughter’s future as being a CEO? “By the time she graduates from college, which is 20 years from now, it shouldn’t even be a question,” she said of shattering the glass ceiling. “So I’m on a deadline. I got 20 years.”