The Waiting Room as A Classroom to Teach Kids Useful Entrepreneurial Life-Lessons.

This blog post was originally written on June 6, 2018, and is being published as is, partly for its nostalgic references, and partly for its timeless lessons.

How parents can find teachable moments in everyday occurrences.

“He stops to talk to everybody, even strangers” is a constant refrain of folks who know me. My take is that we work and play with humans. Therefore, every time we avoid human contact, or fail to observe or learn from our surroundings by burying ourselves in our phones, we miss first-hand learning opportunities on how fellow humans think and act. Life is a laboratory full of learning opportunities.

Here are observations from my visit to a car dealership’s service center, along with my thoughts on how parents could extract and impart entrepreneurial lessons from similar experiences. I had an hour to kill at a car dealer’s authorized service center, most of it in their Waiting Room. It just so happened that the operations manager was at the same coffee machine where I had tried unsuccessfully to pour myself a cup of coffee. We thus got into a conversation whereupon I inquired about the massive remodeling going on. “We surveyed our customers and decided to add more repair bays to reduce their wait-times”, she said. “We are adding other conveniences such as a maternity room for new mothers by expanding this waiting area.” I asked about concierge services to completely avoid a new mother having to leave home to get her car fixed or serviced. It’s cost-prohibitive, she explained. I wondered aloud if they could partner with a startup such as What if they do not consider the Service Center as a separate profit-center, since the costs of owning each car can tied back to the original sale.

I told her that the waiting room experience is like a doctors’ office. There is anxiety in the air not knowing the diagnosis and the costs of repairing a car. With the human body, there are still many mysteries. With a car built in a factory and sold and serviced in a dealership, why the guesswork? We parted ways with questions lingering in our minds.

However, the real learning was to come shortly thereafter. How the personnel at the repair bay treat an anxious customer determines whether a car owner will continue to stay as a customer and even consider their trade-in promotion to get another new car from them. A glamorously designed dealership may sell the first car, but it’s what I call bay-side manners by the maintenance team that will determine repeat sales. Customer delight can quickly turn into customer diminishment through poor bay-side manners. The dealership might be better off investing in culture than physical structure.

How can parents impart these invaluable entrepreneurial lessons to their kids? Here are suggestions.

  1. Even if your kids are glued to a phone playing a game or watching a Vine video, insist that they are next to you during all conversations. Kids are listening even if they aren’t looking.
  2. Be polite to the Service Manager even if he belittles you for asking questions and negotiating.
  3. Walk away with your wallet when you experience customer diminishment. Kids observe it.

Don’t bother explaining your actions to your kids until they ask you. When and if they ask you, seek their opinions and engage them in a conversation and blame the system not the individual for his lack of bay-side manners. Thus, kids would have picked up priceless lessons from the perspective of a future entrepreneurial leader of an organization, while being in the shoes of a valued life-long customer.

What Makes AlligatorZone Academy’s Summer Camp Different

This blog post was originally written on May 8, 2019. Some of the links may be inactive now. If you are interested in creating a summer program for your use, please contact us.

AlligatorZone® Academy’s summer enrichment program for kids of ages 10–15 starts with the awareness that entrepreneurship in the real world is very rarely of the sensational kind that children see on popular entertainment TV shows.

Entrepreneurship is an intensely intellectual and extremely social journey of understanding a problem and solving it in a resourceful manner for people. Entrepreneurship is not just writing a business plan or presenting it to a group of grown-ups to win a medal or a small check.

Entrepreneurship coaching, even for grown-ups, which over-emphasizes the theatrics of a stage performance in a pitch competition puts the cart before the horse. There is a need for public speaking skills, but at a later stage. Entrepreneurship usually starts with being mindful in research, a lot of listening, and rolling up one’s sleeves in search of the best way to make a customer delighted, or just to make the customer breathe a little easier.

The way AlligatorZone Academy’s summer camp curriculum is designed and delivered is therefore different from what parents might typically see at an entrepreneurship boot-camp for children and teens.

In AlligatorZone Academy’s summer camp, we help children and teens (ages 10-15) with introspection so that they figure out what they would like to pursue as a project over the next year or so. Then we provide them with mental models and frameworks to making decisions on various aspects of taking their product to the market, and letting the market decide if their work deserves recognition with actual sales. Participants in the summer camp will use real-world productivity tools just like any startup founder, and learn to think like startup founders, without using jargon. The focus is on first principles of entrepreneurship so that the kids and teens really grasp the core concepts and use them as building blocks of life-skills that will stand them in good stead no matter what their future career and calling. We steer the children, with the support of their respective families, towards the steps needed to take an idea and make a product out of it, working alongside them step-by-step with a compressed launch-program to help them get their project off the ground in the real world.

There are no plans for pitch competitions, no award ceremonies and no participation medals. Just a close-knit community of students who help one another out, and have a blast just being their creative selves, without pressure.

The kids leave AlligatorZone’s workshops with a sense of quiet confidence and pride about a body of work that they started from concept, and depending on the time on hand, progressed sufficiently forward to a stage of creation and validation in the real world. After the workshop, the kids and teens may continue to build in order to differentiate themselves as a distinctive personal brand.

This summer, AlligatorZone is formalizing a layer of support after the summer camp. AlligatorZone will continue to provide the students with a low-maintenance yet highly effective subscription plan to provide guidance to the children and teens with the help of a supportive community, should they wish to continue on their entrepreneurial education and journey.

We hope you will enroll your child at AlligatorZone Academy’s summer enrichment program (

We also hope that you will become a premium subscriber in our starter plan ( and join our community.

Further, parents may also consider taking their children to attend our free public AlligatorZone events ( Read this blog post about why those events are important. (

This Summer, Start An Entrepreneurial Project With Your Kids.

This article was originally written on April 28, 2019.

Summer is a great time to bring out the inner entrepreneur in every child.

Over the last 3 quarters, we had the privilege of working with school-age kids to help them learn how to be entrepreneurial minded, and become changemakers. The following tips for parents to try at home are based on lessons from an afterschool club we conducted at a premier IB World School in Tampa, Florida. Participants were from grades 3, 4 and 5. We used a curriculum that was developed specially to help young kids understand the process of bootstrapping a change-making idea and taking it to the market.

Here are some of the lessons they learned.

Make Happiness:

Children love to spread happiness. Spend time with them charting out the kind of local impact that would make them happy. In our school project, the students agreed that they love animals, and their school, so their project’s goal was to create something, sell it, and use the profits to support the school s PTA and the local Human Society.

Play On Their Strengths:

The project was to guide the kids in the design of a product using innate and acquired skills that is age-appropriate, and help them find a way to generate value that can be distributed to make the community better.

Think of Entire Systems:

On your next visit to the grocery store, encourage your kids to think of all possible angles in getting a product in the store-shelves, and make them think about trade-offs in making decisions. We used frameworks to guide the children and help them draw their own conclusions.

It’s Okay To Go Screenless:

See if you can avoid the use of technology and encourage them to take an artisanal approach. It is actually doable, and there are fewer distractions.

Emphasize Interpersonal Communication:

Include friends and neighbors’ children to make it a group project. In our afterschool club we allowed for a lot of creative play among the kids, and it was perfectly okay for them to veer off into discussions, drawings on the board, and generally goof off as long as it helped further the project. The students had a blast debating the various decisions they had to make, from design, to branding and pricing.


You can teach the children how to become change-makers using all their strengths. That meant, they had to be resourceful in getting things done with no upfront investment of money, and yet create something valuable for a target audience.

Negotiating Deals:

You can take them to have real-world conversations. Kids are naturally curious, and incredibly creative. You can teach them how to communicate in certain business settings in the real world. In our club, we used a framework for this process of entrepreneurial thinking leading them from one step to the next, almost like a roadmap or a map in a treasure hunt.


You can teach the kids the concept of obtaining pre-orders and then investing in making the product. The kids will thus know that they can accomplish quite a lot without upfront capital investment from elders.

Effecting Social Impact:

You can help the kids communicate in such a manner that the grown-ups take them seriously by steering them towards creating something of value to the community.

Team Work:

The children will learn to work through their differences and soon start employing humor as a tactic to support one another, to learn from one another and also to pick each other up when any one person made a mistake that could have set the team back.

Emotional Intelligence:

The children will learn how to move a project along, how to be patient with one another while working as a team, and how to make meaningful contributions towards creating a finished product that they can take to market. They will learn how a little give and take can make all the difference in a real-world project.


Make sure you go with a project that finds resonance with them, otherwise it will risk losing steam.

A Modern-Day Lemonade Stand:

Like we did with the afterschool club, this can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved even if you never take their creation to the market. The curriculum we used at AlligatorZone Academy is one of many modern-day social-impact versions of the age old lemonade-stand, providing the more informed and digitally native child a simple way to manage a complex thought-process for solving problems for the greater good.

When I tell people that we coached kids who are as young as 3rd graders about an entrepreneurial mindset, the common reaction is one of surprise. In reality, kids are innately creative, collaborative and curious. They also know how to have fun and dust themselves off to get back in the game after a stumble. In other words, every kid has an entrepreneur within. This summer try to bring out the hidden entrepreneur in your child.