Sales Skill is a Life Skill Even for Young Students

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is just a convoluted way of saying, “Learn to sell.”

I had a classmate who stood out for his insatiable curiosity. He was the kid who would pick up something from the ground, put it in his mouth, taste it and determine if it was an edible seed to keep in his pocket or discard as a stone. He was the kid who picked up a frog on his way to school, and caused a ruckus when the frog escaped his satchel and jumped from desk to desk in our classroom. He was also the one, who, in one Divali season, decided to sell backyard fireworks to people, carrying them around on his bicycle. He was a sales guy. The same kid grew up to become a scientist, got his Ph.D. from Cornell and went on to lead massive projects in some of the largest pharma companies.

He thus became a scientist and a salesman. However, those skills were developed early – a curious mind and customer-service orientation.

The point of this story is that it’s never too early to learn how to sell. Another point of the story is that at every stage in our lives, we are selling something – whether we are making a case for something, convincing someone of our point of view, or writing a research grant to persuade a government agency to award us a grant.

Children are born with sales skills – from the time they cry to get fed. I do not know when they unlearn that skill, but it is one thing that students in AlligatorZone pick up because of the way our programs are designed.

By learning to sell, students hone their listening skills.

By learning to sell, students understand how to craft a winning message.

By learning to sell, students learn the value of authenticity.

By learning to sell, they learn how to play on their strengths.

By learning to sell, students build the kind of confidence that can neither be taught nor bought.

Selling is an entrepreneurial skill. Everyone develops or acquires sales skills at some point in life. The sooner the better. Whether you are trying to sell lemonade from your porch, sneakers online, or that old refrigerator on Facebook marketplace, you are learning an invaluable life skill.

As the entrepreneur-turned-VC Kanwal Rekhi once told me, an entrepreneur must always be selling.

Selling is a skill every student must learn early on in life.

Even a surgeon has to learn selling skills. A surgeon-inventor, even more so. Join us on March 28th, to learn from surgeon-inventor Dr. Anjan R. Shah on his entrepreneurial foray through co-inventing a new way to fix a broken hip bone. Buy your tickets via

How Students Could Differentiate Themselves.

I am hearing it over and over again, and I am hearing it not just from college admission officials, and consultants when they advise high school students aspiring to go to colleges, but also from companies recruiting professionals in engineering and other fields. I have heard that is the case even with doctors applying for residency. The world expects applicants to be different and stand out – at least until they join their organization.

Once they join an organization, they have to learn how to fit in. A student with an internship in a giant engineering conglomerate yesterday mentioned how he is learning corporate jargon and acronyms that is practiced like a religion within the company. However, that is a topic for another day.

Today, I want to address the expectation to be different, and the need to stand out among competing candidates.

Different means distinctive in this context.

Different means interesting.

When kids in high school get released into the real world of career pursuit, college education or professional training, I hear that they are expected to be different and learn to stand out among the 8 billion people in the world, or for that matter, the probable 8,000 candidates vying for a spot.

How could parents and educators help children be different? The answer is simple, yet difficult to achieve within a schooling system that is designed to educate students collectively.

The simple answer is to allow students stay different outside of school.

A student who was leading a college campus tour yesterday could not name a single unorganized activity or hobby that he enjoys in his free time. They were all programs in student clubs. These are important, no doubt, but when students go for a job interview the interviewers will not learn anything new about the world through him.

It is more important for students is to have room to pursue an interest on their own, something they created, crafted or curated. Something on which they can put their name with pride.

A pragmatic and low-cost approach is for a student to explore entrepreneurship.

That becomes easier when a kid is exposed to entrepreneurship.

Teaching it may yield results, but kids learn by observation and even better, by doing.

Not everyone is born into a family business or has an aunt or uncle who is in business. The next best thing is to provide an environment of entrepreneurial exposure. That’s been the genesis of AlligatorZone.

This environment can be created at home, but as one dad who is a successful physician-entrepreneur told me at our summer workshop, his teenage son will not follow his advice, and that it was better for him to develop an entrepreneurial mindset by attending AlligatorZone’s workshops.

Steve Jobs closed his Stanford speech saying, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Add “Be interesting” to that.

A good start would be to attend an AlligatorZone event where students can meet with accomplished startup founders and inventors. Join us in Tampa on March 28th to hear from and meet surgeon-inventor Dr. Anjan R. Shah MD., who will show us a surgical product he co-invented, a new way to fix a broken hip bone.

Tips for Students On Speaking to Physician Inventors

On Thursday, March 28, 2024, AlligatorZone will feature a physician inventor in a live in-person event. School students will have the opportunity not only to see and learn about an innovative surgical device that’s “a better way to fix a broken hip,” in the words of its co-inventor Dr. Anjan R. Shah, MD, but also get to chat informally with the speaker. 

AlligatorZone’s events are also industry networking events for young students where a community gathers around an entrepreneur, and many of them wait to speak to the presenter after the session.

The one key aspect of AlligatorZone events is that the founders, entrepreneurs and inventors who make an appearance as featured speakers, are highly accomplished professionals, who, despite very hectic lives make the time to have mindful conversations with attendees once their presentation is done, especially with the younger members of the audience.

It’s a little different with physician inventors and physician entrepreneurs. They have often added new knowledge during their practice of medicine and figured out a better way to do their work or transform their industry. They would have figured out how to protect their invention and bring it to the market. They may have a keen sense of which among their inventions is worth pursuing due to their busy schedule. They may have picked up entrepreneurial skills while being a physician.

For those who are able to attend our event on March 28th in person, here is how a student can make most of the opportunity to talk to a physician inventor.

  • Do your homework on the speaker: The presenter is a physician inventor. That means you are in the presence of a creative problem solver who has invested years in learning medicine, and in the practice of medicine. In this case, the physician is a leading orthopedic trauma surgeon.
  • Do your homework on the problem the inventor is solving. Read up a little on how hip surgeries are done so that you can understand the speaker better or ask well informed questions to understand his invention while he showcases it.
  • Prepare for a conversation with the featured speaker. Aim to impress from the get-go, especially if you are a student because every opportunity to speak to an accomplished industry professional is an opportunity to improve your communication skills. Prepare a short crisp self-introduction and practice it. Deliver your self-introduction with confidence and a smile before you ask your question. Use simple language when you ask your questions.
  • Prepare to ask about the inventing process. Inventing something, making it a product and marketing it is not something that is typically taught in med schools to the best of our knowledge. You can learn a lot about how a physician with specific knowledge and expertise decides to also become an inventor.
  • Any ask must be clear and straightforward. Have a clear ask especially if you are looking for guidance in the form of insights into their field of specialization, mentoring or seeking shadowing opportunities (be prepared mentally for your request to be declined, and graciously accept it).
  • Be considerate. A physician inventor is very likely coming to the event after a day of seeing patients or conducting surgeries. Be patient and respectful in asking your questions. Be respectful of the presenter’s time and also be considerate to the others waiting to speak to the presenter after you.
  • Be helpful. Inventors rarely get to hear from a broader audience of people outside their field, so you too have something of value to offer them. Share any insights that might come to your mind about the inventor’s product. Inventors and entrepreneurs always look for feedback and want to improve both, their product, and how they communicate the value of their product.

Reserve your seats via

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.

Empowering children for a grown-up world

Chores in a digital age for the digital native

The tradition of giving children chores to make them responsible is changing and will change faster as more automation seeps into our everyday lives. We hear about activities such as working the newspaper route, and putting up wall papers as quaint household chores of an era bygone.

Let us come up with chores for teens that impart marketable and transferable skills. Here are 3 simple ideas you can try at home, with growing children.

  1. Help out in the kitchen. Eventually, kids learn to cook a healthy home-made meal. Knowing how to put together a quick meal is a priceless skill when they leave home for college, internship or their first job. Someday, they will thank you for giving them this opportunity to learn. Encourage them to try their own recipes or other recipes inspired by watching online videos. Bonus: Learning to use different tools in the kitchen is a useful life-skill, whether their future is in manufacturing, the culinary arts, or, yes, even if surgery is going to be their calling.
  2. Help with comparison shopping, whether online or at a store. It is the first step in understanding what smart purchasing entails. Finely tuned web search skills in ecommerce, at least for now, are transferable skills in accounting, procurement, contract negotiations, data analysis and almost any career where one needs to be resourceful and efficient in navigating the internet and gathering knowledge.
  3. Help as a navigator during drives. This is a great way for tweens and teens to start observing streets signs and markings, learn how to exercise common sense while choosing between alternative routes, how to time their commute to be punctual, finding safe spots to park, knowing how to respect authority on the roads, and understanding directions while gaining a general sense of the map and their own coordinates so that they are never blindly following the GPS when the time comes for them to start driving. Knowing to drive calmly and confidently is a critical life skill, for now.

At AlligatorZone, we are big proponents of lifelong learning, and of empowering children with lifeskills early on so that they navigate their high school years and college years without self-doubt. Even though we keep developing many formal programs to help teachers, parents and guardians foster industry-awareness and self-awareness among students, we believe that the best learning environment in one’s early years is at home and with friends, and the most foundational teachers, one’s loving elders at home.

If you liked this article, drop us a line to let us know. If you have stories to share about chores that have yielded multiple life-lessons in your own experience, please send them to our editors and they may amplify your tips with credit to you (unless you wish to remain anonymous).

Picture credit: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Blogging and the Bibliophile

For middle-school or high-school students who love to read books, the theme for a blog may be right under their noses.


One of the advantages of being a school student is that you will have to read different kinds of books. There will be other books that you read because you want to. Every time you read a book, you will form an opinion about the book. Sometimes other friends may ask you for your opinion about a book if they know that you have already read it. Those opinions can be the theme of a blog.

In other words, you could set up a book review blog.

Here are a few tips to make your book review blog a rewarding activity.

  1. No spoilers. Do not ever give away the ending of a story, or any plot twists. That would be a disservice to other readers and to the author.
  2. Kindness. Be kind in how you judge a book. It is very tough to be an author, and you want to share only constructive opinions. If a book did not resonate with you, then suggest the kind of readers that may find the book appealing.
  3. Intrigue. Leave some intrigue. Leave some unanswered questions. Make your readers wonder, and want to come back to read your next review.

Remember that if you can write your original thoughts about the books you read, very soon you may even find a following. Some day you may be able to meet and interview the authors of books you read and review on your blog.

Create your own rating system. If it is clever and catchy, bibliophiles
will start looking for your rating on a book, and that is powerful.

Your book reviews can also include a link to the book for readers of your blog to purchase it directly from your favorite book store.

A book review blog will help you develop powerful analytical skills that are very useful in the real world. Do consider creating your own book review blog.

This blog post is a warm-up before introducing school students to the Blog School by

Blogging to learn in public.

The third in our series on blogging strategies for middle-
and high-school students is about how to use blogging to think aloud while
learning something new.


Thinking up topics for a blog can sometimes be a challenge. It helps to come up
with a general theme for our blog.

A simple strategy is to set the tone of a learner and write the blog as if we
are thinking aloud. It helps to pick a topic about which we want to learn more, and start writing about it, one blog post after another.

This approach can accomplish a few valuable things besides providing a steady stream of topics for essays.

  • Learning in public through blogging helps us rekindle or develop our innate
    curiosity. The more questions we ask, the better the questions get because we
    learn how to start narrowing our focus on what we want to learn, and thus our
    questions become more focused. Somewhere along the way as we are growing up, we
    stop asking as many questions as we probably used to, when we were toddlers.
    Using a blog to revive that skill of asking a series of questions out of
    curiosity is a worthwhile exercise.
  • Learning in public allows us to stay vulnerable and less subject to
    criticism. Blogs published on the internet can attract cruel public scrutiny.
    Stating upfront that we are merely documenting our learning journey in a
    particular subject changes that perception that we are expert bloggers spewing
    out advice to the world through the blog. Most people want to help a student
    out. A blog can be an honest and authentic attempt at learning a new subject.
  • Learning in public allows us to find allies and mentors in our learning
    journey and present their thoughts as fresh blog posts. This could take the
    form of being able to reach out to experts in the field we are seeking to learn
    and interview them for our blog. We could even invite them as guest bloggers.

In general, learning in public using a blog makes for a powerful strategy to
show future employers and college admissions official how we learn and how we
think. It is a wonderful mechanism to share whatever little we are learning
with others who may know less than us and are not willing to be vulnerable and learn
in public. It is said that we learn a skill must better and faster if we try to
teach it to others.

Last but not the least, using our blog to learn in public, we believe, is a
form of selfless community service, and the joy derived from that very act of
blogging and sharing one’s learning journey becomes its own reward.

This blog post is a warm-up before introducing school students to the Blog School by

Photo credit: Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Blogger’s block.

When we start writing essays or blogging, it might take a
while for us to get warmed up. How does one make blogging a regular habit? Here
are a few things to try.

Take one thing or one concept and start trying to understand
it really well. If you want to use the Internet for getting a deeper
understanding of your chosen topic, then cite your sources. If you have a way
to go directly to the source, then try that because it will make your writings unique
and refreshing. For example, if you have any elder in the family who has
experienced the tsunami in Japan or in Sri Lanka, you can have a deep
conversation with them and write about their experience. If you have an
opportunity to sit down with a grand parent and learn about how life was when
they were kids, that could be a source of a unique perspective on life.
Whichever approach you take, keep your essay authentic.

You are writing down a
conversation that is in your mind, or with others, in your own way of

Feel free to write your blog posts in multiple installments
if you have not arrived at the whole story. Save it in draft mode on your own
computer. Write out the whole thing and post each installment separately, one
after the other. When you do that, try to end each piece of the overall story
with some sort of intrigue or a cliff-hanger. This can make it engaging for the

Others may not have the same kind of exposure to the things you
write about. That may be the world of video games or the kinds of experiences about
which you are writing. Take the time to explain concepts, scenarios, and things
in simple and non-technical language, without assuming your readers know it so
that they understand what you are trying to convey exactly as intended.

Try to be kind and helpful to your readers when you share
your knowledge by writing on your blog. Give them some context for the topic
you are addressing and try to paint a picture with your words to help your
readers get in the right frame of mind for being able to enjoy your article.

Do not be afraid to use your blog post to pose a question or
leave questions unanswered. The readers may not answer it. However, just
posting the question will help you think about it later, and you may find your
way to the answer as you start thinking about it.

We will share more ideas for making blogging a joyful
pursuit for the middle school and high school student. Remember, blogging is a
written conversation you are starting, first with yourself, and later as you
build an audience, with people who want to hear your perspective.

This blog post is a warm-up before introducing school students to the Blog School by AlligatorZone.

Picture credit:
Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash