Texas prides itself on being the living model of American entrepreneurship. Our commitment to economic freedom and low taxes—to say nothing of our rugged individualism—all work to ensure that Texas remains a place where job creators are forged.
Yet, despite the high value Texans see in free enterprise, too often we join the rest of the country in using a parade of ill-conceived regulations to penalize children who experiment with opening a business.
For example, a couple of years ago officials ticketed the grandmother of a brother and sister in McAllen, Texas, who were selling lemonade without a permit. Both kids had planned on using the money to buy food for their pet crab.
Elsewhere, just last month, a local health department shut down 11-year-old Chloe Stirling’s cupcake business, which she ran in her parents’ kitchen in Madison County, Illinois. Chloe was making around $200 a month, saving the money for a car. Officials told Chloe that she can get a permit, but only after her parents add a second kitchen.
In New York, police officers ticketed Nora and Jameala Lahoud, ages 9 and 11 respectively, for running a lemonade stand in front of their house because they lacked a vendor’s license. Their father lamented over how the girls “thought they were in trouble” for their foray into business.
These are not the lessons we want to teach our kids.
Texans understand instinctively that when kids set up a lemonade stand, they are learning a valuable lesson in hard work and self-sufficiency. We hand over our quarters smiling, not because we expect a sip of Kool-Aid’s finest, but because we know that we are helping one kid learn how to turn a dream into a success.
It’s worth considering, then, how these run-ins with government upset our children’s willingness to enter the market and how their discouragement will affect our state’s future entrepreneurial spirit.
The strength of Texas’ competitive economy (as well as the nation’s) depends on the talent and drive we foster in our littlest entrepreneurs.
President Obama acknowledged this fact in his State of the Union when he reminded us that we “prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world class education.”
That world class education, however, cannot come from public schools alone. It must also come from a diverse learning environment outside the classroom, where children can supplement their lessons with practical experiences and apply their skills to the challenges of earning money.
That’s why it so troubling when government forces our littlest entrepreneurs out of business. In each case, the government dismisses their small enterprise and teaches them that they are powerless to make their ambitions a reality.
It’s hard enough for adults to see their investments crumble because of bureaucratic interference. It’s even worse when children are taught early that entrepreneurship is not worth the effort, especially when you consider triumphs they can achieve.
Take Steven Crandall, for instance, who at 15 started a lawn-mowing business with his younger brother in Grapevine. Within 3 years, Steven had earned $14,000 and hired six friends. Steven became a job creator, but his success only occurred because the law allowed him to express his creativity.
Children learn valuable lessons when they attempt to start a business—lessons that are firmly tied with Texas’s commitment to self-sufficiency and economic growth.
If Texans wish to see our state’s independent spirit live on, we need to cut back the micromanagement of business and allow our littlest entrepreneurs to build a dynamic future for the next generation.
Kathleen Hunker works as a policy analyst in Austin, Texas. She is a graduate of Columbia University School of Law and the University College London, where she earned an J.D./ LL.M. in public law and human rights.
NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman. It was reprinted with the author’s permission.