Ireland skipped the industrial revolution. While the 19th century saw the rest of Europe gear up and mechanize, its economy remained largely agricultural. Family farms and businesses are the cornerstones of Irish culture: their lower-tech, smaller-scale natures are major components of it’s unspoiled landscapes and tight-knit communities today.
Like most Irish people our family had business owners and farmers in every generation. I grew up playing in my maternal grandmother’s sweet shop, and being hunted out of my maternal grandfather’s garage, (what American readers would call an auto-repair shop). My father’s parents were farmers, and although people may not automatically think of farmers as entrepreneurs, they are very much small business owners; taking risks, investing in their businesses, trying to judge the market, and producing what others want to buy.
While I grew up in a depopulated, rural area, from my early teens onward, I was cheap labor surrounded by employment opportunities. Saturdays were often spent herding cattle and sheep, watering plants in glasshouses, or picking and weighing strawberries. Working and having responsibilities from an early age taught me the value of money and the importance of hard work.
Finding part-time employment opportunities for teenagers in Beijing is practically impossible, whereas the experience of working for themselves, whether through a school project or independently is within the grasp of most teens here. We often think that entrepreneurs are born rather than made, but educational initiatives at The British School of Beijing Shunyi and Canadian International School of Beijing are focused on developing entrepreneurship through the classroom (p38). We speak to young business owners Alyssa Lam, a student at Dulwich College Beijing (p54) and Jasmine Xie, a Saint Paul American School alumnus (p56) about the roots of their business acumen, while students from Beijing International Bilingual Academy ponder the causes of success (p42).
We know that many of our new readers landed in Beijing just before the school term started; spending the last few months helping their families find their feet. Trailing and stay-at-home spouses tend to do the heavy lifting when it comes to settling the family into a new city: getting the kids into the school routine, finding the supermarket, the hospital, the best takeout, and making your house a home. While we’re not suggesting you’re ready to suit-up and start a business right now, get inspired by what others have accomplished. This month we hear from three moms who started their own, successful, businesses here in Beijing (p54).
This article originally appeared on page 7 of the beijingkids November 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Aisling O’Brien, wikimedia