Understanding the entrepreneurial kid

Is it possible that industrialists are born and not made? The answer may never be known, but we know that the traits of true entrepreneurship appear very early in life.

Judy Barnes, vice president of marketing and sales for EHB Productions in Akron, is dedicating much of her life to helping teachers and parents understand how to recognize and nourish entrepreneurial traits in children.

She works with Fred Carr, director of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Akron. Barnes conducts research, interviewing entrepreneurs about their childhood. The center analyzes the data, and Barnes, with others involved with the center, works with teachers in the Akron Public School System and parents to identify children with these traits.

Barnes is no stranger to the struggles of owning and running her own business. She has hosted seminars on sales and sales management nationally. She, her late husband, Duane, and her mother, Aubrey McDonald-Brenneman, purchased a jewelry distribution company in 1976. Duane also owned a car dealership in Aurora.

She and her husband have first-hand experience raising an entrepreneurial child.

Their son, Evan Barnes, is the president of EHB Productions. In 1993, at age 21, he founded the professional audio production company and recording studio in a portion of the former Acme bakery building, 35 feet below ground.

The company has since grown into additional office space at ground level but continues to operate a live recording studio in the subterranean space encased by 18-inch-thick concrete walls.

“Evan was a great inspiration to me in working with entrepreneurs,” she says. “I could see very early on he started showing these tendencies. I didn’t recognize it right away, not until I started researching.”

Barnes says there is a distinct difference between an entrepreneur and a business owner.

“The entrepreneur’s thrust is revolving around a passion,” Barnes says. “It starts very early. With most people, you can tell by the time they’re 4 or 5 years old.

“This can be very challenging to the teacher because obviously they cannot invest all of their time in those students. But, at least if there is an understanding with what these characteristics are, the teachers can help give guidance. The teachers we’ve worked with can go back and view their class in a different way.”

Barnes says the sometimes “irritating qualities” children exhibit in the classroom become assets as entrepreneurs.

“One example is that they talk too much and yet that becomes networking and relationship building,” Barnes says. “They really walk to their own beat and have a very focused interest, generally in one area. There’s one thing that they’re really passionate about.

Those children often become charismatic leaders, she says.

“That’s why it’s so important to get them off to a positive start so they become leaders in a positive direction and not a negative one. They believe that their way is the way to do something, no matter what the directions say.

“They also start very early on finding ways to make money. They know money can give them the freedom they’re looking for, to do what they want to do.”

In a recent television interview, Barnes and her son discussed what it was like growing up in an entrepreneurial family with such traits.

“Evan explained that when you have a dream, nobody’s interested in it until your dream becomes a reality, then everyone wants to talk to you about it,” Barnes says. “In high school, Evan was interested in music, but his classmates were interested in going off to college and becoming ‘professional people.’ This made him feel very alone and that no one cared about what he was interested in.”

Barnes says entrepreneurial children have their own ideas about what they want to learn and often “turn off” to subjects outside of their interests.

“The parents and the teachers need to find ways to show them how a subject can be meaningful for them to learn as much as they can,” Barnes says. “For example, if they own a business, they need to learn math. Evan once told me, ‘If they’d just told me there was a history in music, I would have paid a whole bunch more attention in history class.’

“I think parents need to recognize that this may be their child’s tendency, and the most important thing they can do is to develop that passion and help them to learn as much as they can.” How to reach: EHB Productions, (330) 253-0025