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"This teenager just made a $185,000 mistake. And I'm proud of him."

Hands up if you’re perfect?

Splashed across the front page of the papers today was the fresh, baby face of a teenager. What was he guilty of? Murder? Theft? Abuse? Terrorism?

No.

Alexander Beniac-Brooks was running an online business venture that failed.

Once I’d read past the inflammatory wording used by the newspaper, who called his business dealings a “get-rich-quick” scheme, and said that private schools had been “rocked” by the “implosion” of the students entrepreneurial “scandal”, I thought just one thing.

This isn’t a scandal.

Front page news.

Instead, I thought: good on you, Alexander Beniac-Brooks. Good job thinking outside the square. For taking a risk. For seeing a business opportunity and exploring it.  For having faith in your entrepreneurial skills, thinking big, and not relying on a textbook education to pay you a wage.

It’s not to say there aren’t questions related to the story. How did these students procure these types of funds to invest? Do they have the capacity to know what investment is? Did they understand the risk? What’s an 18 year old doing trying to trade in European watches and luxury import brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton?

Taking a risk, is what. And for that, they should be congratulated. Because there’s a good life lesson here. And it’s exactly what happens when you take a punt on an investment – sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

Australia needs to stop being so averse to business failure. Those wringing their hands over the children need to realise we can’t shield high school students against these dealings and nor should we.  What we need to do is educate them.

The old system of going to school, learning by rote, studying the curriculum hard, getting good grades, going to University and getting a job for life is crumbling. The jobs that these graduates will be doing in 10 years probably don’t even exist yet. So we need to encourage more students to have an entrepreneurial mindset, not denigrate them when they do.

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This is nothing more than hugely upscaled version of a lemonade stand. Or the kid at my high school who, when the drink machine broke down, sold cans out of his locker for a tidy profit. Or my sister, who woke up at 6am to make salad rolls that she would on-sell to classmates.  There are entrepreneurial opportunities everywhere and we need to foster these creative schemes.

Businesses fail. Entrepreneurs fail. Investors lose out. That is life. But I think what’s different about this case is that it’s being trotted out as a warning. And that’s not helpful to anyone,  ecause what’s holding back this country from the entrepreneurial magic bullet is the ability of Australians to take chances and be backed in by investors.

What do some of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs have in common? A couple of things.  Firstly, none of them are Australian. And secondly, they’ve all suffered spectacular failures. Richard Branson left school at 16 to launch a business and it was a fiasco.  Bill Gates‘ first business went bust. Walt Disney‘s first cartoon company went bankrupt. Henry Ford’s first car company went bankrupt.  Thomas Edison tried more than 10,000 times to invent the light bulb before he found the won that worked, and Janine Allis started Boost Juice from her home kitchen.

Founder of Boost Juice. Via facebook/janineallis

So Alexander Beniac-Brooks had a business fail, leaving his classmates about $185,0000 out of pocket. His parents have reportedly footed the bill.  And his fellow student investors still refer to him as “a nice guy”, “pretty confident” and “would never have done that to scam anyone”.

A family member told Fairfax the student was very disappointed in himself but the fallout from the fiasco had been resolved.

We don’t need knee-jerk reactions from media and other naysayers. We don’t need schools to “shut it down” and bury the dead, but instead, to analyse it for it’s value.  We need schools to take initiative and instate a curriculum and culture that can encourage new enterprises.

More thinking:

It’s OK if your kid’s a failure. In fact, it’s really quite good.

You need to stop thinking of your career as a ladder. Instead, think of it as a jungle gym.

Private school students have no academic edge over students in the public system, study finds.

Do you agree we need to encourage entrepreneurship?

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