Want Your Kid to Be a Billionaire Entrepreneur? These Schools Want to Make It Happen

On a cloudless October morning in Austin, hundreds of people stroll the grassy aisles between a half-dozen rows of white tents, where entrepreneurs sell everything from iced coffee to pottery to handmade dog treats, pickles, and gluten-free baked goods. One booth sells security software, and one sells wooden virtual reality headsets. At another, Baker Bros Designs, which sells stationery and change jars printed with psychedelic paint swirls, a handsome young man introduces himself and gestures to his younger brother--"the artist." He hands me a business card that lists their Etsy page in case we want to buy more.

This is no hipster flea market. The sellers are kids as young as 5 years old. We're on the oak-shaded grounds of the Pease Mansion--also known as Woodlawn--a legendary white-columned edifice atop a hill in the city's toniest historic district. The house belongs to Jeff Sandefer, a billionaire Texas oilman, and his wife. Three decades ago, he began educating entrepreneurs at the University of Texas; later, he and others launched the independent Acton School of Business, which runs an MBA program. Then he and his wife co-founded Acton Academy, a private Austin K-12 school that has spun off affiliate locations in 25 other cities as far-flung as Kuala Lumpur; 26 more are slated to open this year. He also started, as an offshoot of that school, the Acton Children's Business Fair, a small but fast-growing series of events like the one here at his house, where kids aged 5 to 15 spend half a day selling goods and services they create.

There were 17 affiliated Children's Business Fairs in the U.S. in 2016. Sandefer expects there to be 50 this year. "That's all with zero PR--just word of mouth," he says as he surveys the scene on his lawn: 110 booths manned by 230 local kids, who'll sell to about 2,300 customers. The cuteness goes without saying--it's your neighborhood lemonade stand on steroids--but Sandefer sees something more important happening.

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