Budding entrepreneurs would be hard-pressed to find a better role model than Mark Cuban. The 64-year-old owner of the Dallas Mavericks and an investor on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank” started his first business at age 12 selling garbage bags door to door. Over the next five decades, the billionaire evolved into one of the world’s most famous serial entrepreneurs, creating (and later selling) successful tech companies like software reseller MicroSolutions, and investing in promising startups like Broadcast.com, which he sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion.

But like so many entrepreneurs, Cuban’s career highlight reel features a few notable failures, too. Like the bar he opened his senior year at Indiana University — before he was even old enough to drink legally — which officials shut down over underage drinking. Or when he was fired from three straight jobs not long after college graduation. There was the powdered milk enterprise that he started shortly after moving to Dallas. “I honestly thought it would make a killer business, and it lasted minutes,” he once said. 

Cuban makes a point to mention these misfires when he’s speaking with young entrepreneurs like the ones in Nicole Franczvai’s entrepreneurship class at Lewisville High School, just 25 miles north of his homebase in Dallas. For 5 years, the Lewisville Independent School District has partnered with the nonprofit Uncharted Learning to bring its INCubatoredu course to the district’s high school students. 

Think of the year-long INCubatoredu classes as a lower-stakes version of “Shark Tank.” Teams of students create real products or services that solve a problem in their communities, then build those solutions from scratch. Along the way,  they make decisions about everything from materials and manufacturing to packaging and marketing. At the end of the year, teams pitch their ideas to investors for a shot at start-up capital. 

Some teams sustain their new businesses long after they complete the course. Most don’t, though. That’s OK, according to Cuban. The key to success, he tells people, is not only learning from failures, but using that newly acquired knowledge to fuel the next big idea. As he wrote in his book “How to Win at the Sport of Business,” “[i]t doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you.”

November is National Entrepreneurship Month, which spotlights the importance of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education. I spoke with Cuban about his visit to Franczvia’s class, the importance of entrepreneurship education and why students should embrace failure rather than fear it.

Kelly Branning: Why did you think it was important to visit the young entrepreneurs in Lewisville? 

Mark Cuban: The ability of our country to compete globally depends on entrepreneurs innovating, so the earlier we can get young people involved in that process, the better. But the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs — agility, resilience, creative problem solving, teamwork — are often hard to pick up through the more traditional courses they take during middle and high school. Classes like INCubatoredu in Lewisville let kids build those skills in a supportive atmosphere while they’re also working on something that’s meaningful to them personally.

Branning: What did you see during your visit?

Cuban: The kids at Lewisville were awesome! They make me confident that our future is in good hands. I told them that their entrepreneurship course is laying out a path for them to be successful. I said that one day, one of them will come back to Lewisville High School to share their successes, and they’ll say, “People didn’t understand my idea then, didn’t see my idea playing out or didn’t get it. But now you know who I am.”

Branning: What does entrepreneurship education teach students about failure? Why is it so important for students to become comfortable with the idea that success isn’t automatic?

Cuban: Failure is part of life, no matter what direction a person chooses to take. I’ve failed many, many times over the years, and I’m not embarrassed by that. These kids shouldn’t be, either. It’s not about how many times you fail or how hard it was. It’s knowing that all you have to do is be right one time.

Branning: We have been tracking the shifting world of work for some time. What role do you see entrepreneurship playing in the future of work?

Cuban: Businesses always evolve. Great entrepreneurs are curious and agile. Creating new jobs and redefining how all employees participate in moving companies forward and participating in the upside they create will be a key role of entrepreneurs. But being an entrepreneur and starting a business doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and all of a sudden you make a lot of money. Being an entrepreneur is the harder way. If you’re willing to take the initiative and start a business, anything is possible.

Branning: Not every team of INCubatoredu students will make it to “Shark Tank” or will go on to start their own business. What skills do students learn in these programs that can help regardless of where life takes them? 

Cuban: It teaches them how to deal with objections and come up with solutions. No matter what kind of business you’re involved with at school, whether it’s a lemonade stand or an auto company, the skills kids pick up in class creating a startup will last them a lifetime. 

The key to starting a business when you’re young is doing things that you can do yourself, things that you can do with your own time. If it’s a product, do something that’s easy for you to get and easy for you to sell. By learning how to do that, it really comes down to one simple thing: the best businesses are things you can control and do yourself. That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.