How young is too young to be an entrepreneur? According to a new children’s book, the earlier the better!
It may seem like a novel idea to teach a 6 year old girl or boy about the basic principles of business, but if you look around the media, there are a few examples of youth making a difference and stretching those wings, proving business ideals are formed from quite a young age.
Over in New York, 6 year old Kamila Mirtalibova launched an online campaign which shows signs of entrepreneurship as well as humanitarian traits. Kamila was sick of seeing people dressed up as popular cartoon characters in Times Square chasing parents and kids for photos and then harassing them for money. So she decided to raise money online to buy the same costumes, find people to dress up and offer fan photos in the tourist hot spot, but without asking kids and parents for money.
Kamila believes that by flooding Times Square with volunteers who offer the same service, it will disrupt the market and drive the money-hagglers away. Of that’s not some Mark Cuban-esque thinking we don’t know what is! It’s all about market competition baby!
Aside from offering free photos for fans, she wants to also take the characters to hospitals to cheer up sick kids. Basically Kamila didn’t like that a group of street performers had turned what was supposed to be a happy experience for kids, and made it an intimidating exchange, so she exercised her entrepreneurial skills to find a way to create something positive.
If your daughter or son isn’t at that stage just yet, don’t worry because we have found an awesome book that will share basic business principles with your young one in a fun way. The book is called ‘Bea is for Business’ and follows the story of Beatrice Banks, whom everyone calls Bea. Authors Jamie Brown and Meg Seitz didn’t just want to create a unique book, they wanted something that could be integrated into educational programs.
“Bea is for Business , LLC is an innovative, educational platform designed to teach children about business. We believe that starting the conversation about business and business principles with children at a young age will help them establish the skills necessary to think, plan , and solve problems more strategically and creatively – whether our children are artists or engineers, accountants or dancers,” the website states.
The content in Bea is for Business adheres to the new Common Core State Standards adopted by 48 states here in the US. So right now it is all about getting the word out in the hopes that the demand will force schools to incorporate it into their curriculum.
Jamie and Meg are business partners who launched the first Bea book in August 2013. In it, Bea spots wildflowers in the yard of her best friend, Lander, so they make bouquets and sell them at a festival. In the second book, Bea launches a party-planning venture. And just recently they published their third book in which Bea starts a caramel popcorn business.
“Business can be simple,” Meg told Biz Journals about their age appropriate content. “You make something or do something, and someone pays you for the value of it.”
As a child, Meg sold rocks and organized a babysitters’ club, and Jamie ran a lemonade stand with her identical twin sister. Both have MBA’s and were running successful businesses before teaming up for this amazing project. They self-published the book on Amazon and have been doing grass-roots marketing through social media, trying to spread the word. In fact they contacted us via twitter to let us know they existed (tip: getting in touch with us via twitter @girltalkhq is always a good way to get our attention).
We chatted with Meg via email about the business plan (pun intended) for the Bea series.
Why was it important to you and Jamie to write a series about business, as opposed to any other popular topic for girls (Disney princesses, fairytales)?
I think it was important to introduce a book series about business to young women because we really felt it was an opportunity to help shape young women’s thought process differently from the get-go, at a young age, when they’re getting that fairy tale, princess message. Jamie and I were both “kid entrepreneurs” – young women who played with business concepts and entrepreneurship at a young age, and I think that experienced shaped how we show up for the world today.
I think it’s been pretty cool to watch the Lean In movement take off, but ‘lean in’ means you have to change the way you do things currently; you have to ‘lean in’ from your current place in the world. What if a business point of view wasn’t as much about leaning in or changing what you’re doing at age 25 or 26, but it was just the place from which young women operated naturally because they just always thought with a business perspective. What’s possible for the future of women in business and leadership if girls learned business at age 7, 8, or 9, and that’s just how they broached everything?
There is a huge push to get girls interested in STEM topics, and business fits into that since it involves critical thinking and math (among other attributes). How do you hope the Bea series will change the lives of young girls?
We sincerely believe that business thinking applies to absolutely every situation life will throw at you. It applies to math, science, art, writing, music; competing on a soccer team, enrolling friends in a project for school, negotiating with a sibling over television time. In that sense, our hope is that Bea changes the way young girls show up in the world – we want the next generation to be better prepared, more innovative, creative, smart, etc. because they learned business skills and thinking at a young age.
As two women who have started your own business, what were some of the major obstacles you faced?
When I look at our Bea adventure from a larger perspective, the most major obstacle has been how we keep going, how we keep our momentum strong, how we keep it up. I think that’s where the team between me and Jamie is so powerful – we balance each other out in a lot of different ways, and usually when I’m down Jamie can lift me up, and vice versa. In some senses, everyone is a little bit like Bea – you’re trying to get an idea off the ground, you hit obstacles, and you keep going – and Jamie and I are no different.
It’s that team that keeps things moving. On another level, we hear a lot about what we’re not or what Bea isn’t – we’re not big enough, we’re not cheap enough, parents aren’t ready to teach their kids about business, kids aren’t ready to learn about business. When Jamie and I keep going, we’re challenging everyone who has ever told a girl that they can’t do something or they’re not enough in some way.
What would you say to encourage other women who have a great idea but don’t know where to start?
Just get something out there – maybe it’s a Facebook post, maybe it’s a blog post, maybe it’s just telling someone about your idea and asking for help. I think you can procrastinate about an idea and mull it over in your brain forever, when all you really need is just put the idea out there. Get your idea out of your brain and into the world. The right people will show up to support it, and, more importantly, support you. What future plans do you have for Bea aside from the book series?
Right now, we have more chapter books in the works; aside from that though, we have big dreams for Bea. We want her to revolutionize business education in whatever means fits for this young generation – we’ve talked about apps, webisodes, television, more content on our website, more materials in the classrooms, product like Bea’s Big Ideas notebook which appears in each book.
What we at GTHQ love about this idea is that it is multi-facted, and has the ability to reach kids and parents across a range of platforms. In an age where technology is the primary entertainment source for kids, you can’t afford not to market to them at their level. But it’s also great to disrupt the market, like Kamila has done with her street performer Indiegogo campaign, and offer something new and exciting.
Who says girls and boys can’t learn how to create and run a business before they reach elementary school?
We’re excited to promote content that empowers girls at any age. Just like British Author Mel Elliot has done with her ‘Pearl Power’ book which teaches kids about gender equality, we believe ‘Bea is for Business’ is an important resource for kids and will go a long way to stamping out the studies and statistics which say girls lose interest in any math or science-based topics by middle school.
Bea also joins the ranks of culture-disrupting products and innovators like Goldieblox which are adamant about changing the status quo and stereotypes of girls. It’s no longer about directing girls to the pink toy aisle and the notions of Disney Princesses which should enrapture the future generation, it is about opening their eyes to the possibilities available to them and taking gender out of the equation.