Beyond the Glass Slipper Raising Girls Who Can Stand on Their Own Two Feet
Hi, I’m Brian, and I’m a business executive who’s been fortunate enough to have had a rewarding career throughout the past several years. I’ve helped build some world-class brands and companies, including IMAX and Coupons.com, and created hundreds of jobs in the process. But I’m also a dad of two young girls. And it was spending time with my daughters that inspired my latest efforts with The Startup Squad and set me on the course for what I believe is my most important project thus far.
In Spring 2019, the first book in The Startup Squad, a book series and brand for elementary age girls, will be released by Macmillan Publishers with the hope of inspiring girls around the world to start their entrepreneurial journeys. I’ve been working on this project for the past four years, and I’ve poured my heart and soul into it.
Why? Because I believe that entrepreneurship will empower girls to realize their potential, no matter their passions. My goal with this book series isn’t to turn every little girl into a business owner or CEO (although, wouldn’t that be great?). But I do fully believe that the experience of entrepreneurship – learning basic business skills, grit, a growth mindset, and most importantly how to fail and get back up to try again – will help girls reach their potential in life no matter what they want to do or who they grow up to be.
Let me take you back to when my oldest daughter was eight. She was introduced to the exciting world of sales when she was tasked with selling Girl Scout cookies, and then when she fumbled around trying to run a charity bake sale with a friend. She was enthusiastic, her attitude was positive, she was so motivated to be successful! The problem was, she didn’t know what to do. Literally. She wanted to be successful, but she didn’t know what practical steps to take in order to get that cookie badge or raise money for her organization.
When I saw that she was eager but, honestly, clueless about how to sell, I realized then that the basics of sales, marketing, and customer service escaped her. Of course, she was eight—so my expectations weren’t sky high. But this experience did get my wheels turning.
Let me pause right there and switch gears to talk about the Rainbow Fairies. I promise there’s a connection, just hang with me.
Those of you with young daughters who know about this 100+ book series are probably cringing a bit. Not to offend anyone (my youngest daughter probably read the whole series), but the Rainbow Fairies books are the lowest common denominator of marketing to girls. It was book number 50-something of the series that pushed me over the edge as I was reading it to my youngest daughter one night.
We can do better . . .
Really? Is this the best we could do for reading material? I give the series a little credit for stirring my daughter’s imagination and desire to read. But she could have gotten the same benefit from reading Who Was Helen Keller while being inspired, empowered, and uplifted at the same time. I searched for a “take the world by storm” sort of book for my girls that had an entrepreneurial focus, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for—so I decided to take matters into my own hands. If I couldn’t find the type of material I wanted my girls to read, I would create it.
On that Sunday morning, June 22, 2014, a lightbulb went off in my brain. I thought about my oldest daughter, struggling to understand the very basic nature of how to run a business. I looked at my youngest daughter and what I was intellectually feeding her via the Rainbow Fairies. And I made a decision: I would create a book series for elementary school girls that would inspire and nurture their entrepreneurial spirit.
I wanted to get girls excited about opening their first lemonade stand and to teach them basic business concepts. I wanted my girls to grow up understanding how capable and smart they are and to give them the tools to succeed, regardless of the paths they choose later in life. Girl Scout cookies and Rainbow Fairies came together in one significant moment, and I decided to create a brand for elementary school girls that would inspire and nurture their entrepreneurial spirit.
I understand that little girls have dreams, and often those dreams are inspired by the things they see on TV or in movies or on the toy aisles. I’m not trying to knock any particular brand or business, but neither do I want to concede that all girls are wired the same, think the same or gravitate to the same type of marketing that we see day in and day out—marketing and messages that tend to generalize what young girls want or aspire to be. Because I firmly believe this to be true: Not every girl wants to be a princess. Some girls want to organize the staff and run the castle. Some want to lead the charge by designing and building the moat. Other want to break that uncomfortable glass slipper and open a company with better footwear.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that in order for a girl to ultimately be successful, she has to find a place where she’s the boss. I don’t believe that, either. But I do believe that the basic principles of entrepreneurship are valuable ones to learn. Life-changing, even. The Startup Squad is about helping girls reach their potential, whatever their passions. About inspiring them to become more than they can imagine. About teaching them basic life skills. And about showing them that failure is simply an opportunity to grow—that being successful is about getting back up and trying again.
This has been an amazing, humbling, frustrating, but more than anything else rewarding four-plus years. The impact on the girls who have read the initial manuscript I wrote has been beyond my wildest expectations: 88% of nearly 100 beta reader girls said that the manuscript made them want to start their own businesses, and a number of them already have! I can’t wait to impact more girls around the world and help create the next generation of female leaders.
My ultimate hope in creating The Startup Squad is that each young girl who is impacted by it, whether she’s opening her first lemonade stand or launching her business on Shark Tank, will learn to embrace her unique gifts, believe in her abilities, and break the proverbial glass ceiling.
While the first book in The Startup Squad series won’t be released by Macmillan Publishers until spring 2019, there are a few ways you can support some incredible girl entrepreneurs as well as help to discover and inspire others.
In the back of the first book in our series, we are going to feature one real-life girl entrepreneur and her business. Please take a minute to visit TheStartupSquad.com and read about our contest and our first contestants – these girls are amazing! If you know any other promising young girl entrepreneurs, we’d love for you to get the word out and encourage them to enter. Also, please share our gallery of entrepreneurs, which includes links to their websites, to support these amazing girls and help them inspire the girls that will follow.
This guest post was authored by Brian Weisfeld, founder of The Startup Squad