Brian Weisfeld is the author, with Nicole C. Kear, of Party Problems, a new middle grade novel for kids. It's the third in their Startup Squad series. Weisfeld, a businessman, is the founder of The Startup Squad initiative, which seeks to help girls reach their potential. He lives in Silicon Valley.
Q: What inspired you to create the Startup Squad books, and how did you and Nicole C. Kear end up collaborating on the series?
A: It’s an unusual story. I spent my career building businesses such as IMAX and Coupons.com. Then I watched my older daughter struggle to sell Girl Scout cookies, and found myself searching for more empowering influences for my girls.
That was the spark for The Startup Squad. I wanted to create a novel series to inspire girls to start their first business and to empower them with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Regarding Nicole, it’s important to know that I’m an author, not a writer. I spent three humbling years learning how to write for kids and creating my original manuscript before I signed with Macmillan (I did a TEDx if anyone is interested in the more entertaining parts of my journey).
Once I signed with Macmillan, we looked for a co-author who had the ability to weave business lessons into a narrative with a light touch. And had a great sense of humor. That led us to the fabulous Nicole C. Kear.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the first book in the series called it "perfect for young entrepreneurs." What do you hope kids learn about business and entrepreneurship from the books?
A: The Startup Squad books are divided into three sections which I describe as Inspiration, Information, and Aspiration.
The Inspiration section is the bulk of the book; novels about four sixth-grade girls that have been referred to as The Baby-Sitters Club meets Lean In.
The narrative covers their adventures, relationships, successes, and failures – while in the background they are creating and running different businesses. My hope is that after reading the narrative, readers will be inspired to start their own lemonade stands or other businesses.
The Information section is a nonfiction section with business tips drawn from the narrative. My hope is that readers who were inspired by the story to start a business will use these tips to be more successful.
The Aspiration section is an interview with an actual girlpreneur who has built her own business. My hope is that readers will realize that their businesses can become big businesses as well.
So, my overall hope is that young readers will be inspired by The Startup Squad books to start their own business and to begin to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
It’s not that I think every reader should grow up to be an entrepreneur, but I believe strongly that kids (our series is girl targeted but boy inclusive) with an entrepreneurial mindset (who see opportunities instead of problems, who say yes when everyone else says no, who are comfortable with risk and failure) will be more likely to reach their potential in life, regardless of the path they choose.
Q: Do you usually know how the novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?
A: We are very much plotters vs. pantsers, partly because of the way the books are created.
The editorial team at Macmillan and I create a detailed outline of the plot and business lessons of each book. Then Nicole takes the outline, adds her own touches, and creates her magic.
Nicole, the editors, and I go back and forth editing the draft, which doesn’t change that substantially from the original outline, until we all sign off on the final manuscript.
Q: Do the books need to be read in order?
A: Not at all. We tried to make each book stand on its own. The stories and business lessons certainly flow well from book #1 through book #3 but each one is meant to stand on its own.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: So much! We’re working on plans for the additional books in the series, more charitable programs to get the books and an entrepreneurial mindset into the hands and heads of kids who might not be able to afford a copy, other ways to reach and inspire kids (mostly girls!), and much more. Whew!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Our website includes a host of activity kits, teacher and parent guides, other book recommendations, tips for parents, and videos of nearly 100 girls between the ages of 6-16 who run their own businesses. Take a look at www.thestartupsquad.com.
And we’d love to help spread the word about any other amazing girlpreneurs out there! Please send them our way via our website or on social media @thestartupsquad.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb