Author & Founder/ Principal, Case Marketing
From an Idea to Nike and From an Idea to Disney are the world’s first business biographies for kids. This book series takes young readers into the world of entrepreneurship and business through stories of how our favorite companies came to be. Each book begins with the founder’s childhood and unveils where his or her big idea came from. Along the way, readers learn all about entrepreneurship, identify with the struggles and challenges that every entrepreneur faces (yes, even Walt Disney and Phil Knight), and realize the importance of grit, perseverance, and passion. From an Idea to Nikeand From an Idea to Disney reveal fun facts about the brands we love, introduce new business terms in easy-to-understand definitions, and include humor on every page with awesome illustrations from C. S. Jennings. These are the books kids, parents, and teachers have been waiting for!
What inspired you to create this series?
I have a company that composes MBA case studies for some of the top business schools in the world. I’ve written about many different companies and have always thought their stories would make for a great children’s book series. The reality is that one in eight people are entrepreneurs but we do very little to expose them to these topics until maybe high school or college. I believe kids should be introduced to business and entrepreneurship similar to the way business students are taught – through stories of how the best in the world did it.
When my kids entered second and sixth grade, I went looking for just that – biographies about companies but written for kids. When I couldn’t find them, I realized I was the person who needed to write them. From an Idea to… offers kids a first glimpse into the world of business and entrepreneurship – no other book out there does that.
How did you choose which entrepreneurs to write about?
I didn’t. When my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Houghton, bought the book series, I provided them with a list of 55 companies I thought would be interesting to feature in From an Idea to... My editor and her team chose Nike, Disney, Google, and LEGO for two reasons. One, they are brands that kids are very familiar with and two, they cover a nice range of industries. Kids can find a lot things to connect with in this book series whether they are an artist like Walt Disney, an athlete like Phil Knight, a computer whiz like Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or a builder like Ole Kirk Christiansen.
What is the key lesson you hope kids take away from the books? Have your own kids read them?
The key lesson of From an Idea to… is that anyone can be entrepreneur and create something that changes the world if you have three things: passion, grit, and an idea that solves a problem. I also want kids to understand that success doesn’t come overnight. Instead it’s a long process of hard work with failures along the way. The trick is to learn from your failures and move on. My books highlight many of the founders’ failures and how they persevered through them.
Have my kids read them? You bet. My twin daughters were 12 when this process started and acted as my early editors. My son is now 10 and the perfect age for the series. I recently gave him copies of the all the books (including advance copies of From an Idea to Google and From an Idea to LEGO). He read them all in a matter of days then exclaimed me, “Mom, these are really good!” I think he was surprised his mom could produce something so entertaining and interesting.
What is the most surprising thing you learned writing this series?
I think one of the most surprising things was realizing just how many failures and struggles each of these entrepreneurs had to work through. Walt Disney was fired from his first job, bankrupted his first company, and bamboozled out of the rights of his first successful cartoon character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Phil Knight was a very shy, insecure person whose father told him that his idea for a running sneaker company was no good. Determined to prove that his idea was a good one, he spent weekends selling sneakers out of the trunk of his car to runners at track meets. It just goes to show that you “regular” people with passion and grit can change the world.
I also came across so many interesting facts that I included separate “Fun Facts” boxes throughout each chapter. My favorite Fun Fact is found in From an Idea to LEGO: “Fun Fact: A Danish mathematician calculated that six LEGO bricks can be put together 915,103,765 different ways.” That just blew my mind!
Which entrepreneur do you find the most personally inspiring? Why?
From an Idea to LEGO is a fascinating story and its founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, is an inspirational human being who every child should read about. Early on, Ole persevered through some unbelievably hard times. His wife passed away leaving him to raise their four young boys by himself and he was forced to lay off all his employees at his carpentry company during the Great Depression. Not only that, once he got LEGO up and running, his factory burned down THREE times (twice when he was alive and once when his son Godfredt was running the company). But Ole never gave up knowing his children and employees counted on him.
Will there be additional books in the series? Who will they feature?
I’m hoping this series grows to include dozens of companies from all types of industries. There are so many important stories and lessons to teach young readers who are going to be our future business leaders and entrepreneurs.
If I was to choose the next round of companies to feature, I would select American Girl, which was founded by a female entrepreneur named Pleasant Rowland. I love the story of Starbucks, which was NOT founded by Howard Schultz however he is obviously a critical part of its story and changed the way the world consumes coffee beverages. I’d also like to include a tech company like Apple, Facebook, or Amazon and a nonprofit organization such as Special Olympics.