April 8, 2015

Young Female Entrepreneurs:Would Grace Thomas,the New American Girl Doll Inspire You to be a Teen Entrepreneur? 

     Recently I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Ruth Simon. “A Lesson in Entrepreneurship From a Doll” sparked my attention immediately. It was a surprise to learn American Girl has created the Grace Thomas doll, an aspiring entrepreneur. Grace has a passion for baking and at the age of nine appears to have all the makings of a successful baker. She also has a passion and vision to have her own bakery. Her grandparents have owned a bakery since she can remember. They love having a business and their enthusiasm has been an influence on Grace’s vision. Grace also has two friends who want to be her business partners.

Lesson in Leadership from a Doll (American Girl Mattel)     If you are not familiar with the American Girl merchandising concept a young female character is created. A doll is made to represent the character complete with several appropriate outfits and accessory toys. Each character has a personal story shared in books and a DVD movie. The Grace Thomas doll play set is a replica of a French bakery complete with baking accessories, stove, display cases with baked goods and much more.

     Some people including parents might not understand how a doll would influence young girls to become entrepreneurs. After all, most girls between the ages of 8 to 11 do not know the meaning of the word entrepreneur unless they watch Shark Tank in the United States or Dragon’s Den in Canada. However Grace Thomas is more than a doll with a play set to look like a bakery. Grace’s story comes to life through three related books and visually in two DVD movies. Girls will experience Grace’s passion for baking and to own a bakery. They will learn what motivates along with some of the challenges of opening and running a business. The girls will learn how commitment and persistence pay off. Grace and her friends also learn how to work as a team even after Grace’s two friends start a bakery when she is away for the summer. Now this is a brief overview of Grace’s story. I do not want spoil the entire story and conclusion for any of you who plan to read the books.

     One other example of a business where young girls might learn about becoming an entrepreneur was through the Beacon Street Girls. In 2002, Addie Swartz launched B*Tween Productions, the parent company for Beacon Street Girls. Addie’s mission was to help girls build self-esteem and self-confidence. She wanted to give tween girls, ages 9 to 12, a place to go and learn positive messaging and find healthy role models. Addie did this through an interactive web site, books, and fun products. The Beacon Street Girls were a diverse group of five very cool junior high girls who lived in the Boston area. Addie began publishing a series of 22 books about the Beacon Street Girls’ adventures. Each book had a theme with one of the girls as the main character. TImes UpTime’s Up is the story about the character Katani, an aspiring teen entrepreneur who wants to enter a contest sponsored by her favorite magazine T-Biz! In order to make the entry deadline she turns to her Beacon Street Girl friends. Another of her challenges is that one of her best friends committed to helping Katani’s main competitor. The book tells how the Beacon Street Girls work together to solve Katani’s challenges.

     One of the many subjects on the web site was for girls who wanted to be entrepreneurs. I was honored to be the guest entrepreneur to answer questions and encourage girls on their ideas. It was always fun to learn the types of businesses the girls wanted to start. The ideas ranged from dog walking to making jewelry. Many of the tween girls wanted to make and sell cookies and cupcakes for holidays and special occasion. I wrote a three-part series on the steps to start and run a cookie and cupcake business I was very disappointed when I no longer had the time to be the Beacon Street Girls’ guest entrepreneur for the web site.

     American Girl and Beacon Street Girls were created by two women entrepreneurs. Both women wanted to provide young girls and tweens age appropriate dolls, toys, and books available in stores. Pleasant Rowland, founder of the American Girl doll and book series had been an elementary school teacher, author of text books and the publisher of Children’s Magazine Guide. Addie Swartz, founder of Beacon Street Girls is still considered a serial entrepreneur. Addie began her first business at age 12 in her family’s kitchen. “Addie’s Apple Pies” were sold in three restaurants in her hometown. As an adult Addie had a successful career in the corporate world. She loved being an entrepreneur though. When Addie left the corporate world she founded BrightIdeas, an educational software company she ran from a spare bedroom. After Addie sold BrightIdeas she began B*Tween Productions for the Beacon Street Girls. Her current business is reacHIRE.

What companies do you know that are encouraging young girls and tweens to become entrepreneurs? Do you know of any books or videos? We would love to learn about them. Aside from giving you a list as resources we might possibly include them in a blog posts. Please let us know.

What do you and your friends use for social media these days? Is it Instagram,Twitter, or Facebook? How much do you use YouTube? Do you watch Shark Tank if you are in the U.S.? Do you watch Dragon’s Den if you are in Canada? Would you watch a teen entrepreneur reality show like Shark Tank?

Cheers,

Sylvia

Co-author of the forthcoming book Realizing a Vision,The Toolkit for Success. Words of Wisdom for Young Female Entrepreneurs

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