After watching his daughter struggle to sell girl scout cookies — and not for a lack of enthusiasm — Brian Weisfeld decided to partner with co-author Nicole C. Kear to create an entrepreneurial resource for young girls. His upcoming book, “The Startup Squad” (due May 7) provides inspiration and practical information for girls as it follows the story of four girls in the 6th grade who launch a lemonade stand for a school competition.
Weisfeld is no stranger to entrepreneurial endeavors. Even in elementary school, he was known to rope his friends into helping him with various business ventures. As an adult he was part of the 3-man team that commercialized the IMAX movie theaters and was the COO of Coupons.com in Silicon Valley.
His hope behind his new book is to reach and impact girls in 3rd to 6th grades in as many ways as possible. Beyond an inspirational story, “The Startup Squad” is meant to be a resource that provides role models and mentors for girls. The book has received endorsements from influential women such as Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Ann M. Martin, author of “The Baby-Sitters Club” series.
When we spoke, Weisfeld shared his vision for the book, the projects he and his team are working on, and how he believes we as a society should approach the topic of entrepreneurship with young girls.
Edited interview excerpts below.
TSE: What is unique about your book?
The book is structured in three parts: an inspirational part, an informational part, and then an aspirational part. The inspirational part — or the main part of the book — has been described as “The Baby-Sitters Club” meets Lean In. In the second section, we translate the narrative into the business lessons. We’ll say, “hey, remember when the girls were making a big sign for their lemonade stand? Well, that’s actually called marketing. Here’s some other marketing tips that you can use for your lemonade stand.” In that informational section, we also talk about sales and merchandising and location. The last section of the book — the aspirational part — we have a 2-page profile of an actual girl entrepreneur. The idea is to get girls to think bigger and realize that their lemonade stand could be the start of an entrepreneurial journey.
TSE: What is the importance of entrepreneurial role models for young girls?
I would certainly say that finding role models, for anyone, especially for women, is incredibly important. We are doing a program right now for under-served girls. We are partnering with Girls Inc New York City on a program called “100 inspiring 100.” The idea is to get “The Startup Squad” book in the hands of girls who might not otherwise have access to it. We are also asking women to give one piece of advice for a girl opening her first lemonade stand. We have collected advice from I over 50 women, including a number of different CEOs. This way, the girls of Girls Inc — 65% of whom come from families with a household income of $30,000 a year or less — will not only have “The Startup Squad,” but will also have some mentorship and the tools to get themselves started.
TSE: Why talk to young girls about entrepreneurship rather than careers in general?
Having an entrepreneurial mindset will give girls a much better chance at reaching their potential, regardless of what they want to do in life. When I say entrepreneurial mindset, I mean seeing opportunities where other people see problems, getting comfortable with risks, having grit, being able to say yes when everyone else is saying no. The thing I feel most strongly about is for girls to recognize that failure isn’t what happens when you don’t succeed, failure is what happens when you don’t try in the first place. Girls with that entrepreneurial mindset, I believe, will be far more likely to reach their potential in life, regardless of what they want to do when they grow up.
TSE: Do you think we need to approach the topic of entrepreneurship differently with young girls than we do young boys?
I don’t think we need to do it differently. But I think there are fewer outside influences to drive them to be interested in entrepreneurship. We need to make it more of an obvious choice for girls. And that’s what I’m hoping this book can do.