When I grow up I want to be… a businessman! That’s the aim of children’s storybooks conceived in Brum that will go into 23,000 UK primary schools this month
We all know that kids want to grow up to be fire fighters, pilots, engine drivers, doctors or even astronauts. But what about if they aspired to be entrepreneurs instead? This month a big step is being taken to do just that and encourage children to think of business as their dream job when 23,000 primary schools the length and breadth of the country are introduced to Clever Tykes.
Clever Tykes was devised by Birmingham entrepreneurs Ben and Jodie Cook following evidence that there are too few positive business role models for kids to identify with. Their series of Clever Tykes children’s books shows fun characters that all kids love to read about, but in each case they inspire resourceful, innovative and enterprising behaviour through brilliant story-telling. The books – so far there are three with a fourth due this spring/summer – have already proved a big hit with parents who understand the business ethos. The first in the series is entitled Walk-it Willow, followed by Code-it Cody and Change-it Cho.
This month’s deal, sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, will open up huge opportunities as every UK primary school gets a set of the books, meaning that Clever Tykes will be read by millions of seven to nine-year-olds. Schools will also have access to an innovative digital portal with online teaching materials. Clever Tykes has also gained its first foreign language version with a deal which has seen the books translated into Arabic.
Ben says they are hoping to seal more syndication licences in the likes of the US, Canada and Australia as well as also looking into taking the business into secondary schools. At the other end of the age spectrum, Clever Tykes has been approached for ideas that would work with the younger three to six-year-old age group.
“The Clever Tykes stories follow three separate protagonists as they each realise that there is something they are especially good at or passionate about, and they set about making this into their own venture,” explained Ben. “The stories are fantastic reading books in their own right and incorporate the target literacy and numeracy skills for the specific age range. The entrepreneurial messages are subtle while important characteristics such as innovation, independence, goal-setting, hard work and resourcefulness are promoted.”
At the beginning of the venture into children’s books, Ben says that Birmingham University supplied some significant research findings into the relationship of entrepreneurs to parents. “We discovered that if a child has an entrepreneurial parent he or she is 80 per cent more likely to go on to have their own business. So, we talked about how other children come into contact with traditional role models like policemen and firemen.
“We couldn’t find any business role models other than the obvious ones like Lord Sugar of The Apprentice or Dragon’s Den. Typically entrepreneurs are portrayed as ruthless and cut-throat, like Mr Burns in The Simpsons or Scrooge. Even the evil antagonist in the Lego movie is called Lord Business. Yet most of the entrepreneurs we know aren’t like that at all. They are all just trying to solve a problem and make things better. We thought we should try to inspire entrepreneurs at a younger age.”
Jodie and Ben are excellent examples themselves of what kids can aspire to. Jodie set up her successful business JC Social Media in August 2012, the day after finishing her graduate scheme. Ben, who has known Jodie since they were at secondary school, had no entrepreneurial background until he teamed up with her in business. Ben, a first class economics graduate, previously did some personal training and modeling work.
He added: “It’s an incredibly exciting time for Clever Tykes and primary enterprise education. We’ve seen the positive changes in children’s behaviour having read our stories and we’re delighted that thousands more will benefit.”