Sep 23, 2020
When you were a kid, did you ever think about being
an entrepreneur? For the women listening, what about you? Do you
remember seeing examples of women in the workplace or starting and
running large companies? My guest today realized there was a market
for reaching, teaching and inspiring the next generation of
entrepreneurs: young girls. Brian Weisfeld has helped build a
number of well known, billion dollar companies like IMAX and
Coupons.com. He is also the founder and chief squad officer of
StartUp Squad, an initiative dedicated to helping girls
reach their potential and follow their dreams, whatever their
passion is. Brian lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and two
daughters, and you can find out more information about him at
BrianWeisfeld.com and https://www.thestartupsquad.com/
4:26 - The Brian 101
- Brian started and co-authored The Startup Squad to
inspire girls to start their first businesses and start to think
like an entrepreneur, with the thought that girls with an
entrepreneurial mindset will be more successful in life, regardless
of the path they choose.
- Brian grew up on Long Island, and spent four years
in Ann Arbor, Michigan for undergrad, and lived and worked in New
York City for most of his career, helping entrepreneurs and
founders scale their businesses.
- In the early 1990s, the was part of a three-person
team that bought IMAX when it was just being played in museums for
educational purposes. His team realized that people were walking
out of those theatres blown away by the experience. They saw beyond
museums and thought about what might happen if comic book
characters and action-packed movies were shown in IMAX.
- About 13 years ago, Brian moved from New York City
to Silicon Valley to work at this chief operating officer of
Coupons.com. After helping grow and scale that business, he
wondered what company he might grow and scale next.
- At the time, Brian’s oldest daughter was
8-years-old, and he watched her sell Girl Scout Cookies and charity
bake sales with enthusiasm, but no knowledge of how to successfully
market and sell a product (something as simple as telling them that
the proceeds from the sales would go to charity).
- One Sunday morning while reading with his
daughters, Brian was troubled by the marketing geared toward girls.
It all talked down to girls, instead of lifting them up. In that
moment, he decided to create a novel series to encourage girls to
interest in entrepreneurship.
- Brian spent four years learning how to write and
literally bought “Writing Children’s Books for Dummies.” It was
four years of a crash course in writing with classes,
self-educating, and hiring editors. He was eventually able to sign
a three-book deal with Macmillan. The first two books in The
Startup Squad series has been released, and the third will be
released in May of 2021.
8:59 – A Pivot
- Brian has always been interested in business and
how things work. It’s safe to say entrepreneurship has been in his
background, too. He was always interested in learning and he was
fascinated by the success stories of people who built businesses
- In undergrad, he studied business and had plans for
law school. It was just what everyone did. He realized while it
would have been a good education on how to think, it wouldn’t give
him the same knowledge that working for lawyers, accountants, and
people in business would. After working for some time, he realized
he wanted to build a company, which is what led him to the IMAX
- The first book is about four girls in 6th grade and their class is going on a field
trip and needing to raise money for the trip. Each team must run a
lemonade stand, and whichever team raises the most money gets
special VIP perks on the trip. The girls have to figure out how to
work together, and the narrative is light on business, and heavy on
the social side, which appeals to girls in that age range.
- Each book gives lessons on business in the back of
the book. There is a nonfiction section that refers to the story
narrative with definitions of business terms and practical startup
business tips. The back of each book also features an interview
with a real-life girl entrepreneur. There is a contest each summer
giving girls the opportunity to possibly be featured.
14:25 – The Startup Squad
- Brian new he wanted his books to be fiction, even
though nonfiction would have been much easier to write! The
thinking was never that every girl should grow up to be an
entrepreneur, but that girls become comfortable with risk and
failure and seeing them as opportunities instead of problems.
- Brian knew a girl who picked up a nonfiction book
about starting a business already had the “business bug,” but he
wanted to do fiction to appeal to a wider audience. He knew a
“story first” approach would get through more than a nonfiction
- The Startup Squad is “girl targeted but boy
inclusive.” The book is for boys too! It’s just as important for
boys to read about girls being entrepreneurs as it is for girls!
The reality is there are not as many examples of female
entrepreneurs and business is modeled for boys much more that it is
- Brian advises kids who are selling items to benefit
a charity to not set a price, but just tell people what charity the
proceeds go to, and people often give more than the price of the
item the kids are selling.
23:36 – The World Through My Daughter's Eyes
- When seeing what reading materials was available to
his daughters made Brian want there to be more of a balance and
more empowering material. All he was finding for them was books
about princesses and fairy tales.
- Fairy tales can be great for imagination but may
not have the same impact as stories of women who have endeavored
toward their own business goals. Not ever book needs a lesson, but
it hit Brian that there was no balance of both options.
- Brian notices a lot more by hearing the experiences
of his daughters. Something as simple as soccer cleat selections in
the store were communicating to his oldest daughter that she can’t
have things she likes – like the turquoise cleats because they only
come in boy’s shoe sizes.
- Brian wanted to see more role models for his girls
that show them they can do whatever they want. When a message
starts to be repeated over and over again, it becomes ingrained.
Brian set out to make sure his daughters and other girls could find
the empowering messages too.
30:40 – The Startup Squad Parts Two and Three
- The second book in the series features Harriett,
one of the four girls from the first book. She’s in a rock band
with her brothers and the girls take over merchandising for the
band. The lessons focus on negotiation, customer service, pricing,
and the differences between revenue and profit. It’s introduced in
a tangible, relatable and age-appropriate message vetted by
children entrepreneurship experts.
- The third book that comes out in May features the
story of Didi, who is very artistic and starts creating wedding
calligraphy for someone who is getting married. The party planner
gets sick, so The Startup Squad comes together to take care of
putting the wedding together for the couple. It focuses on girls
discovering finding their passions and what they enjoy doing in
35:22 – Getting to Know Our Guest
- Find out what Brian would eat if he had to eat the
same meal for dinner every night for the rest of his life, what his
favorite TV show was growing up,
I am so excited to share The Startup Squad with you!
Thank you, Brian, for creating a better balance of resources for
empowering and encouraging young girls in entrepreneurship. You can
find more about The Startup Squad series HERE and check to see if an independent, local
bookstore carries the first book,
The Startup Squad, and
Face the Music. You can also find the
books from Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, Book A Million, and
Bookshop. Be sure to mark your calendars for the release of the
third book, Party Problems, on May 4th,2021!
8:26 – “This was going to be different from anything
I’ve ever done before. This was going to be harder, I was going to
fail, I was taking a lot of risk…I had to get comfortable with
failing more than I had in a long time.”
15:15 – “The thinking here is not that every girl
should grow up to be an entrepreneur, but that girls who run that
first lemonade stand and get comfortable with risk and failure and
see opportunities instead of problems, they’re going to be more
successful in life if they have that skillset…”
16:10 – The way The Startup series works is that it’s
a novel. It’s been described as The Babysitters Club meets
19:50 – “Seeing the world through my daughters’ eyes
has really changed the way I view things.”
About Brian Weisfeld:
Brian Weisfeld has helped build a
number of well-known billion-dollar companies including IMAX
Corporation and Coupons.com. He is the Founder and Chief Squad
Officer of The Startup Squad, an initiative dedicated to helping
girls reach their potential and follow their dreams, whatever their
passions. Brian lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and two
daughters. You can check out thestartupsquad.com for more info.
Praise for The Startup Squad
"An inspiring story about entrepreneurial
girls."—Ann M. Martin, author of the Baby-Sitters Club
"The Startup Squad encourages girls to dream
big, work hard, and rely on each other to make good things happen.
It teaches them how to succeed—and reminds all of us that girls
mean business!"—Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and
founder of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org
“A great read that is fast-paced, fun, and
empowering. The Startup Squad comes complete with a
treasure trove of tips for starting a business.” —Katherine
Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only
About The Startup Squad:
Girls mean business in Brian Weisfeld and
Nicole C. Kear's Face the Music, the second novel in The
Startup Squad series about friendship and entrepreneurship,
featuring how-to business tips and a profile of a real-life girl
CEO in every book!
Harriet’s brothers’ band, the Radical Skinks, are
hoping to enter a local battle of the bands. Winning could get them
on a reality TV show! But low funds have left them without the
The Startup Squad jumps into action! Harriet, Resa,
Didi, and Amelia quickly pull together to sell T-shirts to raise
money for the band. It’s a great plan, until everything starts to
go wrong. From ruined T-shirts, to musicians with stage fright, and
money mishaps, these tasks aren’t easy. The Startup Squad will have
to focus on each member’s strengths and act like a team in order to
get their business back into the groove.