While the University has launched a host of initiatives designed to encourage student innovators, a new children’s book series titled “Visionary Kids” is aiming to spread the entrepreneurial bug beyond campus and to a younger cohort.
Four months ago, two University students interested in entrepreneurship and education began writing their first book in a series designed to present the stories of famous entrepreneurs in a kid-friendly format. After its completion, the two are now looking to publish more in their series.
Both of the authors pulled from their studies to conceive the idea for the book project. Sara Abraham is pursuing a degree in education and Reda Jaber is pursuing an M.D., MBA and MSCR combined degree, with a focus in entrepreneurship at the Ross School of Business.
The two teamed up with illustrator Joaquin Arias to complete the visual aspects of the story.
“The Ross B-school heavily influenced Reda in terms of entrepreneurship, and with regards to myself, I am pursuing education and was really drawn to the educational aspect of the book,” Abraham said. “With that combined, I would say the University of Michigan really catalyzed this whole project in regards to support and ideas.”
Though small children are often inventive and curious, Abraham and Jaber said children are rarely exposed to the real-life success stories that could instill the drive to pursue creative ideas from a young age. Jaber mentioned that after strolling through the children’s book section in several book stores, he and Abraham were disappointed in the way modern-day children’s stories are framed.
“A lot of them are fantasy, fairytales; none of them were real-life success stories,” Jaber said. “Especially with the growing emphasis on entrepreneurship around not just the University of Michigan, but throughout the country, we wanted to get kids more interested in entrepreneurship from the get-go when they’re younger.”
Jaber said with the current pressure on young people to pursue degrees in STEM fields such as medicine and engineering, parents and educational materials don’t place enough emphasis on entrepreneurship.
“Before this program, I really wasn’t exposed to entrepreneurship very much,” Jaber added. “But entrepreneurship was this really fun topic — it brings out the kid in you.”
The first book in the series tells the story of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The book tackles the struggles he faced, such as growing up as an adopted child and later dropping out of school. Though the stories address delicate topics, the authors portrayed each as a struggle eventually overcome with perseverance.
“The main theme stretching through all of them is that they’re working really hard,” Abraham said.
Funded through an online Kickstarter campaign running through March 27, the pair’s $2,500 fundraising goal has already been surpassed by more than $300. The authors included their backers in the creative process by asking for suggestions as to who the next “visionary kid” should be.
For the next book, Jaber and Abraham said they would like to focus on local entrepreneurs, such as Dan Gilbert, the founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, who has most recently spearheaded efforts to redevelop Detroit’s downtown.
The authors said they expect the first book to be published by June through CreateSpace, a self-publishing company affiliated with Amazon. In its early stages, the book will be sold exclusively online, but the team hopes to spread their work to local Ann Arbor bookstores and eventually larger national chains.
E-books will be sold on Amazon.com for $10 and paperbacks for $12. Additionally, Visionary Kids’ official website will accept preorders in the coming weeks.