August 24, 2015

How a Comic Book Can Teach Kids About Entrepreneurship

CoverEntrepreneurship may be all the rage among certain sets of society — and I must confess that I often feel as if 90 percent of what I write is about “entrepreneurship” — but some sources suggest that the youngsters aren’t terribly into.

To me, that isn’t surprising. I don’t think I knew what entrepreneurship actually was until I was maybe 18. (Full disclosure: I spent most of my life assuming “entrepreneur” was a more pretentious way to refer to “corporate drones.”)

To the founders of Your Comic Story, a Brooklyn-based purveyor of custom comics, however, this is a state of affairs that needs to be rectified.

“Seeing the stories pop up on teen entrepreneurs, we wondered why there aren’t many more (this is the country of innovation and creative education, after all),” David Kieve, one of Your Comic Story’s three founders, writes to me in an email. “Why isn’t there entrepreneurial education? We also wished we had entrepreneurial education when we were kids.”

To bring accessible entrepreneurial education to children, Kieve and the other cofounders of Your Comic Story, Russell Geyushev and Andrey Grubin, are launching “My First Startup,” an educational comic book meant to help kids learn about “entrepreneurship on their own terms – in a fun, non-patronizing way.”

Today marks the official kick off of the “My First Startup” Kickstarter campaign, so we figured now would be a good time to publish an email-based Q&A session I carried out with Kieve about the comic book. Enjoy! [Ed. note: As of 9/17/2015, “My First Startup” has reached its funding goal.] Why, in your opinion, is it important to teach children about entrepreneurship? Not many people are releasing materials aimed at this specific demographic (8- to 12-year-olds). What motivated you to reach out to such a young audience?

TanyaDavid Kieve: There are at least two big reasons to teach children entrepreneurship; one is about children, and the other is about entrepreneurship.

Children, because their minds are pure; their creativity is not yet dulled by the inevitable “you can’t do that because this is the right way” teachings.

Entrepreneurship, because society (especially in the U.S./Canada) is moving away from the 9-5 office structure toward a more freelance- and startup-oriented culture. Our children will likely live in a world where your best guarantee of income is income you make for yourself. So, we think that it’s crucial to teach young children entrepreneurship and enable them to build an exciting and satisfying future for themselves and our society.

Keep in mind that entrepreneurship is innovation: it’s important that kids learn to be innovators, whatever career path they choose.

RC: You’re creating a comic, which I imagine is largely because of your backgrounds with Your Comic Story, but are there other reasons why you feel a comic is a great format for delivering this kind of education? What can it offer kids that, say, a regular book couldn’t?

DK: Yes. A comic book is a unique medium because it’s both pictures and text put together in such a way that just begs for the reader to connect the panels into a story — thereby becoming a part of it. The pictures help younger kids to follow the comic book themselves, instead of being read to (entrepreneurship taught in a patronizing way defeats the purpose). So, a comic book is a way for children to learn on their own terms, and to see themselves and entrepreneurs as the superheroes that they are.

RC: I know it’s early, but: do you imagine this will be a one-off thing, or do you foresee more, similar comics in the future? Is that something you guys are interested in?

DK: It will not be a one-off thing — that much we can reveal. We have several ideas on how to continue this, and are in the process of making them happen. But no spoilers.

RC: What’s your dream for this comic? Where do you see it going? Who do you hope reads and loves it? 

KevinDK: Our dream is that this sparks an educational and cultural change to teach children entrepreneurial thinking.

But it’s even bigger than that. ‘My First Startup’ is meant to inspire children to think in innovative, creative ways. Even if the child winds up pursuing a traditional career, the problem-solving, decision-making, time-management, and other skills learned will be invaluable.

Our dream, therefore, is to shift the curriculum of childhood education towards teaching innovation, financial literacy, and original thinking.

For the comic book itself, we want an international distribution, including in schools and children’s organizations.

Note: All photos courtesy of the team behind “My First Startup.”

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Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of