November 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 11
Q & A: Global Game Changers
Jan and Rachel Helson are a mother-daughter team on a mission: they want to "Ignite Good" in kids from a young age. Their new interactive "Global Game Changers" book and website seek to teach kids the importance of reaching out to their communities and making a difference. Below, Jan Helson tells us what the process of bringing their vision to life was like, the obstacles they encountered a long the way, and why she thinks their products can help make the world a better place.
Q. What career path did you originally envision for yourself? Did you ever anticipate working with children’s products?
A. I grew up surrounded by successful entrepreneurs. I married an entrepreneur. Our family business was a core topic of conversation at the dinner table when I was growing up, and it was a core topic of conversation at the dinner table when my kids were growing up. I always knew that I would be an entrepreneur. It is in my DNA. I love the path that my career took, from real estate development to manufacturing to multimedia production. Until recently, I never specifically anticipated working with children’s products, but I am thrilled to be doing so.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your first product?
A. As I grow older, I find staying in touch with younger generations — from the creative, brilliant, young professionals who I have working with me to the compassionate, smart, young children who are superheroes — makes me a more informed, engaged, fifty-something. I have proclaimed that I want to make a positive difference on the next generation in my “second act”. Using technology and the written word to entertain, educate, and engage children evolved out of that commitment.
My daughter, Rachel, is an incredibly creative and accomplished young woman. My vision and her talent made for fun brainstorming sessions as we conceived our first products: a print book and book app. Empowering children to “be good” and “do good” was our inspiration.
Together, we created a fictional team of superheroes whose leader, Global Girl, and her sidekick, Little Big-Heart, recruit real-life kids to help change the world for the better. Along the way, the characters encounter and battle Krumi, the antagonist, who is symbolic of apathy. In the initial book Little Big-Heart introduces the reader to his first recruits and their Ignite Good! stories; three amazing real-life superheroes who join the GGC Alliance.
The real-life kids who are featured in the book are Phoebe from California who made the world better by helping a Feeding America Food Bank, Jaylen from Florida who overcomes being the victim of bullying and starts an organization to help fight bullying against others called Jaylen’s Challenge and Hannah from Ohio who does her part to fight poverty through an organization that she started called Hannah’s Socks that provides socks to people in need. At the end of The Global Game Changers book there is a call to action for the reader to be inspired to join the Alliance by visiting The Global Game Changers interactive web community.
Q. What steps did you need to take to go from the original spark of an idea to actual production? How long did it take?
A. Hours of research and collaboration, first between my daughter Rachel and me, and then with the team that we put together to make The Global Game Changers come to life. Once we truly committed to the process, it took less than six months. I don’t like to waste time after the decision is made!
Q. How did you create the first prototype and come up with a business plan?
A. We created the first draft of the book and the business plan in-house. In addition to being a co-author, Rachel is the illustrator. Her background is creative and mine is business. I like to think that we make a great professional team when we combine our talents. I guess the jury is still out, but I’m confident that we have developed a terrific product with appeal to children and parents.
Q. How did you raise funds to bring your product to life?
A. Having owned and successfully run multiple businesses, I am fortunate to have personal resources as well as people who believe in me. I created a solid business plan that supported my vision for The Global Game Changers. I took my business plan to these people and am lucky to have their support once more.
Q. How difficult was it to integrate your product idea with an online element on www.theglobalgamechangers.com?
A. I had always envisioned an online element being integral to The Global Game Changers brand. Even though my own kids are almost grown now, I see children using their parents’ tablets, cell phones and computers nearly every day. We developed all of our creative assets to be utilized across multiple platforms. A solid foundation is essential to the success of any start-up business. A comprehensive, fully developed, and well-researched business plan provides that solid foundation. We are working with super talented developers to build something totally new and different.
Q. What were the top two or three most significant obstacles you have had to overcome to achieve success, and how did you do it?
A. I think it is better to avoid obstacles rather than overcome them. I don’t consider anything that I encounter to be an obstacle. In business you are faced with many different situations and challenges; they are part of the deal and part of the fun. The best way to deal with them and achieve success is to be 100% committed, believe in yourself and what you are doing, and work very, very hard. Never compromise your honesty and your integrity and always consider your customer in every decision you make. That’s what I have done my entire life, no matter what business or what project I was working on. So far it has worked well for me.
Q. What makes your products better than the competition?
A. Our products help teach children about doing nice things for others without expecting anything in return. Other superheroes teach a similar lesson, but becoming one of them is nearly unattainable. You have to be bitten by a radioactive spider, born on the planet Krypton, or be a billionaire. In order to become a Global Game Changer superhero, all you have to do is Ignite Good. It’s simple, but important.
You can do it by starting your own charity or by holding the door for someone whose arms are full. In addition, we give children power. When they do something good, and tell us about it, they can earn points on our website to vote on their favorite charity to receive a GGC donation. Not only can they put on an Ignite Good cape, but they can also exercise their own superpower.
Q. How do you hope your product impacts children's lives?
A. I hope that it makes children more aware early in life about the difference that they can make in this world. They have the ability and the responsibility to Ignite Good and change the world in a small way every day. My husband and I shared this message with our own two children who I am proud to say have developed a strong will to give back. I hope that our product inspires and empowers many generations of kids to become GGC superheroes — good people who use their passions to make a difference in the world. In a world where bad behavior seems to be more recognized than good behavior, we want to recognize and Ignite Good!
Winner of Dr. Toys 100 Best Childrens Products of 2012 and 10 Best High-Tech Products of 2012, as well as a Preferred Choice Award by Creative Child Magazine, this new children's book is built around The Global Game Changers, a fictional team of superheroes whose leader, Global Girl, and her sidekick, Little Big-Heart, and their trust dog Pixel, recruit real-life kids to help change the world for the better by doing good things for others without expecting anything in return. At the end of The Global Game Changers book there is a call to action for the reader to be inspired to join the Alliance by visiting The Global Game Changers interactive web community where they can share their Ignite Good! stories, learn how to utilize their talents to affect things they are passionate about, have fun, and be empowered to help make a difference in the world. Launch date: July 15, 2012.
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Writer's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author
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