Pongee Barnes is a real estate investor and author of Real Estate and Chill: Tips and Tricks for New Investors. She recently founded Little Owners LLC to educate children on various career paths to success.
It all started with an invitation to attend Entrepreneurship Day at Stagg Elementary School in April 2019. During Barnes’ presentation, the students were fascinated to hear about real estate investing. This experience prompted Barnes to come up with a way to expose more students to entrepreneurship daily, rather than once a year. After a few months went by, she decided to start writing children’s books. In October 2019, Barnes began a 6-month literary journey to write eight books. Her 6- and 9-year-old sons co-authored three of these books. The book series was created to educate youth on entrepreneurship and financial literacy and includes the following titles:
Ben The Banker
Ben The Gamer (STEM)
Carter The Car Dealership Owner
Franklin The Franchise Owner
Riley The Real Estate Investor
Robert The Real Estate Investor
Sierra, The Salon Owner
Valerie the Vendor
These books provide students with extensive learning outside of formal education, lay the foundation for a secure financial future, and expand vocabulary. Each book has a different character, but the theme remains the same throughout the series. Students gain knowledge about passive income, investments, group economics, savings, and delayed gratification. On top of that, they develop skills in leadership and teamwork. Further, they learn the importance of giving back to the community. These are all things they can carry into adulthood.
Barnes caught the attention of educators on social media while promoting the book series. She began to receive invitations to hold Reading Nights at several CPS (Chicago Public Schools) and suburban elementary schools. She would pass out books to the students, and her sons would read to them. Encouraged by seeing their peers read from books that they co-wrote, many students expressed interest in becoming authors.
Barnes mentioned a research study that found that most low-income families do not own children’s books. Also, 39% of CPS students are reading below grade level. That being the case, promoting literacy is a top priority. She believes Reading Nights will help children get more involved in reading and focus less on electronics. It is inspiring for children to read about characters who look like them and follow their stories from childhood to successful business ownership.
In March 2020, due to the high demand for Reading Nights, Barnes was working on becoming a CPS partner, when suddenly the school system was forced to shut down. She immediately created Little Owners Story Time for Facebook and Instagram. During this live virtual learning experience, Barnes and her sons read to the audience, and participants can ask questions. Barnes plans to donate books to children who need them so they can follow along at home during the weekly live virtual storytime series, which will continue through the summer. To assist in this effort, she will partner with Burst into Books, an organization that coordinates literary activities for children.
Barnes’ plans for Little Owners include developing the entrepreneurial book series into a full curriculum for schools to use throughout the year. She would also like to expand into non-public schools and eventually have the curriculum included in every classroom in America.
Pongee Barnes offered the following advice to entrepreneurs who are having a challenge adjusting to the change:
- Be creative and think outside the box.
- Don’t be resistant to transferring some of your business online.
- Find different ways to deal with the new normal.
- Look at what your competitors are doing to sustain their business.
Little Owners is the premier resource for children’s business books that can be used beyond the regular school and will have a lasting impression on the future generation of entrepreneurs.
You can catch Little Owners Story Time on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. CST on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/littleowners and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/little_owners. For more information, visit https://littleowners.com or call (847) 707-9496.