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Teenager offers cash to keep students interested in reading

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Marli Spriggs’s plan was to write a book and market it over an eight-week period, but the entrepreneurship programme she was enrolled in showed clearly why that wouldn’t work.

She went back to the drawing board and came up with BookSpace, a business that offered “educational books for toddlers, children, adolescents, adults and entrepreneurs” and “packaged age-progressive book sets for sale at great prices”.

The concept was enough to earn her $1,000, the top prize in the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation’s Summer Student Entrepreneurship Programme.

Determined to take the business further the 15-year-old is now preparing to launch the Extraordinary Book Report Competition, a challenge she created for middle school students across the island.

“After I finished the [BEDC] competition I knew I wanted to continue with the business but I wanted to expand it so it reached more people and I could share it in a way that was easily accessible, in a way that was more engaging and entertaining for kids between the ages of 10 and 13,” she said.

“I feel that’s around the age when kids stop reading. They go and do other things and it’s really hard to get them to sit down and read. So I felt that was the market I wanted to target for my first competition.”

Participants in the ERBC will be asked to read one of three books selected by Marli and submit a digital or handwritten report on it. The top five winners in the two age categories, 10 to 11 and 12 to 13, will receive cash prizes.

Marli believes everyone who enters will benefit.

“The competition is a great way to motivate them to enjoy reading great books and win fantastic prices at the same time,” she said.

The ERBC can also help students reach nightly reading goals assigned by their schools and introduce them to different genres of books and writing styles, the teen added.

“The competitive element will motivate a participating student to submit their best work [and] life lessons taught from the competition’s books help support future growth,” Marli said.

“I thought a digital book report would be a lot more engaging for them. I was just trying to craft it so it was as attractive as possible to young people to get as much participation as possible. Because I think it can be a really beneficial experience.”

The idea sprang from her own passion for reading, which led her to take her idea of writing a novel to the BEDC competition this summer.

“[Once] I found out about the weekly sales goals and things like that I decided it would be better if I had a physical product business,” the Bermuda High School student said.

“I started trying to develop an idea to stay in the realm of books. I like reading so I thought selling books might be a good addition to my business portfolio.”

She found a wholesaler and started selling children’s books first “because I felt that there should be more of a variety of children’s books on island”.

She then decided to expand, offering books for adults and older children and entrepreneurs.

“I felt that me as an entrepreneur, if I wasn’t part of this BDEC programme I’d want some sort of reference and books tend to provide a lot of insight and information to different things so it’d be a good idea to do that,” Marli said.

“The [ERBC] competition started to take shape around the end, the last two weeks of the [BEDC] programme. I started looking for corporate sponsorship to make the book prices more accessible and cheaper.”

The teenager has partnered with the Bermuda National Library on the project and is grateful for the sponsorship ERBC has received from Cohort Ltd, Blueprint Hair Studio, Helix Bermuda and Miles Market Ltd. She’s hoping teachers and principals will join representatives from those companies to determine the winner in the two age categories next month.

“Hopefully Covid allows it but five students [will have been shortlisted from each category and] will come and answer questions. It will be more opinion-based and [will require] a little bit more of analysis, analysis that’s appropriate for their age group. By the end of the day they’ll know who won,” she said.

Were it not for the Student Summer Entrepreneurship Programme she would still be dreaming of one day becoming an event planner rather than actually working along that path, the teenager added.

“I want to thank BDEC for the opportunity to start this whole journey. It was really helpful in getting me in that mindset.

“At the core of it, it just kind of came from my curiosity; where a business can go. Especially with me being 15, I kind of got motivated.

“The SSEP kind of helped me see that my age wasn’t a barrier. I didn’t have to wait to launch the event I wanted to or I didn’t have to wait to start my business or put it to the next level. This was just me levelling up my business and where I thought it could go.”

Also helpful are the lessons she’s learning as part of the International Baccalaureate programme at BHS.

“I’ve just started and it has taught me a lot more about time management and how managing all of my projects will not always be easy.

“I’ve realised it’s OK if things are challenging – they’re still achievable. I need to keep that in my mindset and in my head space, to stay calm and focus on the work that needs to be done – prioritising, organisation all of that.

“It’s just been enforcing all of those teachings and it’s been really good for me to learn more about that and to just find out which ways of project management work better for me to be successful in my different projects.”

For more information on the Extraordinary Book Report Competition: bookspacebda@gmail.com. Follow on Instagram @bookspacebda

Marli Spriggs, creator of the Extraordinary Book Report Competition (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marli Spriggs, creator of the Extraordinary Book Report Competition (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 01, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated October 02, 2021 at 8:00 am)

Teenager offers cash to keep students interested in reading

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