Josh Bryan's Little Brother became a big help when it came to inspiring a new business idea.
During his time volunteering for Big Brother Big Sisters of America in Jacksonville, Fla., Josh's Little Brother struggled with math, but came up with an ingenious solution to help himself through it: The 8-year-old created his own "Math Man" super hero.
"Math Man was just a simple pencil drawing on notebook paper, but he defeated the evil Subtraction and Division Man. And Subtraction and Division Man would throw multiplication and division signs, like ninja stars, at Math Man," says Josh.
Math Man lit a lightbulb in Josh's brain: What if all kids could create their own superheroes? What if every kid could create a story, and a person, to help them through whatever it was they needed the most?
"It [Math Man] helped him become comfortable with math in a way my tutoring him wouldn't have," he says.
From there, HeroMe was born. With the help of his wife Annie, the business officially went live in November of 2014. Kids get to fully customize the type of hero they want to make, right down to the arms, legs, torso, and head. Right now, the site only offers male parts, but if all goes well, they'll be featuring female parts, too. Backed by a Kickstarter, Josh and Annie plan to launch female-friendly heroes after noticing such a void in strong, woman-centric action figures.
Annie says that having female hero options has been a primary goal from the get-go. "It's important to us to inspire kids' creativity, and half of kids are girls."
Josh adds, "We want them to be the leaders just as much as the boys. We don't want them to have to take a sidekick role." Once female HeroMe figures are developed, he says, the "girl" title will be pushed to the side, making all the action figures the same—all part of one, big, empowering team.
Along with encouraging sameness, HeroMe pushes kids to use their imagination. After kids choose the customizable body parts, they're asked to name their HeroMe, create a personality for him or her, choose a favorite food, a favorite color, and what special super powers their doll will use to make the world a better place. Each doll comes with a 56-page activity book and a customizable ID card.
Josh and Annie have high hopes for HeroMe, with plans to, hopefully, partner with organizations such as Ronald McDonald House and other programs that support children going through difficult times.
"We've found that, even though we legitimately cannot take credit for it—but are very happy that it is the case—HeroMe has been very powerful for kids that are struggling with chronic illness, cancer, and autism. It's helping them communicate what they're going through in a way they haven't before," Josh says.
With such amazing feedback from both kids and parents, it's no surprise that Josh, Annie, and HeroMe are well on their way to adding a lot of good into the world of superhero play—for all types of kids.
Brooke Bunce is an editorial assistant at Parents. She hails from Ohio, and you can follow her on Twitter @brookeebunce.
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Photo courtesy of HeroMe and Laura Rowe