Nickelodeon seeks to inspire young girls to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams when Middle School Moguls, a new animated show, premieres Sept. 8.
The half-hour, CG-animated show follows four diverse, ambitious girls as they work toward creating their own companies while attending Mogul Academy. The show stems from Jenae and Gina Heitkamp, sisters, business partners and co-founders of GenGirl Media, Inc.
“Our show really focuses on the character traits entrepreneurs have that are great for everyone. But it focuses on grit, perseverance, never giving up, failing and getting back on your feet,” Jenae says.
The idea sparked about five years ago when Jenae worked as a child therapist in inner-city Los Angeles. There, she noticed a pattern with the media and toys that young girls were passionate about – like Barbie and Monster High.
“She saw how those characters really resonated with girls and thought, ‘Why not create something with fun, relatable, empowering and inspirational characters?’” Gina said.
Enter iBesties, a book line created by the Heitkamp sisters in 2013 to shine light on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields for young girls. As time passed and more people became fond of iBesties, however, the product expanded into a diverse group of dolls and media line, which were later rebranded as Middle School Moguls.
“We just followed the market cues, what our buyers and the kids were saying. That’s how the direction of the company took its shape,” Gina said.
“We’d have girls who were reading the book say, ‘Where’s the doll? I want to play with a doll.’ So it’s kind of a natural evolution from the characters to a book to the dolls.”
And that evolution continues into the four-part animated show, which premieres every Sunday in September. Though it wasn’t a part of the initial plan, the Heitkamp sisters have always dreamed of landing on Nickelodeon.
“They have a lot of the same missions and ideologies as our company, so that was really important to us to find a partner that really believed in what we were doing,” Gina said.
And part of that mission was to expand beyond a female-centric message. As the brand continues to develop, Middle School Moguls will attempt to reach out to all young people, not just girls.
“The world is changing and we want to make sure everyone’s represented,” Gina said. “In the future, we’d love to focus on other characters beyond the four main girls since they’re at an academy for entrepreneurs. It leaves a lot of room for new characters to be introduced.”
For now, Nickelodeon and the Heitkamp sisters are “marketing to everyone who loves cartoons and loves entrepreneurship.”
“Its showing kids that no matter what your background is, you can follow your dreams. Your dreams are relevant and they’re attainable,” Gina added.
Nickelodeon’s Middle School Moguls premieres Sunday, Sept. 8, at 11 a.m. (ET/PT). It features the voices of Olympic Gold medalist Laurie Hernandez, Knight Squad’s Daniella Perkins, School of Rock’s Jade Pettyjohn, and Bella and the Bulldog’s Haley Tju, in addition to special guest stars such as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn and Glee’s Jane Lynch.