Video: Boy band of business aims to be No 1 in the classroom

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THis is the boy band of publishing who are taking the world of education by storm.

Ross Bennett, Tony Tran, Greg Bennett, James Wilson and James Kildea caught the enterprise bug aged just 14 and in 2004 formed a company with 25 others at Freeston Business and Enterprise College.

From left,  James Kildea, James Wilson, Greg Bennett, Tony Tran and Ross Bennett.

From left, James Kildea, James Wilson, Greg Bennett, Tony Tran and Ross Bennett.

Their idea was to pool their skills from creating cartoons to using their budding financial and marketing skills to produce a range of merchandise including an educational children’s book.

While the Wakefield boys failed to rival major publishers and the book remained unproduced, enough profits were generated through schemes including a lunch-time tuck shop and a cake stall to keep their interest going.

After 12 months the 30 members had reduced to just six but those remaining were still determined and set up Tellatale, a company using their story-telling talents and drawing skills to produce comic-style books and materials which encouraged learning through interactive games and puzzles.

One of their first books centred on the adventures of a brother and sister who get transported to London by a magic monkey, called Bozo in Olly and Molly Discover London.

Their sales grew and the struggling company continued to show enough promise to make it all worthwhile, mainly through word of mouth recommendation.

After a couple of years of trading Tellatale got the break it needed. In 2007 a partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club saw the firm score a triumph by getting heavily involved in the club’s community programmes and a second book followed – Olly and Molly Discover Boro.

Their success was underscored when the club achieved a Football League Trust silver grading and further partnerships with councils and local education authorities beckoned.

It was at this point the group who operate out of a small office in Agbrigg, Wakefield, saw the chance to expand.

Still barely out of their teens, they thought creative workshops for pupils to improve literacy, numeracy and demonstrating entrepreneurial drive would be popular with schools.

It was a nerve-wracking prospect; getting headteachers and education officials interested was one thing but the really big test was proving they could capture the attention of often bored, disadvantaged pupils.

Ross admitted going through a school’s doors for the first time and standing up in front of a class was a “definite knee-trembler” but feedback from pupils showed they had nothing to fear, and in fact, they turned out to be mining a rich, untapped seam.

Schoolgirl Vienna Dooler said: “[Our] creative writing workshop was a complete hit. I wrote about governments and it proved to be incredibly interesting, more so than I ever believed it could be.

“We didn’t only write articles but met new people from other schools including Outwood, City Academy and Horbury. It was a blast and we came up with some brilliant ideas.”

Another pupil, Ellie Oldroyd, added: “Today has been a great day. I have met loads of new people and worked hard to produce something that we can keep forever.”

Tellatale has now become Engaging Education, offering interactive workshops and programmes as well as the series of story books. The five entrepreneurs, who have been supported by comedy author Dean Wilkinson, believe starting young has only worked in their favour.

Ross said: “We are all 22 years old and still young enough to ‘get down with the kids’ and we can relate to them easily.

“Crucially these workshops are not an off-the-shelf, standard package. Instead we create them to meet the specific needs of the schools and the students themselves.

“The production of a tangible magazine at the end of a creative writing programme inspires young people and helps them to realise what they can achieve through hard work.”