Kanata kids launch startup to help bookworms in the pandemic


While most Ottawa kids are struggling to fill their days amid an unexpectedly extended March Break, two young entrepreneurs in Kanata are finding opportunity in the disruption and launching their first business venture to inject some fun into reading.

Henry Murphy Fallak, age nine-almost-10, and his brother Hudson, age six-almost-seven, are the founders of Book Botz, a collection of colourful robotic bookmarks available for purchase – or “adoption” – online. 

Each of the bookmarks has a unique character with a listed name, age, superpower and planet of origin, which Hudson says the boys were able to design between scheduled academics and screen time on the Nintendo Switch at home.

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But based on the assumption that many young students are also passing their days reading books, the Kanata-based startup is looking to give kids stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic a more exciting way to mark their pages.

The fledgling firm’s market opportunity was just expanded on Tuesday, as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that schools in the province won’t reopen until at least May 4.

“Kids are going to do a lot of reading,” Henry says of the extra time at home.

“Book Botz are a funner way to hold a page than just having a ripped piece of paper sitting in your book.”

The idea to start a business during the boys’ time away from school came from dad Dan Fallak, the founder of Versatile Brands. No stranger to the consumer goods market, over the past eight years Fallak has worked with familiar brands such as Hockey Night in Canada to land products in major retail outlets including Urban Outfitters, TJ Maxx, Saks Fifth Avenue and Indigo. 

He notes, however, that Henry and Hudson have quickly become his “most important clients.”

Fallak says the family has taken trips to Chapters Indigo stores where his boys excitedly pulled his products off the shelf because they know their dad created it. He says he thought helping them start a small business would not only pass on a valuable skill set, but also let them know how it feels to build and sell a product from scratch.

“It’s always an exciting feeling for any entrepreneur… they never get sick of seeing any order come in,” he says.

Fallak’s childhood friend happens to own Graphic-Print Copies in Etobicoke, so he tapped the printer to do an initial run of 150 bookmarks for the boys. Book Botz has already sold half of its inventory, Henry notes, with family members and Hudson’s teacher from John Young Elementary School pitching in for some orders. Kanata North Business Association’s Jamie Petten was among those impressed with the boys’ entrepreneurial drive.

The family had planned a Disney vacation at the end of March that has been postponed indefinitely, but the business has provided a more than sufficient distraction in the house.

With the wisdom of investors 50 years their senior, the two young entrepreneurs say they’ll be squirreling away about half of the funds for a later date but intend to reinvest the remaining profits for “fun things.”

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