Thomas Kinslow, entrepreneur and creator of the Dewey Does children’s book series, always dreamed of being a success. He grew up in the Park Hill section of Staten Island, one of the roughest neighborhoods in New York. Not many in his neighborhood were on a college track but Kinslow admired a young, black businessman who would come through his neighborhood to talk about the importance of education.
“He wore a suit and tie and I wanted to be like him,” Kinslow said.
The businessman inspired Kinslow to study business and economics at Oswego State University of New York. He excelled, but according to him, not because he was the smartest student.
“I worked hard, harder than others and took every opportunity to learn,” Kinslow recalled.
Early on he adopted the “Do (Dew) Anything” state of mind that has become a signature mantra for Dewey Does.
“In my mind, fear, doubt and disbelief do not exist,” Kinslow said. “You sometimes just have to work harder and smarter.”
Though Kinslow was never the most gifted student, the fastest athlete or the most talented entertainer, both of his parents raised him and his two brothers to have pride and confidence.
His entrepreneurial spirit began to emerge in college when he became the Director of Refrigeration for the Student Association. He quickly transformed the department into a profitable program by building an aggressive marketing campaign to reach more college students. Armed with confidence, he turned his interest to Wall Street and thought he’d become a stockbroker but was met with employment discrimination. However, he didn’t allow a roadblock to take him off his course to success.
Kinslow learned there were lucrative opportunities in selling life insurance. He soon became one of the top agents in a Brooklyn agency. Once again, he faced racial barriers in opening up his own agency. He kept his resolve and found another way to become an entrepreneur, as an independent insurance broker. After months of intense study and sacrifice, Kinslow passed the rigorous exam to become an agency broker and in 1987 opened his own company. In 1990, he expanded the company to include travel services.
After nearly a decade of working in the insurance and travel industry, he decided to honor his lifelong love of creativity, sports and fitness. In 1999, Kinslow created Dewey Does, a character inspired by his then 7-year-old son, Jonathan. Jonathan was a big kid who was not usually the first pick for his sports team, but he never let it get him down. He remained optimistic and passionate about sports.
“He brought such commitment, energy and passion to any team he was on,” Kinslow recalled.
In 2000, Kinslow self-published the first book in the series, Dewey Does 4 Prez. In 2001, he met accomplished writer, John Cooper who authored the three-book series, Heroes Start As 110% Kids.
Dewey Does and Friends are characters kids can relate to, as well as look up to. The easy reading stories entertain, educate, and embody the active spirit of children while also teaching about the importance of friendships and fitness. Kinslow always envisioned Dewey Does as a character that all kids could identify with and spread the message of perseverance and fitness. He saw sports as the perfect vehicle because it crosses racial, ethnic and gender lines.
Now in its thirteenth year, Dewey Does has sold over 30,000 books, secured a distribution contract with Scholastic Books and is in the process of launching a new website and marketing campaign. The “Dew Anything” campaign encourages kids with a message to enjoy life, play hard, be daring, reach for the impossible, and NEVER give up.
“Dewey’s an underachiever,” Kinslow explains. “He’s not the greatest athlete but he has a positive attitude.” Dewey’s friends: Big Bang, Shy Annda, Cindy Joy, Trevor Sparks and Fussie Fran add dimension to the stories and expand the messages reach. They each have hidden talents and insecurities that you wouldn’t expect based on their backgrounds or appearances. Dewey learns a lot about family, identity and accepting people for who they are from his friends. Though they disagree and sometimes get themselves into trouble, they learn from their mistakes and support each other. Their love of sports always brings them together.
“At the end of the day, parents want their children to just give never give up,” Kinslow added.
The Dewey Does brand has evolved and grown to include stage shows, a Dewey Does mascot and animation series. In 2005, the Dewey Does Foundation was founded with the mission to fight childhood obesity.
Kinslow is now looking to the future of Dewey Does and spreading the message globally.
“Every country uses sports to inspire,” Kinslow said. “It’s a global thing.”