When Lara Avsar was a student at Harvard Business School, she encountered an academic study that stuck with her. It found that girls’ self-esteem peaks at age 9. At the same time, she noticed the absence of female role models at the business school, especially compared to the many women in leadership positions who had inspired her at Barnard.
With those observations in mind, Avsar was inspired to create the company Her Little Story, with the mission of bringing female empowerment to children and tweens through the power of stories. “What I realized is that young girls need approachable female role models,” she says. “Instead of Eloise running around the Plaza, Eloise should own the Plaza!”
The company began as a business school project to create illustrated children’s books that capture the stories of accomplished women by depicting a day in their childhoods. Avsar was so passionate about the idea that she took a leave of absence from Harvard to pursue it full time.
The first book Avsar created, Not So Perfect Deb, is about Barnard President Debora Spar. (Avsar had worked closely with Spar as president of Barnard’s Student Government Association.) In the story, the young Spar struggles with spelling, often reading words in reverse, something that causes young classmates to tease her. She experiences frustration when she approaches things differently than others, until she learns that not following the crowd can be a strength. Avsar hopes writing about the everyday struggles of real-life role models will create a connection with readers.
“Young girls have to see incredible women leading in order to later be incredible female leaders,” says Avsar, who aims the books at 6- to 9-year-olds.
A second book follows a day in the life of Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. (The books can be purchased at herlittlestory.com.) Avsar also plans to produce interactive content, dolls, and other items: “I’m the little girl who wanted these books, and I’m building exactly what I wish I’d had.”