Words and interview by Simon Bland
At the heart of all creative endeavours are two key factors needed to transform any idea into a tangible reality: passion and drive. Nowhere are these more noticeable than in Green Bean Studios. Based in Manchester, this multi-platform children’s IP entertainment brand provides colourful, fun and interactive materials for youngsters that encourage learning while instilling an awareness of sustainability and the environment. With its titular hero Green Bean at the centre of its stories and future plans, the studio’s creator and founder, Anita Frost, believes her brand is perfectly placed to help new generations learn through good old-fashioned play.
“As a kid, I was always drawn to spaces where children were playing and I was in awe of how they learn. When it was time to make career choices, I knew my love was kids,” Anita tells us, recalling the path that led her to create Green Bean Studios. “I was also highly driven in the workplace. I always worked my way up quickly and I was very entrepreneurial. I eventually realised I needed to put these two passions together – my love for kids and my love for business.”
After working her way around the children’s sector, Frost took her future into her own hands by creating her own dream role. “I started this journey with Green Bean, a character that’s almost like a superhero for the times we’re currently in, where kids are falling behind with things like speech delays after the pandemic,” explains Frost, detailing the detrimental impact lockdown had on child development. “Parents are under so much stress these days that kids are getting left behind,” she argues. “Even though technology is amazing, it doesn’t replicate those first natural steps that every child needs. They need to go outside, to experience their parents reading to them, and have access to great books and toys. These tools help them thrive and form their identity in the world.”
Despite other big-name characters having already ventured into this space, Frost identified a market gap for something that also hit home key messages around sustainability. “I thought we needed to create a brand that’s just as iconic as its forerunners but also features books, toys, games and media that are wholesome whilst also being wholesome for the planet – something that is made in an organic way but also gets kids learning and reading.”
Whilst the studio has an environmental focus, Frost is keen to ensure that entertainment is at the heart of everything she creates. “The biggest thing is that kids get ahold of something they absolutely love and feel they’ve got ownership of,” she says, unpacking the powerful role content can have on a child’s development. “We want to create products that make children stand up strong and feel confident to take another step in their learning – maybe to ride a bike, go swimming for the first time, be encouraged to put their toys away or go to bed on time. We’re never preaching – it’s all about fun because kids are fun.”
When it comes to sourcing the sustainable materials out of which the studio’s books and toys are made, Frost takes the lead. However, when it comes to the company’s wider plans, which include bringing Green Bean and friends into the realms of music, television and other digital media, it’s here where independent creators are invited to help bring this colourful world to life.
“Our core team is predominately made up of freelancers,” says Frost. “We’ve got a children’s album that we’ve been working on that’s created by local talent – DJs, musicians, artists, mixers… the temptation wasn’t to go and hire Beyoncé. There’s plenty of incredible, raw talent right here in UK communities – so let’s see what they can do. We’ll always keep this community-based focus because it supports the local economy and levels-up people in the team as well. There are people who could be the next Beyoncé, but ultimately, they need that first chance to break into the industry. We’re all about local talent and very entrepreneurial. We’re not afraid to knock on people’s doors.”
With exciting developments in the TV space bubbling away, Frost has already secured the support of one all-important consumer base both at home and in America. “Grandparents absolutely love us,” chuckles Frost. “They repeatedly buy our books because they love it when their grandchildren visit and they can sit and read to them or play with the toys. We’ve had grandparents kicking off in stores asking why Green Bean books aren’t there. They’re both our defenders and supporters and that has been a massive blessing. Their brand loyalty fuels us to keep going.”
With big plans and a dazzling team of makers in tow, Frost’s journey has led her to Creative Enterprise: Evolve. Our support scheme for high-potential screen-based businesses has paired the studio’s founder with mentorship advice to help her face all the challenges scaling up brings. “You can’t take on everything you want to do if you’re not being challenged, learning or reflecting on your journey and the only way to do that is to go through a season of mentorship,” says Frost, explaining her route to Evolve. “Creative UK totally aligns with us because as a creative, you want to be around the information that matters to you the most, otherwise you’re just getting text-book preaching on how to run a business. It was the perfect fit and I love to be challenged.”
The mentorship element of Evolve has helped Frost refine and streamline her business, while the investment-readiness side of things has offered invaluable networking opportunities. “Mentorship is a journey. You start off thinking you’re amazing but after a few conversations, you start to wonder what you’re actually doing. It helps you to get serious about things,” suggests Frost. “Evolve brings real investors in front of you; you meet people who have run and invested in businesses. They’re able to see both dimensions which is really important if you want to scale your business,” she adds. “You need people from the space you’re hoping to go into to sit down and tell you about your business.”
The experience has also helped to open unexpected doors and allow for new collaborations with like-minded individuals. For Frost, this area has been particularly useful: “Unfortunately, as a Black female founder with dyslexia, the business world can still seem very pompous. You 100% need people who have your back,” she argues. “We’ve had so many introductions through Creative UK. It’s an added layer of community around what we’re doing and helps us step into new spaces which wouldn’t happen by simply scrolling on LinkedIn, hoping someone might respond. I’d absolutely recommend it,” adds Frost. “It’s firmed up who we are, what we’re doing, and really helped our business to put on our big girl pants and become grown-up.”