UPrep Has Us Back; Chaos and Brilliance (Equal Parts) Ensues.

June 11, 2009 | 826 Blog Post

Three weeks ago, when 826michigan’s Marketing Development Production Team, Davisson, Davisson, Davisson, and Squirrel, ventured to University Prep in Detroit, we were not sure what to expect. Teacher Ben Curran had called us in because his Product Development Team was just not producing items worth purchasing, plain and simple. Last year’s Electric Toothbrush/Broom had been a phenomenal flop, as had the Camelhair PJs.

We explained to the students that Jimmy Jimmereeno (who looks remarkably similar to 826michigan’s publishing intern, Jared Hawkley), CEO of Everything You Could Ever Want…and More!, a gigantic department store, needed better products. Products that would sell. It was going to be A LOT of work, but we needed to make NEW products that consumers would actually BUY.

The students assured us they were up for the challenge, and immediately set to work BLOWING OUR MINDS with products like cat flip-flops and sprayable, light-up frosting. You have probably gleaned that we like sharing and appreciating ideas. We did plenty of that. It looked a little like this:

Marae, who later developed the Light-Up Tie, shares one of her early ideas.

Over the next few sessions, students shared ideas, nailed down target markets, and learned about advertising and writing to sell. Students also made models of their products.

Savannah shows off her model of the Quicker Better Faster Perfume Dispenser.

Things got slightly out of hand:

We’re not entirely sure how Kwesi came to be wearing
those metal hoops all over his head, but we do know that he kept
them on there for a LONG time. Same with Nicolas and that boa …

The fourth and final day of the workshop, students looked at examples from catalogs and wrote the copy for their products. I can honestly say, I haven’t laughed that hard in quite a while. (“Never walk again!” Nicolas wrote. “Use your new, improved Anti-Gravity Dreamer. Don’t throw your shoes away, these babies stick to everything! The Anti-Gravity Dreamer allows you to defy gravity. Painting the roof can be super hard, but the Anti-Gravity Dreamer gives you the boost you need! When a cat gets stuck in a tree, put these on and save a life!”) The students really GOT IT, and their mastery of the genre was awesome.

You know how I feel about bulleted lists. One of my favorites OF ALL TIME came with the copy for Flame Boy II:

Josiah wrote: With this suit you can be a super hero. You must be eighteen years or younger to take advantage of this offer. You can fly! It also has:


  • an ice shield
  • a camouflage system
  • a bathroom police scanner
  • x-ray vision
  • 598 mph jets
  • a bulletproof body
  • HDTV
  • a CD player
  • cup holders
  • wolverine nails
  • a computer
  • a radio
  • an engine for a heart
  • a candy dispenser



I’ve made bulleted lists in my time, sure, but none as entertaining as that one.

This morning, we got to deliver the finished catalogs to the students. You can’t imagine how pleased we are with the final product. The students were excited too, and in cases such as these, pictures are always better. So, here goes:

Shayna and Troi giggle over the hilarity of their classmates’ inventions.

Take a look at the catalog here. (8.9MB PDF)

Many thanks to Ben Curran for inviting us back into his classroom! Thanks to the students, who came up with products that were roughly ten times cooler than we thought they would (and a hundred times cooler than what we could have done!). Thanks to 826michigan volunteers Colleen Davisson, Chris Hiltz, Rosie Iordanova, Angela Kujava, Frances Martin, Lauren Walbridge, and Bill Winters for sharing your varied departments of expertise with the students!

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