Creator of ‘Doctor Dyslexia Dude’ graphic novels takes home $10,000 Project Pitch It prize

Shawn Robinson

Oshkosh resident Shawn Robinson has taken a difficulty he’s faced in his own life and turned it into a business that helps support young children. Robinson and his wife have written three “Doctor Dyslexia Dude” graphic novels, which tell the story of a young Black superhero who has Dyslexia.

On this week’s episode of Project Pitch It, Robinson and his Doctor Dyslexia Dude business won the $10,000 Project Pitch It Award.

Robinson graduated from high school reading at an elementary school level due to his struggles with Dyslexia. He spent the following 18 years of his life further educating himself to be able to help serve kids. He is now a senior research associate in Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, a dyslexia consultant and a member of the Board of Directors with the International Dyslexia Association.

“My wife, Inshirah, and myself are on a mission to be able to give kids hope and empower them through literature… to allow them to see themselves as having a gift and allow them to see themselves as resilient,” Robinson said.

The first book in the series has sold 7,000 copies in four years. After 10,000 copies of the first book are sold, the company plans on donating 20% of proceeds to the International Dyslexia Association.

Robinson wants to continue building his brand and is considering bringing on a publicist to his team. He’s also worked with UW-Oshkosh journalism department students to pull together a launch plan.

Burlington residents Vijay and Beth Narayanan and their company The Farmstead took home the Jendusa/UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Award this week. This includes access to workshops, programming and support services including investment guidance and mentoring from UW-Milwaukee’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, plus $5,000.

The Farmstead is a family-owned sustainable farming operation that brings fresh produce to customers on a “veggie bus.” In its fourth year of operations, The Farmstead grows 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Customers can also find produce from The Farmstead at area farmers markets.

“What we’ve noticed in the past few years is how people shop for vegetables and produce has really changed,” Vijay Narayanan said. “With the advent of online shopping and home delivery services, we find ourselves getting pushed out of the ‘go to the farmers market’ veggie niche. The veggie bus is our solution to this growing industry.”

The Narayanan family plans to increase the number of neighborhoods they bring the veggie bus to and to market the veggie bus as a community event that customers can bring the whole family to.

Eau Claire entrepreneur Brian Graff and his company Solar Forma were given the American Family/We Energies Award which includes $1,500 in cash and mentoring from a We Energies leader to support all aspects of the business, including marketing, IT, human resources, and finance.

Solar Forma’s “E-Cacia” solar tree

Solar Forma is a product designer and manufacturer of renewable energy technologies. The company pairs artists and designers with leading solar technologies.

“We use the processes, the shapes and the patterns of nature to provide innovative solutions and overcome engineering challenges. We can make our products fit into human scenescapes,” Graff said.

Solar Forma’s “E-Cacia” solar tree is the company’s flagship product. The solar tree is designed to look like a tree that can be found in the African Savanna. It can provide 3.5 kilowatts of carbon-free electricity.

Solar Forma’s products are meant to compliment natural spaces and provide an enhanced aesthetic. The company only offers commercial products at this time but is working on residential options.

Graff said the company will use the prize money as manufacturing capital to expand their capacity of products.

Project Pitch It airs Saturdays at 10:35 p.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin on WISN-TV Channel 12. BizTimes Milwaukee is a media partner for Project Pitch It.

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Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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