Daniel – can you introduce yourself to the Daddy’s Digest readers?
Hello, Danny Stedman here – the founder and CEO of Pressto, a new platform that makes learning to write fun for kids and easy for teachers and families. We launch this coming Fall! Before Pressto, I was the founder of the The L Magazine and Brooklyn Magazine. Those became part of Northside Media, which grew to include SummerScreen in McCarren Park, Northside festival, Northside Innovation Conference and Taste Talks, which were acquired in 2015.
As the founder of Brooklyn Magazine, I wanted to get more involved in some underserved communities. I went to volunteer at some high school journalism programs including James Madison High School, where Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg each graduated high school, and I found that their high school newspaper had closed, and I heard the same story over and over again. Later, after Northside had been acquired, I volunteered to start up an elementary school newspaper where my son Graham was in kindergarten, and here I got the chance to speak with parents, teachers, principals, and got the audacious idea that we could create a platform to serve millions of kids instead of just this one school.
Tell us a bit about your fatherhood journey.
My whole life, I looked forward to being a father. Now that my boys are growing up, the greatest joy in being a father is watching their relationship grow. I have two older brothers, and they’re my best friends. My five year old and my eight year old are very different, but they’re best friends and they play together all day. I guess I can say that my dreams came true.
I’d say that my All Star moment as a father was when I took my kids fishing in Cape Breton, and I got my three year old to cast & catch a huge rainbow trout all on his own, which we later ate as a family. (See video link)
How has being a father changed my approach to business and leadership?
As a father, I’ve learned that I really need to listen to my kids and speak with them on their own level. With kids, that often means crouching down and getting to their eye level. I think it’s the same in business and leadership. First of all, you need to be a good listener, and you need to actually understand the problem, even if somebody is having a tantrum or seeming unreasonable. Then you need to have a candid conversation about the problem from the same perspective.
Why is literacy and writing important to you as both a parent and business person?
Over the past year, I’ve traveled around the country to education conferences, and I’ve spoken with hundreds of teachers & principals. I’ve seen some incredible innovation in math, science, STEM and STEAM – a little bit in reading – and almost nothing for writing. To put this in context, we have TV sets that are less than 1” thick, but writing is still taught the same as it was 50 years ago (actually, even worse).
Learning to write has become a dreadful experience for kids and teachers. This is tragic, as students need to be prepared for a future of work where Creator skills like publishing, sharing and audience development will be critical to success. Kids are actually learning to write on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, and they are not writing well.
Writing is one of the oldest forms of communication, and it’s also one of the only forms that is permanent – Kids need to learn that their words matter. Words can be hurtful, or they can be inspiring. It’s easy to make someone feel great, but it’s equally easy to make someone feel terrible or feel bullied.
We’re teaching kids to have a more healthy relationship with the content that they consume, and also – more importantly – to think critically about the words that they put into the world.
Tell us about how Presto can be a tool for parents.
Presto is a fun way for kids to start their experience as writers. It’s simple and intuitive. There is only a small amount of effort required for kids to feel successful. And with a little bit of additional effort, they can complete a finished product, share it with their friends and family digitally or print it out on a standard sheet of paper and fold it into a fun, shareable presto. This is something that kids really love. They feel proud, and it’s a great way to hook them into enjoying the experience of writing, which has never been more critical.
Good writing leads to good thinking. You can’t be a good software developer without documenting your code. Writing is everywhere.