Featured The Hustle

Milwaukee teen entrepreneur turns bullying into book, brand

Cameron Fry. Photo supplied.

While most teenagers may be focused on keeping up with the latest TikTok trends, 16-year-old Cameron Fry is focused on being a dedicated student and an entrepreneur. The Milwaukee teen is the proud owner of Prodigy Three, a brand that focuses on faith, empowerment and awareness. 

It all started in grade school, when his school focused on cancer research during spirit week. Cameron became interested in the cause and wanted to learn more about how he could help those affected, even offering to play basketball to raise money. His mother, Angel Bell, said “It was his heart, and I prayed about it and asked God, ‘What is it that I can do to help push his vision and what he felt?’” After prayer and reflection, the two decided to create Prodigy Three. Angel explained ‘prodigy’ speaks to Cameron’s being gifted in several areas, while the ‘three’ stands for the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

“We came up with the name of Prodigy Three, which actually speaks to the character of him being this standout guy and gifted in several different areas,” she said. “So we took it from there . . . we launched various T-shirts and designs that speak to the faith-based community as well as just individuals, just a way of expressing oneself. We went from there and began to launch various other products to tag along with that.”

Initially, Cameron sold his merchandise hand to hand. Customers could pick up from his home or he would drop off orders to them. Business was sure to evolve when he released a signature Prodigy Three project based on personal experience with a subject one too many children face—bullying. However, Cameron’s story is a bit different, as he has been on both sides of the matter. In elementary school he was a victim of bullying. Years later in fourth or fifth grade, he found himself being part of a crowd that bullied another student. 

To address this, Angel teamed up with the school’s assistant principal and had Cameron do research on bullying and how it can affect others. He then had to present an apology to the student. These experiences inspired Cameron to create his book Why Bully Me? He said that to him, writing a book was the easiest way to get his message out there. “Spread the word out for others to hear,” he said. “ I know people will go to more positive things than negative things. So they will share that more and spread the positive words out.”

To get the project going, he first typed out his ideas, with Angel’s assistance in editing, and then they teamed up with illustrator Dianna L. Hayden. Angel even incorporated her own publishing label DIR 19 Publishing, to release Cameron’s book. The entire process took about two years from start to finish. The hard work paid off as Cameron is selling in over 40,000 retailers, with major names including Walmart, Books a Million, and Barnes and Noble. 

“The goal is for every book I write to have a message at the end, or the reader can get a message in it,” Cameron said. With the launch of the book, he also expanded his merchandise to complement the book’s message. He offered t-shirts that display inspirational words, along with the Why Bully Me? design. He said this branded apparel is just another way to get the anti-bullying message out, or “a walking billboard” as Angel described it. 

But he didn’t stop there. He also offered a Confidence Box, which includes the book, a t-shirt, bookmark, two pens, keychain, coloring sheet and a letter. Staying consistent with his goal of sharing a message, the box displays inspirational words both on the lid and inside. 

Upon its release and subsequent readership, Angel says she told Cameron at the time, “you have now created something that’s going to continue to live on until whenever, because it’s out there, it’s available, it’s worldwide. And the message on bullying is a constant message that needs to be spoken on all the time.”

Although he takes pride in running his own business, it doesn’t come without its challenges. Cameron shared it can be difficult to balance with going to school, doing homework and also playing on his uncle’s traveling basketball team. He admitted he knows both the sport and entrepreneurship can take him somewhere in life but said his business is going to take him farther because it’s a consistent, ongoing endeavor. He described having to sometimes sacrifice playing basketball as “very hard. I like to play basketball a lot and when I miss out on games or practices, that kind of triggers me a little bit.”

To help manage, he often will follow his mother’s schedule to keep track of things. And on days when homework takes longer than usual, Angel steps in to oversee Prodigy Three duties, such as preparing for upcoming events or checking inventory. 

This is a small price to pay, as Angel described watching her son’s entrepreneurial journey as “really exciting.” She continued, “It’s not easy, but also, it’s an inspiration to me. Because he has the ability to inspire others, based on what he’s doing, and the message that he’s sending out . . . just being able to let other kids his age and even adults know as well that ‘hey, this can happen, you can do it’ and sometimes we just need that extra push.”

She said she assumes the role of Cameron’s “momager”, and at times will have to remind him, “not a lot of people get this opportunity or have someone to push them to bring out the best within them or to be able to tap into what their vision is.” So for her to be able to help Cameron bring out his vision is “both an inspiration and motivation.”

“To just see what he pushes out to make an impact within his environment, within a community, that’s the most important thing to me. And as a young, black male, that’s key,” she said. “You want to set yourself up to the extent of where your product, your brand, your whatever you create, can speak for itself, even when you’re not in the room.”

Cameron uses these words of advice to guide his business, but also has some encouraging words of his own for aspiring young entrepreneurs: “Just have a vision, and stick with it because God got you no matter what. So he’s gonna guide you to the right path, whenever.”

Why Bully Me? is available wherever books are sold. To purchase locally, readers can pick up a copy at Boswell Book Company on Milwaukee’s East Side.