We had the pleasure of hearing from Chris Wise and Tuyen Ho today who both work for Designsensory here in Knoxville. During Chris’ day job at Designsensory Intelligence, he provides vital market information to strategically-focused organizations—fields ranging from tourism to healthcare, economic development to financial services and boating to auto racing and football. And all these categories are touched by the in-depth primary research studies he is conducting around true inclusivity. Tuyen Ho joined Designsensory as a graphic designer and is now Vice President of Design and Content and is a freelance artist. They told us the intriguing backstory about a book they have recently produced on their own outside of the company.

Chris wants to be a catalyst for cultural change by showing how and why, through critical insights, an open mind and willingness to grasp the importance of inclusivity at every level – at every customer touchpoint – matters. Chris wanted a fun way to teach his grandchildren and other kids about accepting others and accepting themselves for who they are. So, Chris authored the book entitled, I Want To Be A French Fry and Tuyen did all the illustrations and it turned out beautifully. Tuyen said she has always wanted to illustrate children’s books ever since she found out she was having a daughter. She said she is proud to be part of the magic that helps kids’ imaginations grow and for her first book to encourage kindness is the ultimate dream. The book illustrates the importance of accepting others as they are, and ultimately accepting ourselves as we are. The reason he chose a French fry to convey the need to accept others different than we, was very clever. He noted that there are all kinds of French fries. There are skinny fries, thick fries, seasoned fries, and salty fries. Fries come from all kinds of potatoes like russet, sweet, and red and they are from many countries around the world too!! To illustrate his point, Chris read to us aloud from the book just like we were in elementary school, and we quickly got the message. “So being a French fry is good. Because everyone loves French fries.”

Chris and Tuyen decided to go ahead and publish the book on their own instead of going through a publishing company and have placed the book in several local bookstores and on Amazon. They are using new, creative ideas for distribution like brand and product extensions and influencer marketing. They are considering collaborating with fast-food operators, book clubs, public relations channels, and as they progress, are looking for ways to give back to the community. They named their company, Smirking Owl Publishing, which originally was going to be a name of a coffee company they were going to start. If you’re interested to get the book so you can read it to your children or grandchildren, you can go to www.SmirkingOwlPublishing.com and look for the book by Poppy Wise illustrated by Tuyen Ho.