Make Money, Sunny

Pennywise, educated and on the road to wealth - that's Brustein's goal for kids.

By Michelle Valigursky

Story Photo

In Money-Making Sunny, author Darrah Brustein 06C gives kids an early understanding of savings, spending, and the value of a dollar.

We all know someone whose money “burns a hole in the pocket” until they can spend it on the latest and greatest something fun. While Darrah Brustein 06C fully appreciates the powerful appeal of money, she is also dedicated to educating kids about how to handle their own finances. “Putting children in control of what they earn empowers them to budget both their time and money,” she says.


Author and finance visionary Darrah Brustein 06C collaborated with former Disney animator Mike Woodcock to visually bring her story to life.

Raised on a horse farm near Philadelphia, Brustein understood chores and allowance. Before she was a teenager, “My parents taught me the indelible lessons of saving, earning, investing, and giving back.” By 23, she successfully purchased her own home and car, while friends lived paycheck to paycheck. She reflects on her upbringing. “As a kid you assume that how you are raised is how others are raised,” she says. “But it just isn’t true.”

Brustein recently founded Finance Whiz Kids, an enterprise designed to educate children about spending, saving, and giving back. Brustein’s quest stems from her realization that “trying to retrain adults out of their lifelong habits and ideas around money would be tough.” Instead, she knows that “sharing valuable financial lessons with children, when their minds are open and malleable, is a great place to start. Children absorb patterns of money by age three. Kids simply model what they see.”

Before she finalized Money-Making Sunny, the first book in the Finance Whiz Kids book series, Brustein discussed her concept with parents. “Many felt unequipped—like the topic was a burden or taboo, or that they themselves were not well-educated on personal finance,” she recalls. “Parent education is equally important, and each book includes resources designed to reinforce lessons – in a really fun way.”

She explains. “As a society, we need to sow positive seeds early rather than simply trying to break bad money habits in adulthood. But parents often feel overwhelmed about discussing family finances.” Through the Finance Whiz Kids book series, Brustein empowers parents to reinforce positive lessons.

The Finance Whiz Kids series of books will include six separate stories with different important financial lessons. Lauded by Forbes and INC and named a “Killer Startup” founder, Brustein is determined to change money patterns in households everywhere. Her visionary entrepreneurship earned an exclusive invitation for her to participate in the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She was one of only seven young Americans invited to participate, along with fellow Emory graduate, founder and CEO of iStrategyLabs Peter Corbett 03B. She is also amongst the founding class of the Atlanta chapter of the Forum of Global Shapers, a hub of the World Economic Forum.

An Entrepreneur’s Drive for Success

Brustein’s vision and no-nonsense approach to money are the keys to her success, and it’s not surprising that she successfully juggles multiple business ventures at once. 

As a Phi Beta Kappa Emory graduate of religion and Italian, Brustein knew she wanted her own business someday.  After graduation, she pursued her passion for fashion and launched into a successful sales career for a high-end denim clothing company. She met her three-year sales goal in ten months, and through wise money management and financial responsibility, bought her own car and house while most of her peers could barely make ends meet.

When the company folded during the recession, Brustein did “plenty of soul searching about the next step.” With family encouragement, that next professional step came when she joined her twin brother, Garrett, in a merchant services business called Equitable Payments. “I interviewed 100 of my previous sales clients to find out what was lacking in their merchant services. Unanimously, they sought honesty and personal attention,” she explains. “In our business, we aren’t striving to grow huge. Instead, we will continue to offer meaningful, bottom line savings to businesses. Our customers appreciate what we stand for.” 

Ever the entrepreneur, Brustein also identified an acute need and filled the void, founding Atlanta Under 40, a nationally recognized social and professional networking organization. Now branded, franchised, and licensed to Denver and Raleigh, the business has also inspired sister group Atlanta Over 40. Monthly events draw more than 200 people. “We believe you should mix, connect, and enjoy. We lead with social interaction first, and professional connection second.”

So how does this visionary young entrepreneur view her own success? “I’ve always had a simply philosophy.  If you follow your passion and do what you love and believe in, money will follow. And I’m ready to teach others what I’ve learned.”


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Michelle Valigursky