By now you’ve probably heard about our Be the Boss program, and if you haven’t, here are the details:
We partnered with St. Edmund’s Academy to have fourth, fifth and sixth graders participate in a Shark Tank like competition. Then, we took those concepts and made them into real products.
The idea behind Be the Boss is to empower young people to take control of their future and make positive impact on society through entrepreneurship.
The program is also a way to teach kids about the importance of education and how it applies to their future as business powerhouses.
They see the application of math and critical thinking when they learn about business plans and finance. Even things like history and geography come into play here because entrepreneurs need to understand demographics and how that affects product development.
We wanted the Be the Boss to focus on life skills, as well as business skills. Entrepreneurship is very different than working for someone else. You need to be nimble. You need to be consistently productive – and you need to see the opportunity that exists within failure.
Thanks to this idea, and the partnership of St. Edmund’s, we saw these kids transform from students into full-fledged entrepreneurs.
We worked with these young entrepreneurs to develop solutions to problems they face everyday.
In total, they pitched 25 ideas to a panel of judges, including C-leveled staff and Audrey Russo.
Pitching an idea isn’t for the faint of heart. You need strong communication skills and a healthy dash of courage. Learning how to craft a great pitch and getting over the fear putting yourself and your ideas out there is something that these students will carry with them as they apply to college, jobs and possibly pitch new business ideas to VCs.
All of the ideas were excellent, but in the end, we settled on bringing three concepts to market.
The adult entrepreneurs didn’t take over from here. We left most of the process to the young entrepreneurs, while we created an incubator vibe to help them launch their products.
They met weekly to refine their concepts, focus on team building and develop their business skills.
Our pilot program is launching three products, all of which focus on making students lives easier.
Two of the products, iRetractable and Splotch, fall under the parent company Zowie.
iRetractable, whose CEO is 11 year old Riley B., “was designed to save your mobile phone from destruction.” You attach one end to your existing phone case and the other end to your belt or wristband. iRetractable will prevent your phone from hitting the ground. No more broken screens!
Splotch, with Zachary K. serving as CEO, is a “reusable, waterproof pocket ideal for holding valuables like keys or a mobile phone.” It attaches to any surface, from clothing to a car window. No more lost keys!
Finally, there is the Bag-O’nizer, run by CEO Babita H. Bag-O’nizer solves a problem to which every student can relate: the messy backpack. Equipped with compartments for pens, pencils, notebooks, books and even a water bottle, this product has everything a student needs to survive the school day.
The real magic of these products is that, while they were designed for kids, we can easily market them to adults. Everyone needs to protect their cell phone, everyone could use an extra pocket and nearly everyone has a messy bag in need of some organization.
To say that Be the Boss has been a success would be an understatement. Not only the students learn about building a business; we learned about the power of young entrepreneurs to create innovative products that will take the market by storm.
We hope to expand into more schools in the future, so that we can foster the entrepreneurial spirit in all of Pittsburgh’s younger generation.