When Justin Williams’ four-year-old son started helping him advertise for a Startup Weekend Tucson event, Justin was inspired to extend the Startup Weekend methodology to a younger audience. His son had collected Startup Weekend posters and hung them up all over his bedroom – he was anxious to learn more and get involved, but Startup Weekend events are historically populated by young adults and adults. Williams recognized the opportunity to build a simplified event that could be offered to children.
Earlier that summer, Justin had brought his son along to a conference. Together, they decided to conduct an experiment that involved basic data collection. They wanted to know how many rooms were in the hotel that they were staying in, so they went to each floor and looked at the largest room number, added their data, and came up with a final number. Williams was inspired by this simple activity and realized that it wouldn’t be overly complicated to teach five-year-olds about basic data collection through activities, as well as other fundamental skills.
Williams’ interest in getting more kids involved in basic, early-stage business and leadership practices further spurred his Startup Weekend ‘Kids’ project. The course was designed to occur over the span of just one day rather than the full 54 hours. Williams gauged that the attention span of young children would not function with the traditional Startup Weekend structure. To keep the course organized and moving, Justin also invited parents to sit in with their children and ended up hosting a total of 8 parents and 12 kids.
Taking a basic, hands-on approach, Justin encouraged all the children to develop a product and a commercial that could explain their product using posterboard as a primary resource. Justin was worried that the kids might be too shy to present their projects, but only one participant had brief stage fright, and ultimately everyone seemed comfortable enough to talk about their ideas.
One young participant developed an idea that utilized the successful ‘Build a Bear’ concept – but for toy cars – believing that boys would enjoy building their own cars more than stuffed bears. Some adults present at the event loved the idea and even expressed an interest in developing it further.
Overall, Justin believes that the event rendered 100% satisfaction – the older kids involved came away with more finished commercials and product ideas, but the younger kids still had fun and learned a basic approach for developing a product. He believes this event could easily become a community-centric experiential learning day for children that parents could also be involved in.
Williams hopes to organize future kids events by following the same basic structure and possibly adding a ‘parents only’ viewing day where parents can opt to come in and see video footage of the learning process. Justin envisions the event as something that could also be brought into classrooms, targeting a range of students from Kindergarten to Middle School.