Seattle Startup Week Organizers: Kids Can Be Entrepreneurs Too

Oct 4, 2017

The high schoolers organizing some events for Seattle Startup Week want young people to know that starting a business isn't just for grownups.

Seattle Startup Week, now in its fourth year, has organized events for young people in the past, but they were planned by adults. This year is the first time the week's Youth Track is being organized by students.

Dozens of kids and a few parents listened and took careful notes during a pitching workshop Sunday morning in Seattle's Uptown neighborhood.

During the workshop, local startup founder Leslie Feinzaig explained the basics of coming up with an idea and pitching it to investors. She talked about what makes a business including identifying customers and competitors.

Feinzaig makes Venture Kits, which are like boxed playsets that take kids through the process of starting a business. But it's not just about business skills, she says. Entrepreneurship can be a way for kids to practice identifying and solving problems.

"I think of leadership skills, human skills, things like grit and empathy and communication skills, and I think those are really important life skills for kids to have in general," Feinzaig said.

After her presentation, middle and high school students split into groups and worked with other local investors and startup founders to come up with business ideas.

One group wanted to create an app that could scan your fridge and tell you what to cook. Another pair of seventh graders came in with an idea they were already working on: A plan to sell stuffed sock-monsters to raise money to buy socks for homeless people. They thought about ways of expanding their already budding business.

Then the groups had three minutes to pitch the ideas to the adult mentors. The sock-monster team, called Stolen Socks, came away with the grand prize. Others were awarded for innovation and entertaining pitching.

Allison Bunker is a senior at University Prep and one of the event organizers. She tried to go to youth Startup Week events last year, but they were scheduled during the school day. Having students organize the events means it's easy to keep things like that in mind, she said.

Bunker is helping create app that encourages young people to give to charity. She didn't think about it as being entrepreneurial at first, but realized it was those principles that allowed her to make her idea a reality.

"I don't expect every student here today to leave and start their own company," she said. "But I do hope that they recognize that when they see a problem and find a solution, they can implement that."

Bunker's co-organizer, Angela Lin, is a senior at Seattle Preparatory School who started an initiative to connect high school students with local business leaders. She echoed her friend's hopes.

"I want students to walk away feeling inspired, feeling like they're capable of starting their own business, that it's not as hard as they think," Lin said.

The last two youth events are Wednesday evening. First is a panel of business leaders and educators followed by a youth-adult networking event.