This past weekend at The Grove, I experienced those moments. Not just once, but multiple times over the course of three days at The Capacitor.
The Capacitor is an event created in partnership with Makarios School in Grapevine, TX and is the brain-child of Aaron Yang (Makarios), Melissa (Mess) Wright (Renegades of Code), and myself. In January, Aaron shared with me that he was interested in starting a youth-focused entrepreneurship weekend, and from there the three of us began building it out. What would transpire was a 3-day, intergenerational, youth focused entrepreneurship weekend.
On Friday night, thirteen youth were invited to pitch their business ideas to the judges and mentors. Of the eight business ideas pitched, four were chosen to advance showing the most promise of becoming viable businesses. Teams were formed, mentors were assigned, and it was time to get to work. The evening ended with an exploration of the elements of the Lean Canvas, a tool to help break down the basics of a business’ structure.
Saturday, they returned and spent time in the morning working with their mentors to build out their Lean Canvas. In the afternoon they learned about the value of validating your concept with your potential customers, with some of them taking to the streets of The West End to get real-time feedback on their products, others conducting phone interviews with their target market. They also got the chance to practice their elevator pitches and receive feedback from the mentors. One of my biggest concerns was that some of the youth might lose focus or interest, but the level of engagement on their part was unmistakably high throughout the whole day.
On Sunday, family and friends were invited to come and see the fruits of the weekend’s labor, as the 4 teams pitched for prize money up to $1,000. All four teams did an outstanding job articulating their visions, answering questions from the judges, and doing their best to prove they deserved the prize. In the end, the winner was the Crocodili Clip, a small hand-held tool designed to help kids open snack packages with ease (without losing a finger or having chips fly everywhere.) The judges (myself, Aaron Yang, and guest judge, Abe Nadimi of Positively Offensive fame) were so impressed with all of the teams. It was evident how much work the youth had put into their businesses.
One of the primary keys to the success of the weekend was the caliber of mentors who volunteered their time to make it happen. Jannica Morton, managing partner of Sites2Behold, and a co-founder at Makarios, helped guide the Crocodilli team. Mess Wright, with years of experience leading STEM-focused camps for youth, worked with Camp Access, a summer camp curriculum distributor. Dan Franks, founder of Podcast Movement, worked with Wireless, a weather/condition responsive LED traffic sign. And Derek Miller, Director of Business Development at Cyanide and Happiness, helped the Sticky Productions team develop their concept for affordable video games.
One of the biggest takeaways from the weekend is that you never really know what a young person is capable of until you give them the tools they need. When you do that, and stay available to help guide and answer questions, they have the potential to surprise, inspire, and even challenge you with their dedication to making their dream come to life.
I’m happy to say that there are already plans for additional Capacitors in the works. If you would like to volunteer to help or mentor at a future event, please email us. We’re currently seeking sponsors to help fund this amazing program, and volunteers to help make them happen. We’re going to need a small army to handle all of the goodness these young people are making happen!