There’s nothing Booked Parties loves more than supporting the creative, energetic spirit of entrepreneurs. Recently, we are finding inspiration by setting our sights a bit lower…literally. A new crop of entrepreneurs are on the rise, but you won’t find them running their businesses between the hours of 9am to 3pm when school is in session. Gone are the days of paper boys and lemonade stands. Today’s young business owners are savvy beyond belief, successfully identifying niche business models and leveraging the power of social media in a manner that’s so natural to them, it’s staggering to us grown-ups. The children are clearly ready to lead the future.
On Black Friday, as millions flocked to the big box stores in search of deals, Ayana and Ethan Klein would rummage through their recycling bin in search of raw materials to construct holiday gifts that supported the family mantra, “The best gifts are made with our hearts, our hands, and any materials already in the house.” Odds and ends would transform into townhouses, parking garages and pinball machines. Unknowingly, through this play, the Klein kids were laying the groundwork for their future business, 3DuxDesign. Today, this business is focused on creating building sets that blend art, design and open-ended creative play with STEAM fundamentals. Their core product includes a variety of connectors and geometric cardboard forms that allow children to transform raw materials into construction products.
A true team effort, their mother Marci, leads the business’ day-to-day operations and is a product development consultant. Marci’s 20 years as a community pediatrician lends itself to her ability to gear products to be engaging, educational and developmentally appropriate. The Klein children appropriately have supporting leadership roles at the company. Ayana, co-founder, lead product developer and graphic designer adeptly balances her business responsibilities with her studies at Washington University St. Louis. Ethan, a high school student, has taken the role of chief engineer and production manager.
We sat down with Marci to learn more about this family business:
How did your children come up with this idea?
The idea was born two summers ago when Ayana, heading into tenth grade, took an architecture course at Columbia University. She not only fell in love with the aesthetics of the buildings, but also the idea that design is based on the function of space, how people use that space, and the effect that that space has on behavior. The following summer, she spent time shadowing an industrial design firm and realized that those same concepts are used when designing the daily products that people use. She was inspired to design a fun and engaging children’s creative play product that blended math and engineering concepts with art, design thinking. To engineer the product and develop the business plan, Ayana rallied her younger brother, Ethan, then 14. They ultimately designed a product that would offer children exposure to the fundamentals of STEAM learning.
Tell us a little more about the products and the ideas behind them.
3DuxDesign’s assorted reusable connectors and geometric cardboard forms let children build anything they can imagine. Our materials help develop an understanding of geometry, basic engineering concepts and complex three-dimensional concepts through hands-on creative play. The connectors are engineered to fit most corrugated shipping box material, so young designers never run out of raw material to work with and learn about creative repurposing as they build.
How long did it take to get the business off the ground?
At home, we call 3DuxDesign the “Fast Company.” Ayana and Ethan hashed out the idea in early July 2017 and by September 15th, theonline retail shop officially launched. Initially, we focused on research & development, devising the design of the connectors and refining them using an assortment of sample cardboards. Ethan, specifically, was very focused on ensuring that our connectors worked on any recyclable cardboard a child has access to. He recognized that having a kid cut out lots of shapes only to find that the connectors didn’t work would be a bad business model.
August was designated as “market research” month. Ayana and I went to the Fairfield and Westport, CT public libraries with our connectors and painted cardboard pieces in tow. We introduced the children to the product and observed their play. Through my pediatricians’ eyes, I realized that this product built a wide range of developmental skills including fine motor, problem solving, team building, geometry and engineering.
By mid-August, Ayana and Ethan were convinced this project had real legs and went through the process of creating a real business. They took the necessary steps including incorporation, creating a business plan, patent writing, independent product safety testing, website development, and devising a social media/marketing plan.
What is your vision for the company’s growth?
With such an overwhelming response from children, parents, educators and professionals in the design and engineering fields, we have huge plans for 3Dux. We will expand our line beyond the original scope of the product, which included six connectors, shapes and geometric cardboard forms. We recently launched “power packs,” which enable kids to light up the homes they create while teaching about electricity and circuits.
Our most exciting news is that we are launching 3DuxUniversity this winter, a social platform where individual children, teachers and classrooms will have access to a community of educators and design professionals from around the world. This unique hub will be a place where art, creativity and play intersect with design thinking and STEM education. We are so excited to inspire children across the globe think outside the box!
What advice do you have for future “Mini-Makers” and entrepreneurs?
Keep it simple. Keep it understandable. Create something with value. Truly believe in what you create. There will be hurdles that will test your will to keep going. Believing that what you created will make a difference in the world will help you get over those lows. And, make sure to secure intellectual property ownership because if your idea is worth copying, someone will do it, even if you’re a kid.
Photographs provided by 3DuxDesign
3DuxDesign are currently running a Kickstarter Campaign to help provide kits for schools who don’t have the means to purchase themselves. Every $10 pledge will supply material for a program in your name.
Shauna Levy is a writer, communications professional and a stay-at-home mom. Her interests include flaunting her discount shopping finds, cooking food her children reject and restoring her 125-year old home. She is currently raising three boys, ages 9, 6 and 5 alongside her husband in Chappaqua, NY.