By: Ayana Klein (AB '20)
My name is Ayana Klein, and I am a rising junior at WashU majoring in entrepreneurship and minoring in education. Three years ago, I started my own company, 3DuxDesign. 3DuxDesign is an architectural modeling system that allows children to turn recycled cardboard boxes into anything one can imagine while focusing on combining STEM/STEAM education, world learning, and creative play. Since launching my now profitable company, my products and programs are used in over six hundred classrooms, seven countries, and thousands of homes. What I have learned over the past years is that I love being an entrepreneur. I love the feeling of helping to support people around the world, and I love making a difference.
This past fall, I decided that while I really enjoy working for my own company, I wanted to learn how other people formulate their own ideas and create a solution. And what greater a place than St. Louis. This past year, I have become very involved with the Skandalaris Center, and I have been granted so many opportunities, for example pitching at the Idea Bounce and Pipeline Entrepreneurs, an accelerator program with an end of year pitch in Kansas City, and competing for the Global Impact Award this past April. I quickly realized what a great program the Skandalaris Center is and when I heard that there was a new fellowship program, I immediately applied. I was so excited to expand my St. Louis network of entrepreneurs and was eager to learn how other companies launch their businesses. I immediately started to reach out to startups, and that is when I found MathBRIX, an educational startup whose goal is to help young children learn through games. When I came upon this company, I reached out as I knew it would be a great fit as I had already had experience in the educational startup world and was ready to expand my knowledge on this topic, knowing I could provide insight through my own background.
A few weeks later, I met with the founders, Bettie and Tyler Schwartz where we talked about my background and what they were planning to work on this summer. As we spoke, I learned about a new company they were just starting to work on, ThinkPlayful. Ideas immediately started running through my head and that's when I knew this was the company I wanted to intern for this summer.
Fast forward a couple of months, this summer, I am interning for ThinkPlayful, an edtech startup with a mission to help provide parents with a way to help their young children learn the tools they need before entering kindergarten. I started off by meeting the team members on our first Monday morning meeting. I quickly learned about my team members' unique backgrounds and I was amazed at how to put together everything was having just started working remotely due to COVID. After just the first few minutes, I became even more excited for the next ten weeks.
My first project was to create my own business plan. I had yet to have been told much about this new project and with no published website or information, I had to figure out what the product was by just looking at the market and competitors. The next day, I shared my insights on the problem, solution, value props, customer segments, competitors and revenue streams. While at the time it was a difficult task to understand a company without much previous knowledge, this task ultimately made my understanding much more meaningful and clear. Over the next few weeks, I worked with Tyler on a variety of different projects including customer research/validation, designing a pitch deck, analyzing social media accounts, building a go-to-market strategy, building a website and more.
So far, my internship has been an incredible learning experience. Each day I am faced with new challenges and am encouraged to explore new ideas. Even though the internship has been remote, I still feel connected to all of my coworkers and we have constant conversations throughout each day. So far, I have not only learned how other entrepreneurs launch a startup but I have also been able to compare it to my own experience as an entrepreneur which I believe to be an invaluable growing experience.
I believe that everybody should take the opportunity to work for a startup at some point in their life. While it can be hectic and full of insanity, there is nothing quite like the work of an entrepreneur. Growing up, I was always shy and quiet; I liked knowing what each week would look like days in advance. But once I started my company, I quickly realized this is not what the life of an entrepreneur looks like. Your life can change without any warning and you have to be quick to pivot. To be successful, you have to take every opportunity that presents itself and build as many relationships as possible. It takes a lot work to get there and while I would not have said this a few years ago, I love being an entrepreneur. I love being faced with these new challenges and waking up each morning not knowing exactly what to expect; it keeps life engaging and exciting. Entrepreneurship is something unique and I am looking forward to learning even more while interning for ThinkPlayful.