Bob Crimmins just wanted to teach his 11-year-old twin daughters about entrepreneurship, but what has evolved over the past 18 months is likely more than he expected.
Crimmins, a Seattle startup veteran, was on a walk with his kids last year when the family dog decided to go No. 2. After Lola was finished with her business, Crimmins took the liberty of picking up the doo-doo and asked his daughters to carry the bag in return.
“That’s gross!” responded Sarah and Annalise.
The family spent the next hour talking about the problem of carrying around a nasty bag of dog poop and later realized that there weren’t many solutions available to consumers in the marketplace.
More than a year later, the Crimmins family has created one.
Wise Walker is an innovative, washable, smell-resistant product that dog owners can use to store their pooch’s poo and also carry their other belongings.
“There are a lot of people in the world with dogs, and 100-percent of them poop,” Sarah told GeekWire.
“One of the problems with carrying poop bags is that they really stink,” added Annalise. “But you can’t smell it when it’s in a Wise Walker.”
With the help of their father, the twins launched a Kickstarter today in hopes of raising $20,000 to fund the production of Wise Walker.
Crimmins said that this is the most fun he’s ever had as an entrepreneur, mainly because of everything his daughters are learning. For the MoonTango CEO, education has been the goal all along.
“I’ve always tried to keep the focus on just spending time together and exposing the girls to as many lessons of entrepreneurship as I could,” he said. “The fact that we actually ended up with an interesting and useful product was completely by accident.”
Sarah and Annalise have been somewhat enrolled in an Intro to Entrepreneurship class for the past 18 months, learning everything from how to work with a camera crew to collecting market research from random people. There are also life lessons they’ve picked up on, too.
“If you work hard, then you can earn money,” Sarah said.
As part of the Wise Walker project, Crimmins has been documenting all of the lessons he and his daughters have learned. I asked Crimmins to share some of those insights, and here’s what he said:
Building stuff is cool
“They’ve seen Wise Walkers go from an idea about how to solve a problem, to a defined solution, to designing a product, to getting it manufactured. Most importantly they understand that THEY can do these things. I think it’s powerful for any young person to understand this, but I think it’s especially powerful for young girls. As an engineer and maker myself, this feels like an incredible gift to give them both.”
Patience and the power of delayed gratification
“The girls have had to invest a non-trivial amount of time, thought and energy into the project over the past 18 months. They’ve learned that businesses are only successful if they are able to generate a profit, i.e., make more money than they spend. They’ve also learned that it can take a lot of work and a lot of time to get a business to the point where it can make a profit; but if successful, then the financial reward will be worth all that investment of time and effort.”
Problem solving and decision making
“Building a product and building a company is a never-ending exercise in critical thinking. The Wise Walker project has presented a plethora of problems to solve and decisions to make. Going through the critical thinking process together each time has exposed them to the critical thinking process. As an example, one of the questions we had to answer was where we would have Wise Walkers manufactured. After weighing all of the factors, we decided to have them made locally.”
Crimmins also shared a few thoughts on teaching the lessons of entrepreneurship to kids:
Keep it in perspective
Don’t try to force your kid to be (or even to want to be) an entrepreneur. Understand that the absolute best part of experiencing entrepreneurship together with your kids is that you get to spend amazing time with them. The second best part is knowing that they are learning valuable lessons, skills and experiences. Whether they ever want to actually be a ‘real’ entrepreneur is pretty much beside the point.
Keep it fun
There’s a lot of aspects of entrepreneurship that are not inherently ‘fun’ for an 11-year-old. So making every aspect of the entrepreneurial journey as fun as possible it essential to keep them engaged … and to prevent eye rolling ;-). For example, every few weeks we would have a ‘business meeting.’ One of the rules of business meetings was that they girls always got to pick where we’d have the meetings. We had meetings at Menchies, the waterfront arcade, at Barnes & Noble, at Starbucks — even at a hot tub. Part of the fun of a business meeting was picking where it would be.
Be patient and go at their pace
It’s tempting to speed ahead and just get the thing the built. But resist that urge and keep in mind that the goal is to have them learn as much as possible along the way. Any time you speed ahead without them, that’s a lost opportunity. It’s definitely necessary to take on some of the hard bits yourself but even when you do have to do that, be sure to catch them up and explain everything you did so that they can understand.