Two years ago today, my group of friends started a tradition called, “Idea Brunch.” While munching on strawberry-stuffed pancakes, we each got a moment in the spotlight to share our latest “big idea” and brainstorm it together. The ideas were as eclectic as the participants, ranging from changing the US prison system to launching a scavenger hunt mobile app. Little did I know that one idea shared that morning would change my life.
That idea was simple: engineering toys for girls. It was proposed by my friend, Christy, a fellow Stanford engineer who was fed up with the lack of women in our program. She argued that her interest in engineering was cultivated through years of playing with her older brothers’ hand-me-down Legos. She went on to say that for over 100 years, construction toys have been marketed almost exclusively to boys. Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train, Lego Man, the list goes on. And suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks (no pun intended): I am here on this earth to change this paradigm. To design construction toys for girls. To inspire the next generation of female engineers.
It’s a funny thing about finding your passion. They say, “When you know, you know”. Well, ever since graduating college and hearing Steve Jobs’ speech at my commencement, I’ve been searching far and wide to find it. I went all the way to rural India in hopes I might find it there. Pop quiz: who does not fit into the picture on the right? But I kept searching, never settling until that fateful day at Idea Brunch. The epiphany was so strong, it turned into an obsession. Inventing a disruptive product, shaking up the toy industry, battling gender stereotypes…I simply couldn’t NOT be doing it.
And so I got to work. Sketching, prototyping, researching gender differences, hanging around toy stores, trying to find kids to play with. I even put up a Craigslist post offering: “Free Childcare for Girls 2-9!”…that one actually didn’t get such a great response. Nevertheless, I worked countless hours, holed up in my apartment like a hermit, trying to invent something extraordinary. Toys and games were strewn about all over the floor, turning the apartment into an obstacle course. It was fun and exciting to finally be pouring all of my energy into my true passion! But to be perfectly honest, it was lonely. I loved what I was doing, but I felt completely isolated. I was afraid to talk about the ideas I was having in case they might get “stolen” by some big bad toy company. But something had to be done.
So last month I attended StartingBloc, a fellowship program for social entrepreneurs. It was my first opportunity to talk about my project in a public forum, and the response was overwhelming. People were inspired by what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it. They saw the potential this had in making a huge impact in people’s lives. They wanted me to ask them for help and their ideas went far beyond what I was capable of envisioning. Two of them were so passionate about the issue, they immediately joined my team (see their pics to the right)! This collaborative, creative spirit is exactly what I’d experienced at Idea Brunch, where the idea for GoldieBlox was born.
Staying true to this spirit, I’ve created this blog as a way to share my journey with all of you and enlist your help. I’m putting the hermit to rest in favor of acting like a true entrepreneur, someone who reaches for the stars and isn’t afraid to ask for directions. Each week, my team and I will post about the progress of GoldieBlox – our successes, failures, questions, roadblocks, ideas. I welcome you to follow along. We are an open book, and you are invited to contribute to this story.
Posted by: Debbie