I interviewed Heather Holst-Knudsen Stanton, a manufacturing veteran who discussed KidBacker and encouraging your kids to become entrepreneurs.
It’s great to speak with you today Heather. This is going to be an interesting interview today and I know you have a startup company called KidBacker. So, my first question is what is KidBacker?
KidBacker is an online virtual innovation hub for students ages 13 and older. And you also have a complimentary 501c3 we just launched called KidBacker Foundation Entrepreneurship.
Well that’s interesting. Well, why did you start the company?
Well, it’s actually, the story is, I like to call it peeling the onion. You know, one is just personal. I really have always loved inspiring entrepreneurship and young kids …I was a little entrepreneur myself. But my daughter one day, when we were out for brunch here, we live in Florida, in Sarasota and we’re out for brunch and she said to me, mom, I want to get a job and she was eight at that time. And I started laughing, saying, you don’t need a job. What are you going to do?
And she said, well, I want a job because I want to help paying for college. And again, I said well, I have that covered, don’t worry. And my husband looked at me and said, you know, you're really, actually not really doing the right thing right now.
Why aren’t you encouraging her to learn about what it means to make money? And I thought about it and I thought back to when I was younger and I, you know, did pretty much anything and everything to make money, everything from washing cars to working at the Deli when I was 14 years old to, you know, through college I had four jobs. I just always and I love doing it actually. It wasn’t because I had to, just I wanted my own independence.
So she and I sat down, walked through a plan to host a lemonade stand across the street from the beach. And I just realized how much fun I had as an adult teacher her everything from, you know, how to price out your product and your budget and how to find, you know, the right place to get traffic. And I just said, why aren’t other parents doing this? And that corresponded to where I was at that time which I was president of a group called the Manufacturing Leadership Council.
We had a group of very saleable executives in manufacturing supply chain operations, CIOs, CEOs and COOs across, you know, around the world. And no matter what this discussion we started, whether it was integrating your supply chain into operations or big data and analytics, it always boiled down to a real big pinpoint they have, you know, I had at that time, continued to have is the skills gap.
The skills gap isn’t only about stem and about the idea of how do we get kids interested in manufacturing but also this entrepreneurial mindset. You know, today’s global economy and the way the world operates, you know, there is no longer this singular linear job. It’s a job that co-requires with I think creativity. So I looked at those two elements and said we absolutely need a new way to engage young people and entrepreneurship that’s exciting, that’s virtual, that allows them to actually do what they want to do instead of simulating it and that’s how KidBacker got started.
Okay. What challenges did you face?
Oh boy [laughs]. A ton. So, you know, one, I actually … gave a speech on this to some women who were looking to get into entrepreneurship. I think the biggest challenge for me was going from being an intrapreneur, i.e. someone who works for somebody else but is highly entrepreneurial that is, you know, how I … that’s me to actually being an extraprenuer, i.e. outside of a company doing it on your own.
I was a phenomenal delegator and I could create strategy and say, okay, you guys do this and you do that and we got it done. When you do it, when you're an entrepreneur doing a startup, you're doing it completely by yourself. And it takes actually some time to learn how to not want to delegate. So, I got burned quite a few times delegating to vendors. I’ve learned how to do things on my own, filling in skills gaps.
So that was, you know, one big learning for me. I think the other one was pivoting. And I've always been very flexible and been able to, you know, understand when we’re making mistake and, you know, turn that mistake into a, you know, positive solution. But when you're doing a startup and I've been self-funding this until recently. Your pivoting is, it’s a very scary thing. I put all this money into this already.
If I move and I changed direction, what’s going to happen? And you just have to just do it. And so I've been learning how to pivot and we pivot everyday in small ways but it’s actually part of it and what’s scary is now very exciting. And I would say the other part that I learned is, you know, it’s petrifying to go out on your own and no paycheck, you're and then again taking all your savings and to trying to create something great. I think learning how to deal with that anxiety and fear at my age which is I'm 46 was a challenge. So I just try not to think about it.
And do you have any recommendations for parents?
Parents, I think that, you know, one of the big things that people don’t realize is that this generation and, you know, the linger was Gen Z, it’s the kids who were not yet in college but will be very soon. And then what I call the tail and the millennial generation, who are, those are the kids who are in college right now. This is going to be the largest, biggest, most significant generation of entrepreneurs the world has ever seen.
Entrepreneurship for these kids is the new hero sport. They are doing it already. You see them on YouTube, you see them developing gaming apps and selling them, you see them developing, make appliance and products. It’s just, it’s phenomenal and it’s just going to continue to increase.
So I think for parents, one thing is let them do it and find ways to encourage them. And if you don’t know and you're not an entrepreneur and most parents aren’t, find places or forms in which your kid can actually get engaged.
There are so many ways for them to explore that. I think the other thing is if your kid has an opportunity to get an internship, that internship is so important, you do it and it’s not school comes first, school is now merging into learning how to work, collaborate, be part of a team. So those are two big recommendations I have.
Thanks. And can you provide a brief background of yourself?
So, I was born and raised in the New York, New Jersey area. I actually came from a family of B2B publishers. Thomas Publishing Company was founded by my great-grandfather in 1898, still family-owned. So I grew up with this media background and love for manufacturing, by the way.
I went to Georgetown, graduated, lived abroad in Spain, worked there. But I always, you know, had this urge to do my own thing. I ended up going back to the family business in 2000 and over the course of a decade and a half, ran and launched and founded multiple business units for Thomas in the art of manufacturing and technology, managing on a mission, Manufacturing Enterprise Communications, TechMATCH, Manufacturing Leadership Council.
So that is my daily work. So KidBacker is leveraging a lot of my skills including a network that I have, the understanding of how media works, audience segregation, community development and how to, you know, this idea that content is a huge way to engage and educate. So that’s my background.
All right. And thanks for sharing today, Heather and I think this will be of interest to the supply chain community.
Well, thank you so much and I know the supply chain community well. So, it’s a real delight to be a part of it today.
About Heather Holst-Knudsen Stanton
Heather Holst-Knudsen Stanton
CEO & Founder, KidBacker/Senior Advisor at Chief Executive Network