My Experience Founding a Company at The Garage

I founded a company while at Northwestern, and it failed after a year and a half.

My co-founders and I dedicated a significant amount of our time over a year and a half working on a startup called Backlight. We had big dreams – we were going to use artificial intelligence to streamline resume (and hopefully, other text) optimization and make it accessible and affordable to anyone looking for a job. The career services industry had been stagnant for years: you need a one-on-one with an HR expert which will cost you $200 or more, otherwise you’re out of luck. It seemed like the perfect combination of a human touch with our great customer service and cutting-edge technology with our complex algorithm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple and we shut down Backlight’s operations in April 2018.

Luckily for me, at The Garage failure is not only emphasized, but encouraged – for the right reasons. It is, after all, one of the best ways to learn. I failed on multiple occasions not only with Backlight, where I failed to properly manage my team and failed to do the right market research before diving in to this endeavor, but I also failed multiple times before founding Backlight.

But enough with the sob story, and on to some of the good stuff. Getting accepted as a Resident of The Garage was actually one of my biggest successes at Northwestern. My time working with the students, staff, mentors – basically everyone –  at The Garage was overwhelmingly positive and one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had in the last four years.

First off, I’d like to start with our mentors. Through The Garage, I’ve met dozens of fascinating people who are professionals, entrepreneurs, and students alike. The professionals who took the time out of their days to sit on our board of advisors and our mentors were all incredible people who taught our entire team a lot about life, what it means to be an entrepreneur, and how to find our own definitions of success. I’d like to specifically recognize the man who ran the fellowship program we were a part of, Billy Banks. Not only did he keep us accountable and help us grow as people and entrepreneurs, but he made a real, personal connection with every single student he interacted with. It is few and far between that you’ll find someone as honest, compassionate, and full of sage wisdom as Billy and this seems like a good time to thank him.

Building off that, the network of mentors, students, and people I’ve developed through The Garage is worth its weight in gold. I’ve met professionals who are successful entrepreneurs, lawyers, in the finance industry, and everything in between. Most of them have had a genuine interest in building relationships and offering their personal networks and advice for everyone at The Garage. The weekly Family Dinners give Garage Residents the opportunity to poke the brains of people in a wide variety of industries with a wide variety of insights.

Not only that, but working with the rest of the Backlight team taught me an incredible amount about handling interpersonal relationships, managing a team, business strategy, and also a lot about myself. I’ve made close friends, built my network, and gained priceless experience along the way. Even though my venture didn’t pan out as I wanted it to, I am a better person, leader, and teammate today due to my experience with Backlight in The Garage.

So with all that taken into account, if I had to go back do my Northwestern experience over again, I’d go back, start Backlight and work with The Garage every single time because failing might not be so bad after all.


Daniel was a Resident of The Garage, and is a graduate of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. After graduating in 2018, Daniel took a job as an Analyst at Tyree & D’Angelo Partners in the Chicago area. 

Resident Spotlight: Track Trainer

Anthony Kang, project manager of Track Trainer, is lending a hand to help stroke survivors use theirs. Track Trainer is a stroke rehabilitation device that focuses on improving strength and mobility in stroke survivors’ upper limbs. It is in the prototype phase.

The Garage sat down with Kang to learn how Track Trainer gets survivors from point A to point B.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

How does Track Trainer work?

It’s a box that looks like an arcade game. There’s a central track and a handle. The objective is really simple: You’re trying to push the handle through the track from point A to point B, and then back to point A, but along the track you have multiple gates. At each gate, you have to complete a task, for instance, turning a key or pressing a button.

It’s a really simple idea, but it’s actually a big step up compared to what’s currently on the market for affordable stroke rehabilitation devices for the upper limbs. If you’ve been to the doctor’s office and seen toddler toys like ring towers or bead mazes, that’s kind of what stroke survivors have to use right now. We’re trying to make it more engaging and keep it at an affordable price level.

How do you address the differences between stroke survivors with different skill levels?

With our last prototype we made the task boxes detachable. That was an accident, but it works surprisingly well. We’re making the parts interchangeable so you can switch out the handles for different stroke survivors, switch out the task boxes [and] change the number of task boxes that are plugged in. It’s really giving therapists an opportunity to customize the Track Trainer for different stroke patients’ needs.

How have stroke survivors reacted to Track Trainer?

There’s so much focus on regaining the ability to walk, so a lot of [the] time, the upper limb rehabilitation gets neglected. That’s why rehabilitation tends to be slower in the upper body. For a lot of stroke survivors, this is the first device they’ve seen that’s actually targeted toward upper limb rehabilitation, but in a more interesting way. Overall, I think the reception’s been really positive.

How has The Garage helped?

It’s been a great space to meet other people doing really interesting projects. Everyone’s working on something really cool, something that’s really personal to them. It’s been great being part of that community.

I think the biggest thing has been the network. Not only our peer residents, but also the entrepreneurs-in-residence [and] the mentors. We’ve had a lot of really great conversations with people here.

During our family dinners, a lot of the residents share their failures. I think it’s been reassuring that it’s not always an easy process, but there’s so many people going through that process with us.

How have setbacks been helpful?

You always learn something from failures. It’s always a really good benchmark for telling you that something’s not working. From that, well, what do we need to do to fix that?

Tell me about your team.

We are a three person team. We have myself, project manager, and we have someone on the marketing side and someone on the finance side. But we all do a little bit of the engineering. We have our own roles, but ultimately we’re all building together. And I think that’s really representative of what we like to see. We like to see the stroke survivor community come together to make this a better product.

Between the three of us, only one is formally trained as an engineer. We learn the ropes as we go. But I think that makes for some really cool opportunities: trying different things out, going out of our comfort zone to learn engineering techniques, learning different modeling tools, how software and hardware integrate together…It’s been a really interesting experience.

Want to learn more? Visit Track Trainer’s website or LinkedIn page.


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Resident Spotlight: SustainED

In the fall of 2018, Ronni Hayden and Rebecca Fudge rolled the dice and started at The Garage to develop their board game, which aims to teach high school students about the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The Garage sat down with Ronni to learn how her SustainED work meets play.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What are your goals for SustainED?

Not a lot of US schools talk about climate change or the United Nations goals. We’re trying to find a way to incorporate the board game into the Next Generation Science Standards so we can get it into classrooms and get teens talking about the goals, thinking about the ways they can work in their community and be empowered to know that change is possible. Making big change by 2030 isn’t as impossible as it sounds.

How does the game work?

Each player is a made-up country, and they’re acting as the UN delegate. They’re trying to gain progress toward each of the 17 goals. You roll a dice and you move around the board, and different tiles code to different colored cards that you draw.

There’s solution cards, which will teach you about a real solution that’s been implemented toward that goal. You can trade with other countries, which really emphasizes the importance of collaboration in the real world. There’s disaster cards, which show how island nations or nations that are impoverished are more affected by climate change. There are cards where you can come up with your own rule that you want your country to implement, which helps students think critically about what each of the goals mean.

As you go around the board, you’re gaining progress towards the goals, learning about collaboration and disasters and working toward passing different checkpoints by the time you reach 2030, which is the end of the board.

What’s been the reaction from students who play the game?

This summer, we tested it with Northwestern undergrads on campus, as well as grad students. Of course we want [the game] to be educational, but we also want it to be fun. We were really excited to see how into the game people got. [When we play] with younger teens, initially they’re nervous, but as they progress and learn more, they become more empowered to come up with their own solutions. We’ve been really happy with how competitive people get in the game, and also how much it seems that they enjoy learning.

Why is this issue important to you?

These are really topical issues. We’re running out of time. Whether or not you’re interested in studying science or going into these fields, [climate change] is still going to affect us. It already has. We’re hopeful this [game] is one way for people to learn about these [UN] goals.

How has The Garage helped?

The Garage has been really helpful. Our mentor, Mark Desky, really keeps us accountable and working towards the things that we want to do every week. We wouldn’t have found him without The Garage.

Having so many students around working on entrepreneurship has been really great. It can be really overwhelming, but when you look around and see all of these other students who are also choosing to allot their time this way, it’s really inspiring.


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Resident Spotlight: PAL

Approximately 1 in 59 children have autism spectrum disorder, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

Children on the autism spectrum may suffer from meltdowns. But Products for Autism Lifestyle (PAL), a subsidiary for Gaia Wearables, is creating smart clothes that monitor biometrics and transmit data to an app that alerts caregivers of early signs of meltdowns.

The Garage sat down with PAL co-founder Brent Chase to learn how PAL aims to change lives, one shirt at a time.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

How does PAL work?

It’s pretty well documented that you can identify different states of [physiological] being. The most movie-esque version of this is the lie detection tests. There’s other ones that look more toward how you quantify people with depression or people with other nonverbal disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder.

The idea behind [PAL] is a smart shirt that measures all of these physiological data. It’s all connected to this core unit that’s on the shirt that can be detachable. Wash the shirt, you’re good to go. It gathers the data [and] sends it to a mobile app. So if you’re a parent, caregiver, therapist [or] teacher, [you] can see what the [child’s] emotional state is, and then help them develop to this more independent state.

What’s your inspiration?

[My brother] grew up for the past 22 years having autism spectrum disorder. It’s very hard for him. It was hard on the family.

So the real inspiration behind [PAL] was I saw how hard it was for my brother just to live day-to-day. He would wake up and potentially have a meltdown, which is harmful for him…harmful for everyone. It limits his ability to continuously develop into this more independent state. Right now he’s 22 and lives with our mother. He can’t necessarily pick up a job because of these meltdowns.

Me and my mother can [understand his states]. We have been living with him for years now, and we know the little triggers and what to do to either proactively avoid or stop them when they occur. If he can go to an employer and the employer has access to something that would let them know when he’s at risk of a meltdown, then they can better manage him or help him better control everything.

This was a common thing we were seeing. Everyone kept saying they wanted their child to be more independent. If you can give the people the technology, then they can end up developing it into what they need for that independence.

How has The Garage helped?

The name carries a lot of weight for us to get connected, not only within the institution, but also [within] the general community.

[The Garage] also helps us with getting more people on the team. The beauty of what we have is none of this would be possible without the commitment of all the team members.

What do you want to add?

I feel like a big thing in entrepreneurship is this rush to get something out there and start making money, but in reality, if we all just keep focusing on the money, then no one is going to create any real innovation or change any lives. So [PAL] spent more time in this incubation period focusing more on how can this solution actually benefit the people.

PAL’s product will be released in January 2020. Interested in getting involved? PAL is looking for people to join their human study. Participants wear a wristwatch that monitors biometrics for 20 minutes, and then they have the chance to win 50 dollars.

Here is the link to add yourself to the future studies list.

Here is the link to add your availability for user testing at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

Children on the autism spectrum and caretakers are also encouraged to reach out to PAL at gaiawearables@gmail.com. Anyone interested in getting involved can visit gaiawearables.com and click “Get Involved.”


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Resident Spotlight: The Melodi House

As face-to-face interaction becomes increasingly rare, Selin Yazici, Alex Halimi and Arno Murcia set out to change how people engage with each other.

The Melodi House entered The Garage in the fall of 2018 after the three co-founders conceived the idea in an entrepreneurship class. The founders are hoping to start more conversations by planning events and, eventually, creating a physical space for people to develop their passions in areas such as art and music. Their mission statement is, “The Melodi House aims at creating the events, conversations, and relationships we came to college to experience and form.”

Their fall quarter event, held at an apartment, featured music, student art and excellent conversation. It had about 70 people at its height. The Melodi House hopes to host three events this quarter. Be on the lookout!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

On the idea behind ‘The Melodi House’

Selin: It’s a very conceptual idea. It’s nothing really physical. We’re coming together, creating this community that aims [to put] the moments, relationships and events we all come to college to experience.

Alex: Our mission is [to] expose students to new sensations or things that are different that they’re be talking about later.

Selin: There [are] millions of interesting topics and conversations just waiting to be started. We saw this missed opportunity, because as students, [these] are the only four years [when] we’re going to be in such a concentrated environment. Why not take advantage of it?

Alex: We’re all very happy we pursued [working at] The Garage. [It] is super helpful with mentoring us. It also helps keep us on track and focus on what we actually have to do. We’re happy to be here.

On their fall quarter event

Arno: We created this event where we asked everyone to submit a piece of art. We delivered canvases. We asked them to submit something they had already done, or make something.

Selin: We realized life gets in the way, and you usually don’t get to do what you really want to do. So we’re like, “We’re delivering it to you. Do whatever you want. We’ll pick them up and we’re going to display them at the event.” [It’s] a great conversation starter.

Arno: We saw people stop and converse next to a piece of art and start this more interesting, personal conversation.

Selin: We had the art, and then we had students who are passionate about music DJing and playing their music.

Alex: What I thought was cool about the event was that we did it donation based. The only rule was you had to pay. It didn’t matter how much it was; you just had to donate something. It was very successful. We definitely reached the amount we needed.

Arno: It’s a way to allow everyone to have access to our community, regardless of their financial status.

Selin: People were engaging so beautifully with each other. We got feedback, and a lot of the things in common were, “Thank you so much for this experience. We can’t wait for the rest of it.”

Arno: The first thing [a friend] told me was, “I met a really cool person I don’t think I would have met otherwise.” That was originally our goal.

On the name

Selin: No matter what language you speak [or] where you’re from, everyone speaks the language of art, culture, music and melody. Bringing this all together, it’s like, why don’t we call it [melody] and spell it with an “i” instead [to] be more creative.


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Resident Spotlight: Connect & Care

After wrapping the chaos that is the holiday shopping season, Matt Zients, Connect & Care co-founder and SESP junior, was focused on giving, not getting.

Connect & Care started as an idea in an after-school program for high schoolers. Now, it is a registered nonprofit in D.C. and has partners all around the globe.

Want to donate but don’t know where to start? The Garage sat down with Zients to learn how Connect & Care helps users improve the world at the tap of a button.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

On the app

Matt Zients: The current app [for Connect & Care] allows users to browse, learn about and donate to nonprofits around the world. There’s a map. You see different pins on the map, and you can click on one of the pins, and that would be one of our partners. You can see their mission, their team, their vision [and] history. There’s a donate button that allows you to [donate] through Apple Pay and Stripe.

We have 25 partners. We split them into nine categories: community building, conflict relief, education, environmental issues, healthcare, human rights, indigenous rights, veterans and women’s advancement. They’re all pretty grassroots.

On new developments 

MZ: We’re really excited by the idea of a Buzzfeed quiz medium. We built out a Google form where you answer a couple fun questions. You pick your favorite meme out of a group of four memes. You tell us which Disney character you’re most excited about. But then you also tell us which areas of interest you have. Is it education? Is it healthcare? Is it conflict relief? We then send you your top three matches amongst our partners.

This winter, we’re going to be focusing on how we can do a local version of what we’re doing. Right now, it probably looks like a quiz. Instead of “What nonprofit are you?” this would be like, “What Chicago nonprofit are you?” It wouldn’t be all about the donating. It would be about how you get involved and help out.

On inspiration 

MZ: We’re excited by the idea of, how do you prove to a young person that it’s cool to be connected to a nonprofit, and can technology play a role in that? We’re convinced that we can make it cool, but now we’re testing out different hooks.

It really drives me to figure out how Connect & Care [can] be relevant in this field and push the conversation. I also was inspired by a specific moment on campus. I was at a protest against the travel ban. At the protest someone was holding a sign that said, “Venmo [his name], and the money will go to the ACLU.” And I was thinking, there’s got to be a more direct way for this to happen.

On The Garage

MZ: I love raving about The Garage. The team here is super strong and super thoughtful. I’ve loved the family dinners. That’s been a great experience in terms of meeting new people. This cohort of residents is awesome. I really think this space is special and has been a huge part of my Northwestern experience so far.

On the giving season

MZ: It doesn’t always have to be about the money. It can be about giving your attention, giving your advocacy or giving your volunteering time. The holiday season is a great time to support and love those around you, but [you] also have to think beyond that a little bit. It doesn’t have to be financial or monetary. [Think] about how you can give to people you don’t know. That’s something we’re thinking about: How can we be relevant beyond monetary donations?

For more information, and to download Connect & Care, click here


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

The Garage Gift Guide 2018

The holidays are here again, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that in this year’s 2018 gift guide, we’re supporting Northwestern entrepreneurs and student founded startups. Here’s a list of some of our favorite gift ideas for your besties and your fam, including both current student founded products and companies, alongside some of the best of the best Northwestern alumni companies.

We’ve got something for everyone, from cold brew coffee to the easiest way to give back to causes that matter most to you, all Garage-approved.   

 

1. Something local through BOSSY Chicago or some BOSSY merch

(Photo Credit: BOSSY Chicago)

Co-founded by Northwestern students Samantha Letscher (McCormick, ‘18) and Isabel Benatar (SESP, ‘18), BOSSY Chicago is still going strong after the co-founders graduated in 2018. BOSSY is empowering women business owners and encouraging us all to not only shop local, but to support women owned businesses through their online directory. They’re also storytellers, sharing the entrepreneurial wisdom and challenges of female entrepreneurs all over Chicago. You can also keep up with all things BOSSY, and even rep their merch! 

 

2. Some yummy cold brew

Image of Lucas Philips

Now with two campus locations and the infamous coffee bike, BrewBike has only grown in the last year. They’ve even launching their second campus in UT Austin! Founded by Lucas Philips (SESP, ‘19), BrewBike has mastered cold brew coffee, and we think it’s time you try some for yourself. Now, you can give the gift of yummy cold brew with a BrewBike gift card. 

 

3. An Unruled. notebook

(Photo Credit: @beunruled)

Founded by a group of students in an entrepreneurship course in Fall 2016, Unruled. has turned into a full blown retail operation, offering their products around Evanston and online. Give the gift of visual thinking and endless possibilities with their flagship product, the Unruled. Notebook.

 

4. Give the gift of giving back

(Photo Credit: @connectcareapp)

Co-founded by Matt Zients (SESP, ’20), Connect & Care is a mobile application created by students, for students. They are revolutionizing the way we give back to the causes we care about most through beautiful design and UI and fun quizzes that will match you with three nonprofit organizations aligned with what you’re passionate about. They’ve made the process of giving back incredibly easy, and this might be the perfect way to flex your philanthropic muscles this holiday season.

 

5. A little greenery from Welltended

(Photo Credit: @welltended)

Founded by Carolyn Snider (Kellogg, ‘17), Welltended is a former Resident of The Garage, changing the way we buy and care for plants. We spend a ton of time indoors, so WellTended believes it’s important to cultivate a home that’s bright, fresh, and happy by bringing a little bit of nature inside. Welltended’s website is sleek and fun, and their planters and plant options can give any indoor space a vibrant makeover (plus, you can even sign up for watering reminders, helping even those of us who don’t have a green thumb live a Welltended life).

 

6. A Northwestern student-authored book

Chris Guo (Weinberg, ’19) always struggled to sit still. He channeled that restlessness; going from a skinny kid to a Division I swimming recruit. But instead of swimming in college, he decided to quit and focus on his studies. His goal was to become an investment banker since he was told that bankers make the most money out of college. Chris soon realized, however, that finance wasn’t his thing and instead started an e-commerce party supply company during his freshman year. Since then, he has been passionate about entrepreneurship and helping young people to discover what they want to do in life.

Resident Spotlight: BrewBike

Move over, Starbucks!

BrewBike is a coffee business for students, by students. The Garage sat down with Lucas Philips, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, to learn how to “fuel the hustle.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What inspired BrewBike?

There were a few things that we needed [BrewBike] to do. We needed to be on campus. We wanted it to be student-run. We needed [BrewBike] to provide really convenient, quality coffee. And in order to do those things, we couldn’t have a storefront. We eventually stumbled upon this cold brew bicycle idea from Matt Matros, who’s the founder of Limitless Coffee & Tea. He was here giving a family dinner chat my freshman spring, and that’s when we met him. He gave us the idea to pursue the cold brew bike.

What differentiates BrewBike from other coffee shops?

What’s really different about it is that students run it. As a company, we really care about that experience that students are getting with BrewBike. We also think the experience students are getting within BrewBike is compelling for our customers outside of BrewBike. They realize that it’s an experiential learning opportunity for members of their community. We are employing 50 to 60 Northwestern students. They’re getting a really hands-on business learning opportunity.

Also, we try to have a better product. It’s more specialty. It’s more local. We brew everything in small batches. There’s nothing corporate about BrewBike.

How has BrewBike evolved?

 We started with the bike. We raised $10,000 on Indiegogo, and another $10,000 from The Garage’s Wildfire [Pre-Accelerator] Program, and we maxed out a few credit cards. So, with maybe $30,000 dollars in capital, we launched this bike with a commercial kitchen that we built out in the basement of my fraternity house. The bike was totally failing…it was really hard to get customers to change their habits. We thought we were going to go out of business.

We pushed to get an opportunity to open up a retail space in Annenberg Hall. The dean was amenable, so within two or three weeks, we had built a very scrappy, low-cost coffee kiosk. By the end of that quarter, we were slightly profitable, so we were able to stay open. In the spring of my sophomore year, we had the bike, the shop, and keg subscriptions. We sell kegs of our coffee to fraternities and sororities. With those three lines of business, we were able to continue to grow.

What can we expect from BrewBike in the future?

 Better hours. We are going to start outsourcing food to Compass Group, so they’re going to start handling food in the library so we can focus more on differentiated drink offerings.

[People can also expect] more bikes and more campuses. We’ve hired a bunch of students at [The University of Texas at] Austin…in the next two months, we’ll probably be there. We have a full-time BrewBike employee who’s launching the campus there.

How has The Garage helped BrewBike?

The Garage has helped us with cash when we need cash…people, when we need people. Mentorship. I’m really well coached by people in The Garage.

The residency system is kind of an accountability system, where you only continue to get residency if you continue to work on your business. You’re around all these other people who are growing their businesses, so it pushes me to grow mine.

Who is an entrepreneur you look up to, and why?

Matt Matros is someone who I look up to. He’s our chief advisor. He’s been there for us since Day One. He was the one who gave us the bike idea. He’ll always make time for us when we need it.

For more information, visit BrewBike’s website, Facebook page or Instagram.


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Resident Spotlight: MakerGirl

What started off as a project through Northwestern’s Society of Women Engineers blossomed into a new chapter of MakerGirl in the spring of 2018. This Northwestern chapter is directed by Amanda Mirande, Nancy Yao and Rika Ko. The program teaches young girls about STEM through 3D printing classes. MakerGirl is headquartered at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Garage sat down with the directors to learn how MakerGirl takes girls from pencils to prints.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

On teaching

Nancy Yao: We do a little presentation on what is 3D printing and how the 3D printers work. Based on the theme that we have, we encourage the girls to draw with pencils and paper what kinds of things they would want to design to create as 3D objects later. After that we use a program called Tinkercad. It’s like a 3D printing CAD software, but it’s targeted towards beginners and children. That’ll be where they actually get to turn the drawings that they made into a 3D object on the screen. The volunteers will send those 3D CAD files to the 3D printers, and then the girls can watch them print on the 3D printers, which they’re always really interested in doing. For the remaining time we’ll have mentors lead some themed class activities while they wait for the prints to finish.

Amanda Mirande: The lesson that they take is if you have something on paper, you can make that into something real. I think that’s pretty powerful. Also, you’re working within constraints, which I think is a big life lesson. You’re working within constraints but you can still make something super cool.

On inspiration

Rika Ko: I think about all the times I was younger and I think I definitely showed a lot of inclination towards STEM subjects. I just feel like if I had something like [MakerGirl] that my parents were aware of when I was younger, this fascination could have turned into something much deeper earlier on.

NY: The girls that we reach are around the age of 7 to 10, so they are at an age where they have a lot of potential. I think it’s really important for them to know that going into science and learning about technology is a very real possibility for them.

On reactions

RK: [The girls are] just ecstatic to show their parents when they come. They’re so proud of themselves, and they should be. I think the parents are also really, really supportive. We’ve had some repeat girls come, and every time the moms are like, “This is amazing. I’m trying to get my friends to bring their kids to it.” It’s a good way to get your child learning, but also having fun.

AM: Parents, whenever they come pick [their children] up, are super excited to see whatever they created.

On team

NY: We’ve been talking to different groups outside of Northwestern to see about partnering with different schools and organizations like Girl Scouts. It’s really a big time for growth right now. We’re trying to reach more girls than ever.

RK: We recently had applications for expanding our team at Northwestern, which is super exciting because up until a few weeks ago, it’s just been me, Nancy and Amanda trying to take care of everything. Hopefully we’ll be able to cover more ground by having more people.

AM: My team is pretty key. I feel like we all have strengths. We work well together, and that’s super important.

MakerGirl hopes to add lessons on virtual reality. The directors aim to continue inspiring confidence in young girls and teach them that they are fully capable of pursuing their interest in STEM. For more information, visit MakerGirl’s Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram.

Resident Spotlight: VersionTwo

Resumes, interviews, jobs, oh my!

Career search processes can often feel daunting and complicated. VersionTwo is a new startup that focuses on giving young people access to comprehensive and affordable career coaching.

The Garage sat down with founder Sruti Bharat (Kellogg ’19) to get the scoop.

The following interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

What is VersionTwo’s goal? 

My vision is that young people have a resource at the most pivotal career moments. When you graduate, it’s a very lonely time. You don’t have a career center anymore. As for the goal for this year, I really see this as a small business. I see this as something I want to test and learn from. If I could scale this to be a platform that I could keep as a side-hustle, I would see that as a huge success for this year.

How does the career coaching process work?

Right now we have three different models. One of them is modules of content that are very structured, like a curriculum you go through to get prepared for the job hunt. We have exercises [and] tools—very practical things that we’ve used ourselves in our MBA programs. The next level of access is if you want to interact with a coach. The last offering, which we haven’t done yet, is a bootcamp. The moment I sense that people who are unemployed and really need this help are open to a bootcamp, we’ll do it.

What differentiates VersionTwo from other career advancement resources? 

Once you are working, you can pay hundreds of dollars an hour, if you have it, for a career coach, but most young people don’t. They actually just need to talk to someone that’s in their field. A lot of the mentor coaches that we have are MBA students or young professionals who are a few years ahead of the people looking. We’re trying to build that relationship, which I would say is a bit different from anything else I’ve seen.

What inspired VersionTwo?

I’m at Kellogg right now, and I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I always thought I would work for a big company. But then at Kellogg I took the New Venture series and I really liked it. I TA’d for the professor and I supported 11 startups as they developed their business model. I want to do something for my own idea because the investment of time and resources is so much that you want to be passionate about the mission. I’ve always been really interested in coaching and have helped a lot of people younger than myself think about their careers.

How has The Garage impacted your journey with VersionTwo? 

The Garage has been huge. As an individual entrepreneur, I really needed an ecosystem to plug into and a community of people [who] are also hustling in the same way. Being here around people who are working on their ideas is inspiring. I think the second thing is the access to mentors and resources. I’ve found the family dinners just by themselves to be something I look forward to every week.

What has been the most enjoyable part of the process?

I am doing this because it’s a passion of mine. For me, the impact is talking to these young people who are trying to change their careers and then hearing them say things like, “This wasn’t just a resume review. You helped me discover my passion.” That is the most rewarding part of it. And it’s just fun to build something from scratch that’s my own.

Who is an entrepreneur that inspires you? 

My professor really lit the fire for being an entrepreneur. It was Rick Desai. He teaches at Kellogg. I’ve never had someone who trusted my ideas so much and said, “Of course you have it in you to be an entrepreneur.” I had never thought of myself that way. The fact that someone else could see that and suggest it was pretty awesome.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I’m really glad that The Garage has more women this year. There are so many systemic barriers for women entrepreneurs. I’ve really been trying to challenge any mental barriers within myself, but I’m glad to see that the systemic ones are being tackled by The Garage.


Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.