Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Shree Bose, Founder of Piper Learning, Inc., located in San Francisco, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Piper Learning, Inc. is our small startup based out of San Francisco, CA creating revolutionary STEM learning experiences for kids ages 8+. Our STEM kits, from our Piper Computer Kit to our Piper Make product line, are designed to engage future inventors by blending physical building with virtual play and storytelling.
Our customers are split evenly between education customers, like schools and afterschool programs/camps, and individual consumers who generally buy for ages 8-15. By gamifying learning and building technology, we are unlike any other product on the market. Our customers recognize it, which is why we've been used by over half a million users worldwide and are highly rated on Amazon!
Tell us about yourself
I grew up loving science and asking questions about the world around me. It was that curiosity that inspired me first to pursue cancer research when my grandfather passed away from cancer when I was in high school. My work at the time was awarded the Grand Prize at the inaugural Google Global Science Fair. I received this incredible platform to travel the world, speaking about my experiences as a young scientist.
Along the way, I realized that kids worldwide were running into a somewhat universal challenge: they all had excellent ideas and questions specifically around technology but felt lost and discouraged in how to get started. I created Piper for those kids and worked hard to ensure our products stick to that vision. Every experience with Piper builds confidence, allows kids to learn skills, and provides that the physical experience of building circuits and learning to code is tied to play.
Seeing the moment where a kid realizes that the button they built in front of them to move Piperbot in the game is the same as their keyboard buttons, or the switch to blow up TNT in the game is the same as the switch to turn on the lights in their room is a magical thing. It's fulfilling to be able to shape the future inventors of technology -- because they'll be solving tomorrow's problems! That keeps our entire team and me going.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Piper has grown a lot in the last few years, and we've done several things I'm excited about. My top two are the shift of our entire manufacturing operation from China to Made in the USA, right here in San Francisco.
While it was a tough call as a company to make during the pandemic, being able to support jobs in our local community and create stability around our supply chain was incredibly important to us. I'm proud of the team that rallied to pull this off and continues cramming through production today. Otherwise, on the development side, I am most proud of our Piper Make product line.
With the understanding that remote learning had flooded homes with laptops for even the youngest learners, our team pivoted and created a stunning Piper learning experience from computers at home! With our career-connected learning kits, kids can explore the building blocks of technology for gaming, clean energy, BioMed, and more, and it's been a pleasure to develop these experiences.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Uncertainty is one of the most complex parts of being a business owner -- whether it's uncertainty around how global supply chain issues with computer components will impact our products or how spending patterns are in flux post-pandemic. I am lucky to have a great team who can respond to these challenges and share the broader vision about why we do what we do. Still, there are times when unpredictability is challenging.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Always start with the user. Ultimately I have often been surprised to realize that something we thought super cool mattered less to a kid than a feature we created as a side note.
- Build a good team. Startups are, by their very definition, complex. Having people by your side who push you and support you is crucial.
- Never lose sight of the mission and vision of your company. It's straightforward to pivot repeatedly as a startup to meet changing market demands. But every product and every pivot should fit into what matters to your company -- for us, that's breaking physical-digital barriers to inspire the next generation of inventors. Everything we do is in service of that mission!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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