Hi, I’m Crystal, a junior at Mount Holyoke College studying Computer Science. This summer I experienced my second job, being the Summer Program Manager for Epiic Solutions. It has been, by far, the best decision I’ve made this year.
Here’s a glimpse of what we did, what I learned, and some of my favorite memories.
What is entrepreneurship?
We asked our students to share their ideas about this question on the very first day of camp. Through many discussions, we introduced students to what it means to be an entrepreneur, primarily what they do and what they build. We taught our teens that above all, entrepreneurs are innovative problem solvers that create valuable solutions for their customers.
Which led to the next question: “How do I become an entrepreneur?” It starts with a lot of questions. For example, what problems would a server at a restaurant have? What conflicts do grandparents face? Toddlers? Or first-time parents? How about kindergarteners? What about…. yourself? What problems do you face most often in your daily lives? What would you change? How can you make it better? Groundbreaking startups grow from these basic questions.
Our teens were interested in exploring very diverse topics throughout the summer. From music, to transportation, education, environmental issues, and more—these are just a few of the complex issues our students wanted to address. I was very impressed with their curiosity and knew they would learn a lot as they explored entrepreneurship during the summer program.
Ok so I know what problems I want to work on. Am I good to go and start building prototypes?
One of the important things I learned from Epiic Solutions was that I have to think about the customers before developing solutions. As a Computer Science major, without even realizing it, I found that I was used to thinking only about the technical side of the project, thus making it harder to see beyond my own perspective. From my point of view, developing mattered to me to the most, so rather than coming up with creative products, I would focus on the practical ideas and methods that could be implemented in the real world.
Before the summer, this limited my ideas because I used to over-value feasibility instead of imagination. However, I was impressed by the ingenious ideas that students brought and when I did some research, most of them were actually achievable with current technologies. For example, one of the project ideas students came up with was a soothing mirror with a nature background on it to comfort people and give self-confidence. Originally, I would have thought the solutions might be too complicated and expensive to build, but when we did some research, we realized that a smart mirror could be simply made with a Wi-Fi adapter, monitor and two-way glass mirrors.
I came to see that when I was more receptive to imaginative ideas, I could open doors to new technology and expand my knowledge. Therefore, you don’t need to be scared to explore a startup idea that you might think is too imaginative and creative, because if the problem is clearly addressed and there’s a demand for it, you will always find some ways to achieve and build what you want.
Then, you might think… But I’m not creative enough and I don’t think I’ll ever come up with an innovative idea.
There’s a myth that as we grow older, we cannot think creatively but that’s not true. Trained individuals actually think more flexibly, fluently, and originally than others. Creativity can be cultivated for anyone at any age. Epiic Solutions is a very good way for everyone to practice and cultivate their creative skills by asking questions; if this solution cannot be done, what else can be? If a product doesn’t seem that attractive, how can we make consumers more motivated to use it? Constantly questioning is a very practical way of training creativity, helps us overcome barriers and expands our ability to generate tons of original ideas. Epiic Solutions has personally helped me learn how to approach problems, consider the possible and creative options and determine the right solution.
Aside from working on startup ideas, the daily field trips to startups across Boston was a great perk! We met a lot of entrepreneurs and heard their stories from the beginning stage to the success of their products or services. I really enjoyed the field trips because it was a cool way to explore current technology trends. For example, since the driverless car is something that is not in the market yet and it’s hard to hear stories about this business from actual employees working on this product. Epiic Solutions took us to meet nuTonomy, and it was a great chance for me (and the teens) to ask questions. Throughout the summer, I had lots of opportunities to think about other future technologies and expand my horizons.