Entrepreneur and high school freshman Emily Scott, 14, recently joined KWHS interviewer Anthony Williams in the studio to discuss her invention, the Clip and Zip Backpack. Scott is taking many lessons away from her first business experience, including the emotional roller coaster of crowdfunding a business idea through an online platform like Kickstarter. Her campaign to raise money for her backpack idea is live until Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 5:13 p.m. EDT.
Below is an edited version of their conversation.
Knowledge@Wharton High School (KWHS): Hi, I’m Anthony Williams with Knowledge@Wharton High School. Joining us today in the KWHS studio is inventor Emily Scott. Emily is a high school freshman and in the University Scholars Program of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School in Philadelphia. Like most high school students, Emily’s got all kinds of things going on. She’s a busy student, a competitive swimmer, a classical pianist, and an avid fan of Dungeons and Dragons. Emily is also an alumnus of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, where she created a product that is now patent-pending.
Emily’s Clip and Zip backpack has gone through four prototypes and six manufacturers and is currently the focus of a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. So hi, Emily.
Emily Scott: Hello.
KWHS: Thanks for talking business and entrepreneurship with us here today at KWHS. To begin with, I’m really curious to know how someone goes from middle school to crowdsourcing a new product on Kickstarter. When did you develop an interest in inventing, and what is the Clip and Zip Backpack?
Scott: Well, it was never really an interest in inventing. I’m a swimmer, and so every day after swimming, I used to put my wet swimsuit into the bottom of my backpack. The problem with that is that it stays in the bottom of my backpack when I get home. The next day you take it out, and it’s cold and wet and not very fun to put on. It was sort of a “eureka” moment, a “there-has-to-be-a-better-way” moment. So, I invented the Clip and Zip Backpack.
The way that it works is it’s a clothesline within a backpack. There’s an interior strap, and after swimming, you take your swimsuit, you clip it onto the interior strap, and then you take it home. Then you unzip the backpack. It opens sort of like a clamshell, and your clothes are already hanging, ready to dry.
KWHS: You’ve had four prototypes and six manufacturers. It sounds like product development has been pretty comprehensive. What have you learned about this process and what it takes to achieve this final design?
Scott: I think that a common misconception with entrepreneurship is that it’s easy. I mean, it’s a great ideal to be able to own your business, to make your own hours, to have profits and all of that. But really the key behind it is persistence.
I remember hearing once, somebody said, “You only see a person’s successes, never the private sacrifices taken to reach them.” And I think that’s really true, especially in this kind of environment. So the iterations were difficult, and after lots and lots of work, we have finally reached a product that’s ready to go to market.
KWHS: Can you please elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by “persistence?” And what really has this journey been like for you? Can you paint me a picture?
Scott: Well, I think that there’s, of course, the technical persistence — the knowledge — and how you learn through the process through the iterations of prototypes and such. But I think there’s also an emotional persistence. There’s always that fear that, “Well, I think this product is great,” and you hope that everybody else does, too. But there’s always that little bit of uncertainty that perhaps it might not go to market. And because of that, it’s sort of a rollercoaster.
You get your first couple of hits on Kickstarter, and it’s great. And then all of a sudden it goes dead for a day, and that fear just keeps coming back. And then you get even more, and it’s a wild ride.
KWHS: You are raising money for this new product for a few more weeks on Kickstarter. What has it been like to launch and run a Kickstarter campaign? How successful has it been so far?
Scott: It’s been a whirlwind. Launching a Kickstarter campaign is an every day job. Not “everyday” as in “ordinary,” but every day as in you have to log on every day. We check who has seen our video, who has donated, who has bought the backpack, and how our product has been going so far. Right now we are 5% funded, so we still have a long way to go, but we are hopeful that with our continuing social media campaigns that we can raise enough awareness and be able to get people to see our product. And I’m sure that as they see it, they’ll love it.
KWHS: You’ve mentioned some of the skills that you’ve used in this journey. We know that you want to study neuroscience at Yale University and become a cognitive neuropsychologist. What is involved in that field of study, and why are you choosing that particular path? Has this experience helped you to develop any skills that you think that you may use in the future?
Scott: Well, neuropsychology or neuroscience in general is a really broad topic. The reason I’m interested in it is because I love learning how people work — how people’s brains work, in that sense — how they think and how they make decisions. And yes, I do think that this has really helped, because it has taught the persistence needed in not only the business world, but in the professional world, as well.
Especially through connections, I’ve learned that they’re extremely important because the more people you have to view your product, statistically speaking the more likely they are to buy that product, because you have a higher pool to draw from. So in that sense, I learned the value of marketing myself and my product.
KWHS: Is there anything else, then, that you think that you would like to talk to other young entrepreneurs about, whether it be what you’ve learned from the marketing, the crowdsourcing, anything business-related from your experience?
Scott: I kind of touched on this before, but I think the biggest issue is persistence. I think that it’s something that you have to be aware of from the get-go [if you want to be a successful entrepreneur]. And you have to realize that you need to kind of hit the ground running before you start your [crowdsourcing] campaign. And then once you start it, you have to maintain it. It’s not something that you can just post on the Internet and let it be.
What is crowdfunding? Have you ever tried to raise money this way? What did you learn from the experience?
Would you buy Emily’s backpack? Why or why not? What do you like about the product? What do you think could be improved?
What does Emily mean when she says, “I learned the value of marketing myself?”
Wow!! Innovation and creativity really have no age limit. Crowdfunding can oftentimes seem like a rough road to travel down, especially with so many brilliant and innovative ideas going unnoticed. I think one of the big lessons you learn with crowdfunding is that it’s no longer about how cool YOU think your brand, idea, or product is — it’s about how you market those perceptions out to other people, and what emotions you can evoke from them. Marketing yourself is no easy task, and it’s fascinating to see what works and doesn’t in the world of crowdfunding.
Great Job Emily!
Crowdfunding is a way to raise money starting with small amounts of money. This would typically come from a large group or crowd of people. I have not tried to raise money like this, but I think it would be a great idea.
I would definitely buy Emily’s backpack. Being a swimmer myself I deal with this problem almost everyday. I do agree with the basis that the idea came from, and I wish someone would have come up with this sooner! I like that the product not only is for swimmers, but can help anyone who has stinky gym clothes, etc. I think if I were to change anything it would be a bigger bag. Personally I have to carry a lot of stuff for swimming and I don’t think this bag would be enough room for me. I think if it was a bigger bag with this addition it would be better.
When Emily says she learned the value of marketing herself I think this means that now she has had personal experience with it. She now knows how important marketing is and how much it helps to reach out to customers.
Crowdfunding is raising money through the funds of other people, usually through a “kick starter” platform. I have tried to raise money this way. One of the times was through raising money for an organization named DECA. I learned that in order to raise a lot of money, you must have a lot of connections and access to people. You also must know how to persuade them into donating money, like talking about the benefits of donating.
If I was a swimmer, I would probably not the product because it isn’t really something that is creative, in my opinion. You can simply hang your swimsuit at home instead of just leaving it in your bag. If you forget your swimsuit in your bag, it still will not be dry as you have to open the bag. I like the product in the ways that it has many different places where you can put all your things and you can dry multiple things at once. Some improvements that could be made is implementing a system where you can effectively dry the swimsuit without having to open the bag and lowering the price so it can be more affordable.
When Emily says, “I learned the value of marketing myself”, she means that she learned how people think, how they make decisions and how their brains work and applied that to help in the marketing process of her backpack. She also explains how connections are important as people are more likely to buy the product when you know a lot of people.
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. Crowdfunding is a form of crowdsourcing and alternative finance.
I would not buy my this backpack, when I can just go home and hang my swimsuit at my house inside my closet while if its in my backpack I can forget about it.
She learned how people think. She also learned how to get around in the market.
This girl is so impressive! She is very innovative for realizing a problem that is common among swimmers and finding a way to fix it herself. It is amazing how she has educated herself and gone after her dreams like this. I hope she reaches her goal and all of her hard work pays off.
It’s interesting that someone near my age, with no intent to make an invention made a backpack. Emily is interested in attending college for neuroscience and she took time out of her day to create backpacks, very intelligent girl. She also had a very good idea to use crowdfunding to raise money to create her bag.
I think Emily’s early knowledge or interest of people and how they work definitely helped in the way that she marketed her product. She is amazing in that she is only a high school freshman and she created a backpack that she felt that was needed for swimmers like her. I also liked how she emphasized how important it was to keep up a sort of consistency. Since her financial source was crowdfunding online, it would have been very easy to just leave it alone and wait for it to get enough money, but she made sure to check every single day and not give up when she didn’t receive a lot of hits on certain days.
This article was very interesting. I loved Emily’s idea. I feel like even non-competitive swimmers would like this, especially when their bag gets wet or when they don’t know where to put their swimsuit. I liked Emily’s key of persistence. Thanks for the great advice! I’ll make sure to follow some of your tips when planning my business and business plan. 🙂
The process of crowdfunding revolves around collecting sums of money through a known website for attention. Unlike advertising your company, or business-plan on a private social media platform, using established sites increases your chances of raising awareness to your particular cause. Similarly to Emily’s business endeavors, two of my friends and I are currently working on a non-profit organization called Healthy Hands, aiming to combat the Hepatitis A outbreak in parts of San Diego County. By installing hand sanitizer machines with the particular antibacterial serum around the city, we are aiming to eliminate this prominent issue especially among the homeless. Though our venture is not as developed as Emily’s astounding backpack innovation, her words surrounding highlighting the necessity of “hitting the ground” really stuck with me. Before entering the world of entrepreneurship, I was oblivious to how much effort and “persistence” that would be required before the actual campaigning. In my current business-plan, one aspect that I find vital is meeting deadlines and completing tasks on time. Different from a school where deadlines are set for you, in your own business you set your due dates. Analyzing the estimated timeframe for specific jobs such as composing our business-plan, or writing emails to product distributors was a whole new world for my team and me, and we did have troublesome trouble in the beginning. Again, there were many times of discouragement and losing faith, but as Emily worded it so correctly, persistence and endurance are what I think runs our business.
I would not see myself purchasing one of these backpacks since I am not a profound swimmer; however, I see myself recommending this product to my swimmer friends who always complain about their damp backpacks walking into advisory or class. The aspect that sticks with me is that Emily specifically picked to build a product that surrounded her daily struggles — most of us, including myself, probably would have kept on complaining about our wet bags. Through selecting a specific problem that related to herself, I think that Emily is not only more knowledgeable but passionate about her product.