Salt Lake City
Founded: 2014 (Ardusat), Rebranded September 2017
Industry: Electronics & Aerospace
Products: Education Kits
Sunny Washington's Classroom Launch Pack helps schools advance STEM learning.
Before growing Because Learning, Washington worked with Spire Global, a company based out of San Francisco that builds and launches small satellites called cubesats.
"They always wanted their technology to be used in education as well. They were really good with satellites but not necessarily with networking with schools. I had an Education Technology background. I could help them get their love of science and technology into the schools. That's the beginning of Because Learning."
Kits manufactured by Because Learning help students run scientific experiments and also gain an understanding of engineering and coding, hot topics in education today.
"A lot of times when you are building a business, timing is everything. That's true with Because Learning. We are offering schools a way to build up their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum. It's very topical right now. STEM is an important part of every education discussion. Look at how fast technology is moving with self-driving cars and robots. We are not preparing our students for these jobs. I have a daughter, and I feel that she is learning math the same way I did 20, 30 years ago. How is she going to be prepared to enter this new workforce? We are behind, and even as our technology develops, the last group we think about with education and trainings are our kids. Because Learning fixes that," Washington says.
The goal of Because Learning is to make it easy – and exciting – for teachers to teach new technologies in their classrooms. On the manufacturing side, Because Learning determines what needs to be included in each kit. Some kits are made through off-the-shelf components. Others are manufactured by a partner of the company.
"We have products for schools: kits and lesson plans. We want to keep kids engaged and help them advance their skills," Washington says. "We love working with schools, and we've been very careful to make it affordable. This isn't just technology for kids who can afford it or live in districts that have bigger budgets. Our outreach is with traditional science teachers or math teachers, and we are also reaching out to an international market. We are expanding in China, the Middle East, even Ghana. Our students in Ghana used to learn about circuits by drawing pictures on the chalkboard. Now they can experiment with real ones."
"Budgets are tight, but there is a movement to increase access to STEM education, and most parents want their kids to learn about coding. And most teachers want to teach it, but they do not know how. We make it possible in a cost-effective way by offering it to the whole school, not per student. And it's reusable. We want this to be cost effective and attainable," Washington says.
Because Learning also has another business model offering kits through a monthly subscription for parents who want to give their kids a step-up. "This isn't a kit that kids play with once and then throw it in the closet," Washington says. "It's a monthly subscription that keeps building, keeps kids learning."
Challenge: Growing pains. "When you are starting out, it is way harder than you can ever imagine," Washington says. "Part of that is because there is so much responsibility on your shoulders. You have to get through the challenges that come your way. I tell people that are interested in starting their own business that rock bottom is so far below what you can even imagine. If you are not willing to figure out how to overcome whatever comes your way, you will fail. I have mentors that have prepped me to have not just a Plan A but a Plan A, B, C, and D. That's how you have to think. You have to be agile and respond to things as they happen. You have to be willing to rebrand and do whatever it takes."
Opportunities: Expanding into new districts. "I will never get tired of seeing kids all over the world experiment with our platform," Washington says.
Need: Time and money. "We do not have a shortage of opportunities," Washington says. "We just need help to go after them."