The Pivot


Written by Rachel Caffey, 10th grader at eStem Public Charter High School

Last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting and observing the first High School Startup Weekend. I had a keen sense of what I might be walking into, but I had no idea the extremities that the event carried.

When I visited the Clinton School on the second day of Startup Weekend, the teams were in the middle of tackling the lean canvas for the products and business ideas they had created.

Each team walked through the process, and learned what needed to be revised and improved with guidance from the mentors.

Around 12pm that day, Chad called everyone together, introduced a student, and said he had an announcement to make. The student from Fayetteville High School bravely told the crowd that they did their best practices, but it was brought to his attention that there was already a company in place with their business’s brand.

Zoë Farrell, a Noble Impact Scholar, awarded the prize to the team: a miniature tub of Play-Doh. She told the story about the Play-Doh, and how the product, too, suffered hardships until they repackaged their idea.

With the story Zoë shared, the gift acted as a symbol to the group to show them to take this pivot, learn from it, and continue to take off from there.

“Congrats on being the first major failure.” -Chad Williamson

But, was it really a “failure?”

I was sure that the team might have been feeling a little down about having to change the brand, due to this road block. But, after talking to their group about this situation, they seemed pretty positive about the change.

Late in the evening, when the teams updated everyone on their pitches, it was inspiring to see how that team had taken that experience to improve their business model. They used that pivotal moment in their innovation journey to make a really iconic, ironic, new brand name for their idea: Pivot Watches.

As teams were winding down and people started to leave, everyone initially held a firm grasp of what they wanted their final pitches to look like. The mentors, the hosts, and the peer mentors really provided a lot of insight for the teams.

Throughout the weekend, one of my favorite things that I observed, was the fact that the teams encouraged one another. They tweeted each other’s surveys, and switched contacts to reach people for customer validation.

The event was so exciting, and it’s definitely something I would like to observe again, or perhaps participate with a team.