Written by Lori Williams
Loveworks Leadership Guides Middle School Students to Launch Companies
Although Michael Hirsch is a seven-time Ironman triathlete, he nearly lost a recent uphill battle. The athlete, who is also the Director of Loveworks Leadership, couldn’t swim, bike, or run his way to New York City. But ten young entrepreneurs in his leadership program needed to get to the International Toy Fair. Not to buy the latest gadget, but to market a product known as Wristworld.
These may be the youngest entrepreneurs you’ve ever met. (Yes, they will speak at the September 11 luncheon!) Ranging in age from nine to fifteen years old, these students developed the technology for an augmented reality (AR) wristband and wanted to demonstrate its capabilities at the largest toy fair in the world. But fair officials denied admission to anyone under 18.
“For months, the kids petitioned the officials,” recalls Michael Hirsch. “Finally, within a week of the fair opening, a loophole was discovered.”
“The kids became the youngest innovators to present at the Toy Fair. Not only that, but representatives from companies like Hasbro and Mattel were very impressed with our students as well as the practical way they utilized AR technology.”
Did Hirsch, who started Loveworks Leadership in 2011, expect to see two spinoff companies take shape even as his students realize their potential? “To be completely honest, no!” says Hirsch. “My wife and I say all the time, ‘We can’t believe we’re in the technology business!’”
Real Tech is the name of the business; its first product is Wristworld. Real Tech offers middle school students hands-on experience in coding, design and marketing with the goal of creating technology innovations for the marketplace.
But before Real Tech, there was Real Kitchen. Of it, Michael has this comment, “My wife and I laugh when we say, ‘We’re in the salsa business.’” But he knows it’s true when he walks into local Crest and Homeland stores and picks up a container of Real Kitchen fresh salsa. Real salsa made by real middle school students in the Loveworks Leadership program.
Although Hirsch and his team didn’t set out to launch two spinoff companies in the space of eight years, it is no surprise that Loveworks Leadership principles ignite such entrepreneurial potential in young people. That’s because experiential learning opportunities are at the heart of the Loveworks organization.
Through these experiences, middle school students in the Norman area where the organization is headquartered can discover potential, shape stories, affirm ideas and pursue action. They can also learn how to face those uphill battles.
“Even when the students heard they couldn’t attend the toy fair, they didn’t give up,” says Hirsch. “There was an obstacle in their way. Overcoming that obstacle will help prepare them for what they face as they move forward.”
Moving forward is definitely on the Loveworks schedule. Students in the Norman area who are in the 6th through 8th grade can apply online for the after school leadership program. This fall will also see the launch of Wristworld just in time for the holiday season. (Check the website for sale information.) “None of this would be possible without the selfless business professionals who help us,” says Michael Hirsch. “My wife and I scratch our heads all the time and ask, ‘How do they find the time to give to our organization?’”
“Without the volunteer mentors, these students’ stories would not be written.”