Startup Spotlight: Epiic SolutionsMay 15, 2016
Epiic Solutions is on a mission to inspire youth with the mindset, skills and network to become creative innovators and entrepreneurs. How do they do it? Through providing the coolest summer programming we’ve seen: one-week programs designed for teens to explore topics they care about and collaborate in small teams to develop their own innovative startup ideas. Here is more on Founder Blake Sims’ take on why she started this program.
Blake: epiic solutions is an education startup that creates one-of-a-kind experiences for Boston high school students to expose them to entrepreneurship, innovation, design, and startups. This summer, teens can participate in a variety of one-week programs that help them develop their entrepreneurial mindset, teaches them the tools and strategies startups use to go from idea to viable business solutions, and get them tapped into Boston’s thriving innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. Weeks are thematic so teens can explore topics they are passionate about, as well as have exposure to potential college and career paths they may not have considered.
GH: What is your name and role?
Blake: My name is Blake Sims and I am the Founder and CEO of epiic solutions. I’ve been working on developing engaging programs for middle and high school students related to entrepreneurship, innovation and design for the past three years. I love teaching students about these topics because I believe these are career paths that encapsulate the 21st century skills everyone needs for success, including communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and leadership. I’m very excited to connect local high school students with Boston’s amazing resources and thriving ecosystems so they can explore ways to apply what they learn in school to the real world.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Epiic Solutions get started?
Blake: I’ve been working in this space for a while but didn’t feel like I was leveraging everything Boston has. There are so many innovative entrepreneurs, startups and companies all centrally located. I want teens to see what work looks like today and reflect on what skills, mindset, and path they want to take before they enter college and the workforce. When I talk to entrepreneurs, innovators and designers, they get it and are jealous that programs like epiic solutions didn’t exist when they were teens. I have been so impressed by the pay-it-forward mentality of people working in startups and the generosity of people to share their time and experiences to inspire the next generation.
GH: How did you build your partnerships?
Blake: I spend a lot of time networking and engaging with local entrepreneurs and educators. I have a collection on part-time and consulting jobs that help me tap into these networks. I’d love to grow the business and bring on team members that can help develop partnerships because it is such a crucial element of epiic solutions experiences. Programs wouldn’t be nearly as fun or cool if it was just me all day! It’s Boston’s entrepreneurs, innovators and designers that inspire teens to imagine a future in startups or other creative fields.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Blake: Right now I’m a solopreneur, so this is something I think a lot about because I do want my company to grow and thrive beyond me. I want epiic solutions to be a fun, collaborative, energetic organization that is always open to experimenting and trying something new. Where our work is always driven by the impact we want to have on students, keeping programs engaging and hands-on, pushing students to fail and learn, and providing the support and encouragement teens need to explore and try new things.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Blake: epiic solutions is my second education startup. When I left my first startup, it was really hard. It took me a long time to reflect on whether or not I wanted to try to build these programs again, and if so, what and how I would do it differently. Failing at my first startup taught me a lot about what role I want to have in building an organization and the importance of finding a co-founder that’s a good match. There are lots of things I wish I had done differently the first go-round. I know that epiic solutions is a better program because I didn’t get it right the first time.
GH: What did you learn from your first students?
Blake: I am ALWAYS learning from my students, which is my favorite part of the job! Students teach me to relax and have fun, to live in the moment. When I’m having a rough day, I look at their emails and feedback on the program and it always makes me smile. My students (past, present and future) inspire me to do this work. I want to give them the skills for success, and in doing so, they make me feel successful as well.
Blake: Where to begin?! I love Boston’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems because everyone has been so helpful in connecting me with folks.
Some of my go-tos:
1.Greenhorn Connect – I love your calendar of events, it keeps me busy networking and learning!
2. LearnLaunch – great resource to learn more about the variety of resources and new Edtech startups in the community
3. Venture Café – puts on great events and they have a wonderful team across their locations
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Blake: The city is really focused on building out the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems to keep adults here. They are working hard at creating incentives that keep college students here. However, I don’t see many connections between the Boston innovation ecosystem and the k12 space. Schools need bridges to industry leaders in order to expose students to the real world outside of the classroom and demonstrate how to apply what they are learning to real college and career options. There are a number of entrepreneurship programs focused on giving students tools, but not many that truly provide authentic opportunities for students to think critically and creatively about big problems. Students have a lot to say and can be powerful agents of change if given the opportunity to do so.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Blake: Best advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help and be shameless. It can be difficult to feel like you are always self-promoting, so treat your stratup like your best friend. What wouldn’t you do for your best friend to help her succeed?
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Blake: The best thing has been engaging in Boston’s startup world and learning about all of the amazing opportunities out there. I’m constantly in awe of the work I see entrepreneurs and innovators creating. It gives me a lot of hope that people are compassionate and committed to helping improve our world.
GH: What does the future hold for Epiic Solutions?
Blake: That’s a great question. I have big dreams for the direction I want education to go and epiic solutions is one of the ways I see leading the movement of experiential education. My hope is that epiic solutions experiences are available to all students. Whether that means through partnerships, joining larger organizations, providing content directly to schools, I’m not sure. epiic solutions is very much a startup concept and I’m excited to see where it leads me and the impact it will have on students in Boston and beyond.