I recently had an insightful conversation with Sandra Oh Lin, Founder and CEO of KiwiCo, who went from creating STEM projects for her kids in her garage to distributing over 50 million hands-on activities to children and families worldwide. What began with Lin’s desire to do fun, educational activities with her kids turned into an entrepreneurial career helping busy parents cultivate their kids’ creativity, curiosity, critical thinking and problem solving through playful projects that introduce them to STEM. If you haven’t yet, you can read part one of Lin’s interview here where we discuss how she took her lifelong passion for STEM and problem solving and applied it to a new way for kids to understand and experience these subjects. In our continued conversation, Lin provides insights into how her creativity shaped her as an entrepreneur, the value of risk-taking when starting a business, deconstructing stigma and biases in STEM, and how her company develops its products with the future of STEM in mind.
Elting: How have creativity, curiosity and exploration played a role in your own journey as an entrepreneur? 
Lin: I’ve always loved creating things and experimenting. I have such fond memories of crafting everything from costumes and putting together different concoctions in the kitchen with my mother. I always knew that I wanted to carry on that tradition of creating and experimenting when I had children of my own, but I never expected to turn it into a business. When I look back at my own experience and career, I realize that KiwiCo is the business that I was always meant to start, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  
Creativity and curiosity have helped me think of interesting ways to approach challenges as a founder, so naturally, I encourage my team to think creatively and curiously, too. For instance, when it comes to creating ads and crafting content, this means being curious about our core family audience—taking cues from customer feedback, community conversations on social, and what's trending in the space—while also coming up with our own original ideas. A fun example is when we concepted an ad for a sweeper that kids can build to pick up little objects. As parents, we all know the pain of stepping on our kids’ Lego bricks, so that’s exactly what we decided to show in our ad, and it went viral!
Elting: While nerve-racking, risk-taking is a core part of entrepreneurship, and when business leaders take calculated risks, it can serve as a much-needed step toward success. What are some of the risks you took earlier on in your career? How did it contribute to your company’s success?
Lin: The decision to start a business is a risk in itself. One of the things that really helped was the guidance, mentorship, and support of other entrepreneurs as I navigated each stage of the journey. We raised equity financing to help fund the growth of the business. I always say early-stage investing is part art and part science. I had to build credibility quickly in pitch meetings. I would make sure to note my experience and weave the narrative and vision for KiwiCo so venture capitalists could ground themselves on seeing the opportunity more clearly.
Elting: While progress continues to be made, diversity in STEM fields continues to be low, with women only making up 35% of the industry workforce. What are your thoughts on the current state of diversity in STEM, and what are some potential solutions from your perspective?
Lin: A big misconception is that STEM is solely about being in a science lab or solving complex math problems. The truth is that STEM is present in our everyday lives and routines from the day we are born. The best way to get kids involved in STEM at any age is to give them the opportunities to tap into their natural curiosity as they explore and discover the world around them. For example, our Science of Cooking Collection allows kids to make something fun and delicious, while also teaching them about the chemical reactions of yeast and the science behind ice crystals and freezing. Additionally, from the very beginning, we’ve been very conscious about presenting our activities and projects as gender-neutral. We believe that both girls and boys are entitled to learn and discover with us, so you’ll notice that coming through in our different brand touch points. Our ads showcase kids of all genders, and you’ll also notice that we never categorize our projects as “girls” or “boys.”  
Elting: Many times, STEM subjects in school are stigmatized as being “boring,” and it can be hard to captivate children of all ages in these subjects whether that be at home or in the classroom. How does KiwiCo counteract this? In what ways does KiwiCo prove that STEM subjects can be engaging and fun? 
Lin: We don’t believe in the idea that fun and learning should be mutually exclusive. In fact, we believe that kids learn the most when they’re having fun. From early on in our product development cycle, we think deeply about topics and concepts that might illuminate kids' interests and then figure out how to bring them to life in a fun, engaging way. Getting feedback directly from kids is also essential to delivering a successful experience. Every week, we have multiple kid-testing sessions where we invite kids to come and test upcoming crates. Our ultimate indication of success is not only when the kids are having fun with a crate, but when they’re also excited to share what they just learned!
Elting: How does KiwiCo keep up with rapidly changing technology? And how does KiwiCo’s product development in turn play a role in the future of STEM?
Lin: We’re a very insight-driven company. Both our product and marketing teams lean heavily into audience and industry insights to inform new initiatives and product launches. Our marketing strategy constantly evolves based on new tools, technology and consumer preferences. For example, we’ve noticed a shift in behavior around how consumers use social platforms as search engines. This indicated to us that we needed to prioritize informational content optimized for social viewing.
In regard to the future of STEM learning, our education team is proactively working to fit the needs of various educational programs. We’ve worked with over 9,000 organizations and reach approximately 500,000 students, working with each individually to choose the kits best suited for their needs. We’re continuously looking for ways to enrich the learning experience and make STEM accessible to as many kids as possible. Whether at home or in the classroom, our goal is to create fun, enriching experiences that empower the next generation of innovators. 
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Liz Elting