Self-driving cars. Machine learning. On-demand everything. The companies making headlines in Silicon Valley and attracting staggering investments were hard to ignore as I entered my second year of business school.
I had come to Stanford's Graduate School of Business to gain the tools to spread my entrepreneurial wings, but I couldn't get behind the en vogue trends of the day. I knew I wanted to solve a problem, but I held out to follow my professors' advice that I should solve a problem I was passionate about. Eventually I did. It's just that no one predicted I would land in the world of school supplies, especially not in the land where tech reigns supreme.
School supplies? Really?
To understand my path to this point, you'll have to go back roughly 20 years. My single mom and Registered Nurse equipped my two siblings and me with a gift I was too young to fully appreciate. Inside our two-bedroom apartment was a bookcase nearly bursting with texts and a large desk featuring two desktop computers. Although what I vividly remember is the morning I was late to school because we'd just gotten Road Runner broadband internet installed (and everything moved so fast now!), what I actually had back then only became apparent over time.
My mom stressed to my older brother and me--and later my younger sister--the importance of education, and she pledged her willingness to do whatever necessary to support our education. She said she'd promptly find us a tutor if we needed one; she said she'd work a second or even third job if needed to pay our college tuition someday (she indeed did work three concurrent jobs). After all these years I've come to see that the precious gift I had was a loving parent who would do whatever it took to support my development. But what about school supplies, you ask?
The need to find a better way
When you present a painful but mandatory chore to a driven mom you've conjured a recipe for pain. Having an elementary, middle, and high schooler at the same time meant my mom would have to weave into her work schedule sprints of shopping for school supplies all over the city. I needed my special graphing calculator, my brother needed a 6" ruler, and my little sister absolutely needed fast-drying Elmer's purple glue.
Only through the treasured conversations you get to have as an adult with your adult parents did I come to understand this dreaded back-to-school shuffle. The more I researched the problem and spoke to more teachers, the more I came to understand their pain with the process: unprepared students are the primary culprit in the over $500 in unreimbursed supplies that teachers buy every year. I knew their had to be a better way, even if didn't have "self-driving" in the title page.
Know Everything's Okay (kit)
And alas we have Keokit. The name represents our company's aspiration: the Know Everything's Okay kit. We work with teachers and schools to help them achieve better prepared classrooms. I would love to go back in time and take just one thing off my mom's plate; to give her a kit, and at least for back-to-school, to let her know everything's okay. I started this company for this reason. With no signs of time machines (yet), hopefully I can instead pay this peace of mind forward for our dear customers. I've also chosen to donate one kit for every kit that we sell because we want children in need to know their development is just as important as our own.
Founder of Keokit