How a Chicago Tech Power Couple is Teaching a Billion Kids to Code

Katy Lynch wants a billion kids to learn how to code. And she stepped down from her job as CEO of Techweek, to pursue her passion and launch her second start-up this year in Chicago.

Using today’s technology and building a new, simpler code syntax called KidScript, Lynch is transforming a seemingly solo and challenging endeavor – learning how to code – into a collaborative, empowering and interactive program.

Over the past 15 months, Lynch partnered with her husband and former start-up co-founder of Belly, Craig Ulliott. Ulliott and Lynch had previously built the digital media firm, SocialKaty, which was acquired by Manifest Digital in 2014. Together again, this tech power couple created Codeverse, the world’s first hackable classroom and vertically integrated technology platform designed to teach children ages 6 to 12 the vital skill of coding.

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A Mission-Driven Business:

“My husband and I have a lot of shared experience in the tech world and educating the next generation of tech stars has always been important to us. This was one of the reasons we jumped into the tech space to create Codeverse,” Lynch shared.

As an experienced start-up founder, Lynch stresses the importance of defining your mission.

“Define your mission, your vision, and your values early on – that dictates your company culture and who you hire. For Codeverse, we came up with the mission statement – ‘teach a billion kids to code’. We are a mission-driven business.”

To develop this kid’s coding program, Lynch and Ulliott hired an in-house curriculum team and worked with a large group of certified K-12 teachers for over a year.

“We’ve conducted over 450 product demos with kids, and all have them completed Codeverse. They’ve generated their own app or game in 20 minutes. It’s gratifying to get kids excited early on.”

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Is Learning How to Code Really That Easy?

With coding, there are many different languages to learn such as HTML and Python and Ruby.

“There are multiple ways to perform one action with different languages. Many of these languages are way too advanced for kids to learn,” Lynch explains, ” I’m 32, and it’s difficult for me!”

To assimilate kids to learn to code, the Codeverse team built their real programming language based on the core concepts, of other languages, such as “if” statements, variables, and loops.

“The thing that makes this awesome is if a child wants to learn another language, like Ruby, it’s easy to transition,” said Lynch.

As kids learn to code, the program adapts to their learning needs by giving kids more or fewer lessons depending on how easy it is for them to advance to the next level.

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Building a Collaborative Environment for Kids to Code:

One aspect of Codeverse is the virtual world, but the second dimension of the business plan is the physical one.

“We’ve done a lot of research – we want kids to code in a collaborative environment,” Lynch shared.

Social interaction plays an integral part in the development process for children, and the support provided by the teaching specialists aids in the learning process.

When starting a business plan as an entrepreneur, Lynch shares that you want to take steps to relay to your investors that “you are a) the right person for the job and b) that you can prove you can scale.”

To do this, she advises to do your research and define your competitive landscape. Think about your business model, and how your business is going to generate revenue.

For Codeverse, Lynch created a new business model by creating a physical space for kids to learn to code together. Upon entering the studio, they pick up an iPad with their name on it. Using the iPad, they can write code that manipulates components of the studio, like activating drones, robotic arms or 3D printers. The million-dollar facility is also full of collaborative and social elements, such as a 20-foot screen where 10 children can collaborate on coding challenges at a single time.

“If you’re sitting in the Codeverse studio and you want to change the lights from white to red,” Lynch said, “We give the tutorials on how to do that. You’re coding to have that end result.”

While the adaptive program is online, there is an on-site staff of certified K-12 teachers from the Chicagoland area in the Codeverse studio.

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Codeverse Launches in Lincoln Park:

The first location will open in Chicago in Lincoln Park in July 2017 with plans to expand to three additional locations in Chicago and ultimately, nationally and internationally.

Codeverse has many different types of memberships based on after-school or summer session.

“The ultimate goal is that kids are coming into the space to have fun, be creative and collaborate with peers to build and create apps and games,” Lynch said.

Parents can sign-up or learn more about the memberships starting at $125 a month by visiting Codeverse.

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What’s It’s Really Like to be a Chicago Female Entrepreneur

What’s it really like to be an entrepreneur? Now add, what’s it like to be a Chicago female entrepreneur?

In June 2016, Chicago was named the world capital for female-founded startups, with 30 percent of startups started by women.

After attending motivational talks, female creatives or business groups, and interviewing Chicago female entrepreneurs over the past four years, I’ve pulled together some of the best quotes to convey what it really means to be a Chicago female entrepreneur in 2017.

Advice from Chicago Female Entrepreneurs:

“Literally, I didn’t see my friends for the year,” Lakesha Rose from Rose Phillips Online said about the first year of going into business. Read the full interview here.

“Give yourself permission to be fabulous. Do not let anyone define who you are,” said Dima Elissa, Mentor, Investor, and Council Member of Ms. Tech. Read more about her story here.

“If I was going to send someone to you, what would I send them for?” Nicole Yeary, Founder of Ms. Tech, said in a Ms. Tech meetup about how to hone your skillset. Read more advice from Yeary here. 


“We talk a lot more than we used to. We talk like 10 times a day. When you are in business with someone, it’s like a marriage!” Vanessa Cutler, Founder of Emotilink said about having a friend as a business partner. Read more about her mental health app here.  As a bonus, you can read the background of her app design and business plan through this case study. 

“I hot glued myself into my dress,” Krista Goral, Founder of MeasureMake, said about the dresses she created in college for special occasions. She now sews custom fit dresses for women in Chicago. Read more about her dress making start-up in her full interview here.

“The hardest part is balancing and finding the time to do it all. I struggle with the life/work balance, and I am sure many other working women would agree with me on that! I wear many hats, and it is important to me to put my all into ever hat I wear and do the best I can,” said Katie Schuppler, Owner of KS Style Consulting and Style/Beauty Blogger for Fashion Speak. Read her full interview here.  

“I never really worry about failure. I do in the way that everyone does with day to day anxiety. But, so much of liftUplift comes out of myself. I don’t worry that that will be taken away from me,” said Corielle Laaspere, Founder of liftUplift about overcoming failure. Read more about how she has built a global marketplace for female-led businesses here. 

“Don’t compare your hustle with someone’s highlight reel. You don’t see the moments where we work 100 hour weeks,” said Katy Lynch, former CEO of Techweek, in a panelist discussion.

Share your Start-up Story:

For more advice on how to turn your passion into profit, check out this infographic.

Are you a Chicago entrepreneur? Email Windy City Cosmo at windycitycosmo@gmail.com to share your story.

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Insight from a Chicago Wardrobe Stylist

From my first encounter with Katie Schuppler, I could tell she was a go-getter, businesswoman. It’s the quality I see in many Chicago female entrepreneurs. And that quality is not just connecting with people, but what I like to call “power networking.” In a few minutes, she understands your business and brand and finds a way for us to work together. No small talk, just a friendly, purposeful note, followed-up with an action plan.

This is refreshing; this is productive. This is what differentiates the successful businesswoman from the hobbyists. I’d like you to meet Chicago stylist consultant, Katie Schuppler.

*What’s your name and business name? 

Katie Schuppler, Owner of KS Style Consulting and Style/Beauty Blogger for Fashion Speak

*Did you start a blog that turned into a business or a business that has a blog? 

Kind of both? I started my blog at my last job before I started my business and used that to launch my business when I moved to Chicago but started my business as a separate entity.

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*Can you tell me more about your business and the services you offer? 

I am a Personal Style Consultant and Fashion Blogger/Writer who loves to help others create their own personal style in this fast paced world of fashion and just life in general. Having a Bachelors of Arts degree in Fashion Merchandise Management and Business from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, WI I had then gone on to become a Stylist/Style Director at the #1 women’s boutique in Milwaukee, Fred Boutique.

Now living in the city of Chicago, I have been dedicated to helping my clients find their own personal style through advice, Styling Sessions, Closet Clean-outs, Consignment, and Look Books throughout the Chicagoland and Southeastern Wisconsin areas for over 6 years. I also worked as the former Wardrobe Stylist for The Whitney Reynolds Show in Chicago and am currently a Style Contributor for Chicago Woman Magazine.

*Where’s your favorite place to shop for business clothes? 

I actually love taking my clients to LOFT and Nordstrom Rack, they both a have a great variety and selection at an affordable price.

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*What’s the hardest part of owning your own business? 

The hardest part is balancing and finding the time to do it all. I struggle with the life/work balance, and I am sure many other working women would agree with me on that! I wear many hats, and it is important to me to put my all into ever hat I wear and do the best I can. 

*How do you distinguish yourself from competitors? 

I think that just being real and honest, but not harsh with my clients helps them to open up to me as if I were a friend coming in to help them out. I also have business and fashion background knowledge to let them know what is worth spending money on and what is worth investing a little less in.

*Do you use any apps to manage your business? If so, what are your favorites? 

I use HootSuite on and off, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp for Business, and Google for Business. I would say that Google for my business and Instagram are my favorites. They both give great analytics, and Instagram has given me endless business/blog opportunities and connections 

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Katie Schuppler, Owner of KS Style Consulting in Chicago.

What, do you find, is the hardest part of developing your own style? 

I think the hardest part is taking everything you see every day in magazines or on TV that you really like and trying to work that into your life, body type, and functionality on a day-to-day basis in your world. My job is always to help my clients find their own personal style within their comfort zone, but to also slightly push the limits to where they would have never picked the outfit and love it nonetheless!

For more information about Katie Schuppler and her styling business, please visit her website here or follow her on Instagram (@KSStyleConsulting) and Windy City Cosmo (@WindyCityCosmo).

For more stories about Chicago entrepreneurs, see past interviews with Windy City Cosmo here:

Read about how to say “no” to brunch and Uber to meet your financial goals from styling and financial guru, Grace Keller.

Read about advice from a Chicago entrepreneur about the clients, the stress, and the PR behind a startup from Lakesha Rose, Founder of Rose Phillips Online.

Read about how to get dresses that fit, no bullshit from the Founder of MeasureMake, Krista Goral.

 

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Should You Get Drinks With Your Coworkers?

In school, we’re told to make friends,  but at work, the question becomes can I be your friend?  A new survey finds 74% of employees consider coworkers friend and one in five believe their colleagues have an inappropriate relationship.

Fierce, Inc. surveyed over a thousand individuals to get to the heart of the impact friendship and romance has in the workplace. Below is their findings on office friendships and office romances and what your boss really thinks about it all.

When most of us think of office relationships, we think of romance. While romantic relationships can impact a work environment, research reveals that all types of relationships with co-workers are playing an increasingly significant role in job satisfaction. In a new study released today by leadership development and training experts Fierce, Inc., over a thousand individuals were surveyed to gain insight into the impact of relationships with co-workers.

Coworker or Friend?

While the line between friend and coworker can be thin, most employees have embraced the dual title for those they work with. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed consider two or more coworkers friends, with no significant differences between male and female respondents. Fierce has found in working with clients that the most productive employees have a best friend at work. Not a friend, not even a good friend, but a best friend. This detail was highlighted as well in a 1999 Gallop poll discovered that having a best friend at work pinpoints a dynamic of great workgroups.

Whether certain individuals are friends or not, the Fierce survey found that coworkers affect job satisfaction:
● Just 1 in 5 believe coworkers have no impact on their job satisfaction
● Two-thirds note their coworkers make their jobs more enjoyable
● For those indicating they are happy in their current role, only 7% say their coworkers make their job less enjoyable
● For those who are unhappy in their role, that number increases to 30%.

“There is no doubt that our relationships with co-workers have a significant effect on our attitudes toward our jobs,” said Susan Scott, Founder, and CEO of Fierce, Inc. “Are we happy to see our team members when we walk in the door each day? Is there a best friend in the mix? Do our relationships with coworkers create an environment that is fun to be a part of, or do toxic individuals make going to the office unbearable? The survey data is important for company leaders to pay attention to. Since employee satisfaction is intrinsically tied to the relationships between coworkers, what can leaders do to enrich those relationships? Creating an environment in which friendships can develop is a good start.”

Socializing on the Job

For many, the occasional happy hour or social lunch out of the office are valuable opportunities to connect with coworkers. However, less than 50 percent of those surveyed believe their bosses are supportive of employees socializing outside of the office.

This is an area of disconnect between management and employees: only 44 percent of those in entry level positions believe their bosses are supportive of socializing, while nearly 60 percent of senior management believe the same.

This impacts satisfaction as well: of those unhappy in their current role, 28 percent say their organization is unsupportive of socializing outside of work; just four percent of those who are happy feel the same. If organizations are in fact supportive of these relationships, these results indicate there is more that can be done to communicate the support that is there.

Romance on the Job

While friendships at work seem to be flourishing, just a quarter of those surveyed admits to having engaged in an office romance. Those at the top of an organization (owners, executives, and c-level staff), have the highest occurrence at nearly 40 percent. While it seems age would play a factor in this finding, as individuals in higher level roles are more likely to have had more years in the workplace, survey respondents 45 and older saw no greater occurrences of office romances than other ages.

Is it Allowed to Date your Coworker?

While over 50 percent of senior management note romantic relationships are allowed at their organizations, only 30 percent of those in entry-level positions believe the same, signaling another significant discrepancy in communication between job levels.

● Nearly 40 percent of all those surveyed are unsure of their organization’s policies
● Over a third claim their organizations allow romantic relationships between co-workers

“While communicating across an organization about an upcoming product release or re-branding is clearly necessary, so is ensuring that your employees understand the rules and expectations of an organization’s policy regarding workplaces romances,” continued Scott.

“These survey results highlight the lack of transparency around this topic, from small businesses to Fortune 500 organizations.”

Stepping over the line?

An interesting discovery was that 1 in 5 respondents believe someone they work with has what they would consider an inappropriate relationship. As for being a distraction, office romances were seen as more distracting than close friendships, although nearly 40 percent of respondents noted neither are distracting. This is another area in which clarity around what is appropriate and what isn’t could benefit an organization.

“The results of this survey confirmed what we emphasize at Fierce- that relationships amongst coworkers impact job satisfaction in a real way. Organizations need to be more transparent with company policies, and encouraging social interaction amongst co-workers is good for everyone,” said Scott. “Of course, we believe that the conversation is the relationship, hence our focus on enhancing the outcomes of all conversations in the workplace.”

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Four Easy Tips to a Visual Resume

Working on your resume is like writing everything down that you ate today. It’s cumbersome, it’s annoying and it feels like a lot of work (then it really is). You know you develop skills and are growing in your career every day, but I see you staring at a screen with the words “Skills: Microsoft Word Proficient” wondering if the wine you are sipping is drier.

According to U.S. News and World Report, “Simply being qualified won’t get you an interview in today’s job market. Employers are being inundated with applications from qualified candidates. If you don’t differentiate yourself, you will not attract the attention of hiring managers or recruiters.” Proving your value and worth to potential employers will take a little more than having a skill set – it might take

Proving your value and worth to potential employers will take a little more than having a skill set – it might take marketing yourself in new ways.

So, let’s not panic and think you learned nothing this year. Here are four easy steps you can do in 15 minutes (seriously, I did each of these in less than 15 minutes) that will help you spruce up your resume and promote your personal brand.

1. Find your value.

Consider the value you bring beyond your prior work history. In some cases, you may have to think deeply about this question to find an answer. Find out what your target company’s mission statement or business model is and think about what hard/soft skills you have that are either directly or indirectly related. Make sure to include all of this in your CV/resume. Keep notes on your thoughts so you can convey the same information during your interview.

Bonus: if you are looking for popular skill sets to add to your resume, read an exclusive Windy City Cosmo interview with the President of ADVISA, Heather Haas, who specializes in workplace trends.

2. Quantify your CV/resume.

Due to a high volume of applications being submitted, you will need to catch the reader’s attention very quickly. Always err on the side of professionalism when it comes to font and structure of your CV/resume. Use metrics – concrete examples of the quantifiable effects you have had on your previous company, team or department. Adding numbers and specific examples will highlight your accomplishments and help you stand out to the hiring manager. A good way to start writing resume bullet points (and also answering job interview questions) is a method called Problem Action Results (PAR). 

3. Create a video or add visuals.

If appropriate, you may consider using more than just text in your CV/resume. Infographics, color and company logos can tell your story in an engaging way. After all, even LinkedIn moved to a more visual format. You may also wish to send a video “thank you” message or a video resume like this one. One of my favorite tools is this easy to use visual resume builder, Visual CV, where they take an average Microsoft Word resume and transform it into a design template.

4. Make your LinkedIn headline pop.

You will most likely be “googled” by the employer, and LinkedIn will be one of the top results. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and accurate and engaging. You can choose your title as your headline, but professionals have found that using keywords like “Content Creator” or “SEO Expert” might help them place higher on LinkedIn searches. There’s a lot of blog posts, like this one, about strategies to improve your online visibility. You can also seek professional counsel from career workers like IMPACT for a more tailored approach to your job search.

Remember to take advantage of every opportunity to showcase what you have to offer. Standing out to a potential employer during these busy job search months may take a little more time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end!

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