Thu, 9 April 2015
Overview: Luz Rivas inspires us with her desire to help change the upcoming generation of Latinas in LA. During this interview, Luz shares her road to success in the tech space and how she started her company, DIY Girls, and co-founded KitHub.
Background: Luz grew up in LA with a single mother and her sisters- they moved quite often because of finances. From the beginning, Luz and her sister felt the need to help financially and learned at a young age how to go out and make a little money. Luz always had a love for school and was in 5th grade when her passion for technology began. There weren't any specific engineering programs for Luz to join, but she did look for opportunities to expand her knowledge and took advantage of them as often as she could.
In high school, her math teacher told her about MIT and told her there was an admissions officer coming to their school. Luz decided to meet with this recruiter. In her senior year, Luz was looking at hometown schools to apply to but decided to apply to MIT just to see if she could get in. To her surprise, she was accepted. 4 years later, Luz graduated from MIT, moved to Chicago and worked for Motorola for 3 years. From there, Luz attended graduate school at Harvard, moved to New York where she worked for a time, and then decided to come back to LA. Upon her return, Luz worked at CalTech and at other educational jobs then finally started DIY Girls.
About DIY Girls: DIY Girls is a non-profit organization that runs after school programs, summer camps, and workshops for mainly lower-income, Latina girls to learn about technology and engineering. The activities are related more to the maker movement (meaning, they're able to make certain things with tools that they normally wouldn't have access to). This program came about because Luz saw the need for something to help prepare these young girls for the tech world like she wished she'd had as a child. Their focus is on girls because studies have shown that around 4th and 5th grade, more girls tend to lose interest in math and science.
About KitHub: After receiving numerous calls from parents asking Luz and her co-founder Tara where they were purchasing all these unique parts for their DIY projects, Tara and Luz decided to create KitHub. It's a site for parents to purchase everything they need to build a project with their children all in one kit. Right now, consumers pay a monthly subscription and are sent new projects to their home each month. Eventually, KitHub will be moving toward simply providing kits for anyone to choose from- instead of just focusing on a monthly subscription.
Why Start DIY Girls: Luz shares that she's always wanted to make her own choices and do what she loves most. Because LA is her hometown, she always felt that if she was going to start something it had to be there. She feels jealous of these young girls, and tells her team that if she's not jealous, improvements need to be made.
Attendees: This year, they are expecting to serve about 550 girls. By the end of 5 years, they are hoping to serve over 3,000 girls in Southern California. Although she has received inquiries for starting DIY Girls in other states, they are going to focus on building it in LA first, and then maybe expand down the road.
Cost: The after-school program is $15 per girl per session, which covers all the materials and staff help. DIY Girls receives funding from individual donors as well as organizations. They actually had an indie go-go campaign about a year and half ago and were able to raise $16k.
Advice for Entrepreneurs: Get started. Don't be so focused on having a perfect plan or all the funding to start working on your dreams. You're never going to have everything you need in place to get started, but think about what you do have.
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