High School Entrepreneurs Awarded TechShop Memberships

TechShop is welcoming two new student members into its ranks: Logan WIlliams and Hayden Crandall have each been awarded three-month memberships to TechShop thanks to a donation from Laser Light Technologies, a contract manufacturer and systems integration firm that specializes in laser-based micromachining for medical and micro-electronic devices.

Williams and Crandall were chosen to receive memberships because of businesses they’re developing with Spark!, a collaborative workspace and incubator that helps students in the Parkway School District start real-world businesses.

Crandall, a junior at Parkway South High School, decided last year to develop a new concept for the bow tie after he couldn’t find one that would match his colorful outfits. So he created Twisted BowTies, which sells bow ties that can be combined with others, allow people to mix and match them to go with different outfits. He described how access to the equipment at TechShop will improve his production process, hopefully allowing him to reach his goal of selling his bowties before this year’s prom season.

“We’re really just in the beginning stages and trying to get some inventory set up so we can start selling online,” Crandall said.

Williams, a senior at Parkway West High School, made a product that’s more of a reflection of his experimental nature. And, well, his restlessness.

Having always been one to fidget with objects in his hands — pens, stress balls — he noticed that precision ball bearings were especially visually pleasing and might be fun to play with. So he ordered some bearings to tinker with and soon started making prototypes of his “fidget toy.” He said he could have purchased products with a similar function, but that’s not quite his style.

“I’m kind of the person who likes to see if I can make stuff on my own first,” Williams said.

He’s still settling on a name — Spidget is one candidate — but he hopes TechShop can bolster his production process and improve his finished product.

“It’s a cool way for me to not only experience new opportunities and learn new skills, but it’s also a place where I can make a better product,” Williams said.

Spark! program director Xanthe Meyer has helped Crandall, Williams, and other Parkway students develop business concepts since the program began in August 2014. She said she tries to teach students getting out there and creating prototypes while not being afraid to make mistakes is a crucial part of the process, and thinks TechShop could help educate a new generation about entrepreneurship.

“I think TechShop brings to St. Louis so many opportunities for not only the startup community, but for the schools as well,” Meyer said.

She said high school is an ideal time to expose students to real-world entrepreneurial experiences.

“They have almost nothing to lose,” Meyer said, noting that most students live at home with few expenses.  “Why not figure out your passion is, and what you love and what you hate, at this age?”

Laser Light Technologies CEO Frank Hannan also believes in helping students get on a pathway to success early on in their entrepreneurial careers.

“There’s so many people out there who have the ability to do amazing things, but they just don’t have access,” he said. “If we can help these kids become successful leaders, I’ll feel like I’ve done something good for the greater population, especially here in St. Louis.”