High school entrepreneur Norah Kolb turned an eighth-grade science project into a profitable business with thousands of customers. In a Q&A, she discusses how investing in young entrepreneurs pays off in the near term and long term.
Tell us about your product.
As a competitive swimmer, I struggled with shoulder and neck discomfort when using a kickboard. To solve this problem, I developed the Ray-Board, an ergonomically shaped kickboard. Ray-Board’s unique shape allows for a bent-arm position which promotes a natural body alignment. Ray-Board allows the swimmer to train longer and more comfortably, than with a traditional kickboard.
What did it take to bring your idea to life?
I had a design in my head and sketched it out. Then with help, I cut and glued foam to build crude prototypes. The purpose was to get feedback from lots of other swimmers. The prototypes’ shapes, materials, and manufacturing methods kept changing until we found the perfect fit. Now I spend most of my time on marketing and communicating with customers.
How have you been supported along the way?
I started this journey through the Connecticut Invention Convention, which is an amazing program to encourage students to design and build inventions that solve everyday problems. From there, I pitched my prototype to CTNext’s Shark Tank, against ten other adult companies, and won $12,000 to launch my business. I was thrilled that the judges took a chance in investing in a high schooler. Then, I completed a successful Kickstarter campaign where 144 backers from around the world took a risk in helping bring my business to life. This summer, over a 1000 Ray-Boards have sold on our website Rayboard.com and Amazon.
What advice do you have for other young girls?
Don’t be afraid to try new things that you may think you are too young for. When I came up with the idea for Ray-Board I had no idea I could take it so far, but all it really took was taking some risk and asking for lots of help along the way. Don’t wait until you’re older to explore opportunities and things that interest you. Take this time to learn and use your creative side!