Exchange a coin with another, and there will be the same amount of coin; however, exchange an idea with another, you’ll end up with two. This exchange of ideas in today’s world holds more potential to become a strong start for the much-desired change that awaits the world. Think about the time when your mind consisted of an enormous amount of such transformative ideas, coming right out of school, dreaming of going big; however, there wasn’t any massive platform that could perceive what these students had. A change arrived with an entrepreneurial drive of an experienced educator who wanted to assist high school students to elevate their idea, making them ready for the business world. Laurie Stach took it upon herself to educate students with various skills and mindset to start their companies, which led her to found LaunchX.
As the Founder and President of LaunchX, Laurie has curated programs to prepare high school students for their entrepreneurial future. With LaunchX, she brings ambitious young entrepreneurs together from around the globe to build startups with teams of peer founders.
Laurie’s efforts have been recognized throughout the world. She was recently named in the ‘Top 20 Most Inspiring Women Leaders in 2021’ and has shared her views at TEDx Talks. Laurie has also been a speaker at essential world conferences, including providing instruction to high school entrepreneurship educators in Puerto Rico.
Let’s unveil Laurie’s journey that makes her an admirable leader who is making the world a better place in her way.
Laurie garnered experience from various fields before founding LaunchX, including commercial management at General Electric, mechanical design at BMW’s design studio, and consulting at The Boston Consulting Group. After founding LaunchX, Laurie went to work for a few years in MIT’s entrepreneurship center, creating their ProtoWorks maker space and ‘Intro to Making’ class. She has also created a highly regarded EdX course in entrepreneurship and has an entrepreneurship workbook on Amazon.
The Tough Entrepreneurial Path
The entrepreneurial road hasn’t been easy; however, Laurie implemented her mindset to be resourceful and adaptable as she faced an array of challenges in her first year. One of the first of these challenges was in creating her first significant partnership with MIT, which took persistence and resiliency to find the right connections and relationships to all across campus. Later in that first year, she and her co-founder parted ways after the first summer program session.
In more recent years, there have been bigger strategic challenges of the direction and growth of the entity. Laurie has kept the community and students at the center of decision making, making the difficult decisions to grow the community beyond MIT, plus to shift the program successfully online in the face of the pandemic. In each of the strategic shifts, Laurie recognizes that LaunchX is more than an entrepreneurship program for high school students – it is a community of like-minded peers who create real companies, and prepares these students with real skills and mindset for their futures. This vision of the company has enabled Laurie to guide her team through these challenges, coming out more robust as a leader and company through each.
The LaunchX Program
Laurie states that LaunchX is the top high school entrepreneurship summer program, equipping students with the skills and mindset to become real entrepreneurs. It provides hands-on education of principal resources and community that prepares students with the skills and innovative thinking to create successful businesses. Students are challenged to make a real startup in a team of action-oriented peers, going from idea to execution and impact.
Laurie says, “Our student community is made up of a highly-curated group of promising young entrepreneurs from around the globe. We engage students in creating their entrepreneurial path and growing their self-direction and confidence in fulfilling their goals.” She states that students come together with their team and the entire cohort at LaunchX, bringing their unique background, experience, and perspective to contribute to the LaunchX entrepreneurial environment and make an impact through their startup.
Laurie mentions that students use the design thinking process during the LaunchX entrepreneurship summer program to discover innovative opportunities backed by extensive market research, multiple prototypes, user testing iterations, and gain traction through getting real customers and partnerships. LaunchX brings together high school entrepreneurs with top speakers, staff, and leading course materials to launch their entrepreneurial ventures.
Enhancing Entrepreneurial Spirit
In its relentless pursuit of being the best, LaunchX has impacted the entrepreneurship education space through the growth of our high school entrepreneurs and their startups and the global reach of our network.
LaunchX has supported >1,600 young entrepreneurs to launch >360 startups, accelerating the growth of its impact over the years. Many of the LaunchX startups have substantial revenue and a sustainable financial structure. For example, Vitto Baskets – a local produce delivery service, sold over $1,000 of Vitto Baskets in under one month of the program. They completed the LaunchX program with local newspaper publications, partnerships with local nonprofits, and plans to add multiple locations.
LaunchX prides itself on being a thought leader in entrepreneurship education, inspiring more action in this space. Entrepreneurs try to see challenges as opportunities, so Laurie approached the online setting by finding opportunities for innovation, such as with the company’s speaker model, curriculum, mentorship, and new discussion groups. It continually asked itself what students valued the most in its experience, which areas of the remote program made it more accessible, and which areas would be more complex. It recognizes that so much more goes into program experience for students than just the classroom content. Many people who are part of LaunchX become excited by the potential of its methodology, seeking ways to become more involved or apply it in other ways to support their communities. This impact has significantly grown in recent years as the extent of resources of speakers and mentors have grown in reach globally instead of being localized to its university locations.
The Strong Pillars
LaunchX has cultivated a culture that enhances the organization on all fronts. The culture that drives the organization is respect, learning, integrity, and impact.
- Respect – valuing diverse perspectives, communicating openly, and ensuring a welcoming culture.
- Learning – having an action orientation and experimenting with growing as professionals and an organization.
- Integrity – to operate with honesty through principles-based actions that promote the organization’s positive reputation.
- Impact – maximizing total education improvement across all students.
Laurie expresses, “This powerful environment that we create with our staff and students boosts productivity, agility, engagement, and innovation. We believe that our positive workplace culture precedes business results.”
She asserts that students are encouraged to work on their startups while reminded they are working under time constraints in a small team, meaning that they are reminded of:
- Working efficiently – knowing there are some perfectionists out there, though with so much to get done, that “perfect is the enemy of done” – a common mantra in the startup world. Another tip they are given is to focus time on the things that matter most by asking whether something is a “need to have” versus a “nice to have.”
- Teamwork –ensure splitting tasks efficiently, building trust, and working through challenges, though recognize that there will be disagreements to work through and that every team has difficulties!
Laurie says, “We are more than just an entrepreneurship summer program. We are an entrepreneurial community. Bonds are made during our program that last a lifetime. We keep our alumni connected through our enriching community experiences, and many of the students stay connected through other entrepreneurial endeavors well after the summer program has ended.”
The New Wave of Learning
LaunchX ensures that it is optimizing technological resources by implementing cutting-edge tools into its entrepreneurship summer program every year. It has enhanced hands-on learning in both online and in-person, implementing innovative tools to support its young entrepreneurs.
Laurie describes some of the dynamic technology opportunities that include:
- Online communication platforms for connectedness – with new platforms becoming more popular each year, striving to utilize platforms that are gaining the attention of its students.
- Prototyping budgets – teams are provided digital charge cards to send a prototyping budget request and get items shipped directly to their homes.
- Simulations – allowing for a quick and fun way to learn through real application.
- Elective curriculum – without the restrictions of students being in a physical space, it has developed an elective speaker curriculum so that students can supplement the core entrepreneurial flow with deep dives into areas of their interest, made possible by digital tools, algorithms to match students to their classes, and the online setting
- Robust systems to track student and team progress to ensure they feel supported and engaged. With hundreds of students (and thousands of applications) around the world each year, LaunchX leveraged some great applications, admissions, course platform, calendaring, and survey tools to have key insights as needed.
It continues to research and implement tools for its entrepreneurship summer program, ensuring to bring cutting-edge materials to its students year after year.
Preparing for Upcoming Change
Laurie states that now more than ever, the future of work is uncertain. The landscape of available jobs changes rapidly not just because of the pandemic but also because of artificial intelligence and automation and many other technological changes introduced constantly. Students need to prepare not for a specific job but with skills and an adaptable and resourceful mindset for their future careers.
LaunchX allows students to build the real skills and mindset to prepare for this changing future and will enable students to be on the cutting edge of these changes. Students build the entrepreneurial mindset of adaptability and resourcefulness, problem-solving, and opportunity identification. They also build real companies, exploring different roles and industries and exploring the entrepreneurial path.
The Goals Ahead
Laurie aims to create much more opportunities for growth for LaunchX. The company has already seen significant growth in recent years by expanding to additional universities, then going to an online setting. Each of these things subsequently meant a drastic increase in students, then a vast increase in the LaunchX support network due to the international nature of the program staffing structure. This has set LaunchX up for huge growth in the near and long term.
In the near term, the program will scale to many more high school students through:
- Additional campus programs.
- Expanding the online program.
Medium-term, there may be opportunities for:
- Innovation sponsors program.
- International expansion.
- Entrepreneurship educator programs.
Laurie says, “Beyond that, there may be additional opportunities to support student startups, additional age groups of entrepreneurship education, and more.”
Take Your First Step
Laurie advises aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to launch a startup just get started. She expresses, “This is often the hardest part of the journey. Many don’t know what that starting line looks like when taking a new business venture. That is why we make our entrepreneurship summer program accessible to all aspiring high school entrepreneurs.”
Concluding her advice, Laurie adds, “Ethnicity, gender, or financial support do not play a role in a great applicant. We make the program accessible to students with the mindset to become a successful entrepreneur. You can start a real company this summer by applying at LaunchX.com