The Saturday morning cartoon could serve a function far more important than keeping young early-risers quiet. What if there were a show that allowed parents some much-needed sleep while also inspiring children of all cultures, genders, and physical capabilities to become future tech leaders?
Jamila Tai, founder of Tiny Tech Academy, already has it covered. Her inspiring pitch at OEN’s Angel Oregon 2017 Showcase not only won her an audience favorite award, but also earned her a $10,000 cash prize from the Portland Development Commission.
See Jamila’s pitch and learn more about Tiny Tech in our OEN member Q&A:
What was the spark that inspired the birth of your concept? I started watching cartoons with my son and couldn’t get past the social scripts. There are still so many stereotypes and biases in today’s cartoons. I figured that instead of complaining, I’d do something about it. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how badly Americans needed Computer Science and Web Literacy skills.
What problem does it solve? Tiny Tech Academy teaches the basic skills and language of Computer Science, Web literacy, Social Media Etiquette and Internet Safety. Our cast represents a diverse range of American cultures, genders, and physical capabilities. We hope to show minority children, who have very little representation in the tech workforce, that they can be powerful contributors to the future of technology. We also hope to give the average family a few tips and tricks to maximize their user experience.
How did you come up with the name? When I lived in Silicon Valley, my girlfriends and I started a preschool group (we collectively refused to pay $1,800 a month to teach our two-year-olds the ABC’s). We called it Tiny Tot Academy.
How are you different from your competition? Tiny Tech distinguishes itself by using the languages and personalities of today’s children. Our cast is unlike any other cast I’ve seen in a cartoon. It’s rare to see so many American cultures represented in one cartoon, unless they are teaching another language.
How do you make money? I haven’t made any money, yet. Hopefully that will change soon. Our revenue model is built around sponsorship and licensing.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? Working at the gym.
What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date? I’m surprised by how much effort goes into the smallest things.
Your biggest success? Not quitting.
Do you have a failure story to share? The only time I failed is when I gave up without giving my all. That happened when I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I had started acting in New York. Once I got my “big break,” I moved to LA. I ended up not liking LA, not really even giving it a chance, and going back to New York. I let LA defeat me. I learned nothing worth having comes easily and that cliches are real.
As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night? Paying the bills keeps me up at night, even after I’ve paid the bills.
What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)? One of my best girlfriends and hero, Kelly Cox, told me, “It’s not about busting your ass every day. It’s about waking up every day and doing something toward your goal.” It was so simple. I waited 19 years for that advice. Shout out to Kelly Cox and Original Fare. I am forever changed.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur? “Jump and the net shall appear.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. In other words, stop planning. Things rarely go according to plan.
What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey? Hungry Like a Wolf, Duran Duran.
Imagine your venture becomes wildly successful. What does that look like? Tiny Tech Academy is shown, in several different languages, all over the world. In 15 years, America’s Digital Proficiency will rise from #24 to #1. Black, Latino, Native American, and other minority groups will have developed software, programs and technology that provide jobs and level the societal playing field. That’s not asking too much, right?
What’s your favorite local business and why? Cloud City Ice cream is my favorite local business because everyone should enjoy Earl Grey ice cream.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A creator and a boss. I’ve always wanted to be someone’s boss. That didn’t go over very well with my old bosses.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? Oregon is great place to start a business. It’s a very friendly environment. It’s also my hometown, so I’m biased. I moved away for 19 years, which means I got unused to the gray skies. It’s not easy when things aren’t going your way… and the sky is gray.
Any other tidbits or fun facts to share? Stay tuned for Tiny Tech Academy!