Boolean Girl Tech
Nationwide and BlueVine’s Pitch to Win Contest Finalist
Ingrid Sanden pitches Boolean Girl Tech during Pitch to Win
Nationwide and BlueVine partnered on a contest for small business owners called Pitch to Win. The goal is to help owners with compelling concepts take their businesses to the next level. In June, owners entered the contest before submitting a video pitch in August. In October, finalists pitched live at Nationwide’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
While many of the seven Pitch to Win finalists brought a business partner with them to Columbus, one chose an alternate route. Ingrid Sanden, the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Boolean Girl Tech, brought her mother and sister along for an extra dose of girl power. As a mother of two teenage girls, Sanden’s passion for helping girls explore coding and engineering interests is directly reflected through her small business. Boolean Girl Tech’s goal is to help girls explore their interests in tech via hands-on, STEM-focused play, although boys are more than welcome to join in the fun. The Arlington, Virginia-based company’s central product is the Boolean Box, which features a computer engineering kit that develops both hardware and software skills.
“The Boolean Box is a build-it-yourself computer engineering kid for girls, and boys, ages 8,” Sanden explained. “We inspire kids to build, code, invent, and animate! Our kit and free online lessons were designed with input and inspiration from girls in our clubs and encourage girls to build, code, invent, and animate.”
Sanden and the other co-founders were disheartened by statistics showing the lack of women in STEM fields today. Although approximately 1.8 million tech jobs are not being filled, girls are often discouraged from exploring STEM careers as early as middle school. In 1985, only 36% of computer science majors were women, and the problem is worsening. That same statistic today has dropped to just 18%, showing how the gap has dramatically widened over time.
Ingrid Sanden, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Boolean Girl Tech
“My partners and I started Boolean Girl Tech because we wanted to find ways to encourage and inspire girls ages 8 to 14 to explore their interest in coding and engineering," Sanden said. "Girls in computer science classes often feel isolated, discouraged, or lonely. We are working hard to narrow the STEM gender gap.”
Although the present situation may seem grim, there is actually significant demand for STEM programs from young girls. Between the ages of 6-12, 66% of girls are interested or enrolled in computing programs. However, that number drops over time, with just 4% of college freshmen remaining interested. Boolean Girl Tech sees the opportunity to engage young girls during that key transition from elementary to middle school, when students jump from simple coding languages to “real-life” skills.
Unfortunately, 2.3 million kids in the U.S. do not have access to a wired school, further limiting access to STEM opportunities even when interest is present. The company aims to offer part of the solution through their Boolean Box, which does not require electricity. Curriculum is provided on the computer for free, and one of the purposes of the Boolean Box is to help kids learn to collaborate with others, making it perfect for use in the classroom and beyond.
The Boolean Box allows young girls to engage with STEM in a hands-on way
The company started out in 2014, operating summer camps and youth programs, but didn’t begin offering a physical product until 2017. After that, Boolean Girl Tech’s revenue grew by 500% in a single year, and Sanden hopes for that growth to continue.
Recently, Boolean Girl Tech added a monitor to its Boolean Box, which helped increase sales. Previously, the best option was to utilize a television or spare home monitor as a display for the processor and keyboard. “This way, parents will be able to use the family TV while the kids use the Boolean Box on the monitor,” Sanden explained.
Boolean Girl Tech also wants to revise its software product to focus on coding languages which can be frustrating for girls. “We want to help the girls bridge from simple, beginner programming language to ‘real world’ programming language like Python," Sanden said. She emphasized the importance of trial and error in this process, so children are given a safe environment in which to fail without being discouraged.
Pitch to Win judges examine the Boolean Box up close
Like any growing small business owner, Sanden wishes she could clone her partners, who are engineers, three times over. However, she has embraced the learning process on the business side of things. “I’ve learned a lot,” she commented. “I learned to time inventory purchases and understand the supply chain.”
Sanden would recommend that go-getter mindset to other entrepreneurs, saying, “Just do it. And always keep your customers in mind. Ask yourself, ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ Outsource your weaknesses. Get help.”
She also advocated for connecting with other businesses in creative ways. For example, Sanden learned about Pitch to Win while scrolling on LinkedIn. "There is no downside to entering a contest like Pitch to Win," she said. "Nationwide and BlueVine validate what we’re trying to do. They’re saying, ‘You can be successful like us.’”
That validation is crucial for any small business owner Sanden is appreciative of the strong women in her life, like her mother and sister, that support her every day. Boolean Girl Tech continually strives to provide that same sense of female empowerment with their products, as its founders know that girls can truly run the STEM world.