BTN LiveBIG: Illini students inspiring girls to succeed
It has been an extremely busy year for University of Illinois engineering students, Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves, co-founders of a startup toy company called Miss Possible.
Supriya, a senior chemical engineering student who is days away from graduating, and Janna, a junior studying materials science and engineering are determined to address the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The industrious entrepreneurs are developing a line of dolls based on women pioneers in the STEM fields. The lives and stories of these historic women will hopefully serve as role models to inspire young girls to consider careers in these male dominated fields.
“We are designing dolls that represent real women who made a difference. Miss Possible dolls will be targeted to girls between the ages of 5 and 10 and they will come with a fun interactive app which will engage girls through games and activities that can be done with common household items.”
The adorable dolls will be the ten-year-old versions of inspirational women like Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Bessie Coleman, and Ada Lovelace. “Give a girl a Miss Possible doll and she gets a great toy and a strong role model. She learns the story of a woman who accomplished amazing things and was once a girl just like her.”
As members of the Society of Women Engineers, Supriya and Janna have been volunteering for community outreach in Urbana schools, working with children in grades K-12. “After working with a middle school enrichment class that didn’t have any girls, we saw firsthand the importance of engaging young girls in the sciences. You can’t be what you can’t see, so we want to give them something to see.”
Creating a toy company while being full time students has required about 15 hours per week dedicated to Miss Possible, and happily their wonderful idea has been greeted with encouragement and tremendous support.
Janna and Supriya have successfully participated in a number of competitions for young entrepreneurs; they were finalists in the 2013 & 2014 Cozad New Venture Competition and they were awarded funding and support from the 2014 Cook Award and the Microsoft Imagine Fund.
To take their new venture to the next level, they are planning on launching a Kickstarter campaign in September 2014. To track their progress you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook and at their website.
Miss Possible was featured by Maggie O’Connor at The Daily Illini in March. Her story was nominated for the inaugural BTN LiveBIG Solutions Journalism Award.