In a day and age when women can look back on history and say they have come far in the fight for equality in society, certain social stigmas still exist for females considering careers in STEM fields. Joulez, a local startup that was a 2016 finalist during MassChallenge, hopes to break social expectations and encourage young girls to pursue STEM careers by using creative building kits tailored for them.
Stephanie Rowe, co-founder and CEO of Joulez, hopes that the design-centered company will expose girls to STEM vocabulary and skills while allowing them to engage in creative, goal-oriented assembly through the use of its products. One of the reasons she got involved in this sector was the relatively low interest in the scientific fields, in which as many as 10 to 15 percent of high school girls saw STEM as unavailable to them, she said. So, Joulez—whose name is a play on Joules, the scientific unit for work—was born.
Driven by her passion to promote equality and opportunity for women, Rowe hopes Joulez will change the perception of what STEM is, as well as those whom society accepts into the field. Rowe was working toward her graduate degree in consumer product education from MIT when she thought of the idea for Joulez. She envisioned a business opportunity that allowed her to integrate her passion and her STEM background. Joulez is that unique intersection.
The startup’s products offer a self-motivated incentive, as its kits give young girls the tools to express creativity and build toys and other beautiful crafts, all while gaining a deeper understanding of technological foundations. Girls, Rowe believes, learn, expand their minds, and overcome obstacles while enriching their self-esteem as they build resilience and perseverance through failures.
Though not yet on the market, Joulez has already made its mark in the community. Rowe mentioned that people who are eager to experience the innovative world have requested prototypes from Joulez.
Upon arriving at her idea, Rowe started doing research on consumer behavior in order to pinpoint what girls want to do on a daily basis. The company targets 8- to 12-year-old girls as the core market for Joulez, and it aims to gain a new perspective on the world that traditionally has been described as one with a love for arts and crafts, and shift that toward one that values building and creating just as much.
With that in mind, Rowe found that decorating rooms provides the perfect medium for girls to showcase their desire to beautify while attributing STEM skills in building certain products.
Joulez’s first prototype, a lamp, is a useful room element that has been received with much enthusiasm during its showcase demonstration, where Rowe wanted to show the potential of her idea with a simple yet practical object. Participants became excited about technology and proved to the company that by applying their new skills, they could make much cooler objects that they would normally use on a regular basis.
Rowe also found that forward-looking technological careers rely heavily on both males and females. As 80 percent of future jobs will one day involve STEM credentials, she said, the need for an introduction into this world becomes imperative for both males and females, which is why she is working to even the playing field for girls. She saw that now was the right time to pitch her idea and go after her desire to make an impact.
MassChallenge, a startup accelerator, has given Joulez great support through its participation in the top 26 startup companies in the program. The collaborative environment has a friendly culture that has made its goal to see new companies reach high levels of success, Rowe said. With the help of mentors and the larger community, the competition aided in the development of her idea and helped launch Joulez to the level of success it has enjoyed, while also creating a community.
She feels that the social impact of her product is directly proportional to the amount of time she spends with young girls and their families. Reflecting on a personal account of when she truly felt her vision manifesting into something great, she recalled a moment when a father, with tears in his eyes, watched his young daughter assemble a lamp.
“I’ve never seen her so excited,” Rowe said. “I’ve tried finding things for her to create, but nothing has brought her so much joy as this.”
Featured Image by Joulez