Questrom Business School of Boston University
Industry: Sustainability, Early Childhood Education
Founding Student Name(s): Noah Sorin
Brief Description of Solution: Idori creates educational resources that make environmental learning and awareness interactive, engaging, and fun for little kids (5-10 years old). We believe that introducing sustainability concepts to kids while they are still young is essential for the next generation to develop eco-conscious behaviors that will help maintain Earth’s beautiful ecosystems. We have already developed a whimsical illustration book accompanied by unique style of stuffed animal which seeks to enlighten children on how their behaviors affect deforestation. We are now developing a whole line of educational picture books each focused on a different aspect of environmental sustainability, and each one is accompanied by a huggable stuffed animal that kids are sure to fall in love with.
What led you to launch this venture? Growing up on a rural farm in northern Vermont granted me a deep appreciation for the natural world. I was privileged with having fresh organic foods in almost every meal and I was able to hike and snowboard Vermont’s beautiful mountains throughout my childhood. These experiences taught me to love and respect the environment with my day-to-day decisions. When I moved to Boston a few years ago, I was shocked by an overwhelming disregard for the environment and how disconnected people were from the resources they used and waste they disposed of. That is when I decided that I wanted use innovation and entrepreneurship to create a movement that would reconnect people with nature, and I believe that addressing this problem with the youngest demographic possible has the highest potential for impact.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? I would say that my biggest accomplishment up to this point would be writing my first book, having it fully illustrated, and getting the first copies printed. I have always loved creative writing, but holding a physical book that I created myself for the first time was a truly special feeling. I was then able to take my book to a public park and read it in front of 30+ kids to gather feedback. Seeing kids smile and laugh as they engaged with my resources really filled my heart and it inspired me to continue working on this project because it showed that I really am capable of impacting people’s lives. Furthermore, getting accepted into BU’s very selective Summer Accelerator program allowed me to really invest myself in Idori this past summer, and now looking back on what I have already accomplished, I know that I am onto something truly special here.
How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Studying business over environmental science or another sustainability-related field was a difficult decision for me. Business often gets a bad reputation in the sustainability space because traditionally businesses have prioritized profit at the expense of the environment. However, studying entrepreneurship alongside sustainability has taught me that there are ways to align profitability with social and environmental impact. While profitability is not one of my top concerns with my startup, I do understand the importance of finance in sustaining a company because of my business classes. I now know how to leverage my social impact goals to create a profitable company. One that shareholders will be happy to invest in, and one that customers will be happy to pay for.
Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The business class that has been the most valuable in building my startup was definitely SI344, Entrepreneurship: Solving Problems in a Dynamic World. The biggest lesson that I gained from this class is that nobody ever reaches perfection on the first try (if ever). It is necessary to use an iterative process, just like the experimental learning model, to learn, grow, and progress in all aspects of life, and especially when it comes to entrepreneurship.
What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Marton was great for a lot of reasons, but my favorite part of his class was that we would start every single day with a discussion based around some current news relating to entrepreneurship. This showed me how innovation and entrepreneurship are really built into so many different aspects of not only society, but also our daily lives. The way that we choose to get to work, make our food, look out for our friends: it all relates to the entrepreneurial process. He taught me that entrepreneurship isn’t just a process; it’s a mindset. Now when I schedule meetings, develop strategies, and create content relating to my business, I don’t do it with the end goal of selling a product or making a profit. I do it with the end goal of learning something new and coming out of it as a more knowledgeable entrepreneur with more refined values and more specific goals or ideas.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My dad moved to Vermont 25 years ago because he wanted to pursue an untraditional lifestyle in comparison to how he was raised. His father was a lawyer and a businessman, but my dad had a passion for nature exploration, snowboarding, and gardening. So he moved to Vermont to start a farm when he was just 22 years old. Over 20 years later, he has built a true paradise in the mountains of Rushford Valley in Northern Vermont. He now spends his time farming, foraging mushrooms in the woods, and giving back to the Earth however he can. My dad never settled for a life where he wasn’t doing work that was personally fulfilling to him. Even when it was difficult, when crops rotted or when it took 12-hour days to finish the harvest, my dad still persevered and brought his dreams to fruition. I hope to model my own entrepreneurial career after my father, never backing down from a challenge, and always putting the work in to turn his dreams into a reality while giving back to the world at the same time.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Frankly, my long-term goal with my startup is to change the world. I know that seems ambitious, but I truly believe in the power of creativity to inspire people to change their behaviors. I don’t think that my children’s books are going to stop global warming on their own, but I do believe that Idori could be the start of a real movement towards sustainability becoming a more integral part of early childhood education and developmental learning – and THAT is what could really change the world. I see no limitations on the scalability of a brand that seeks to bring people together to make the world a better place. My goal is not to sell a billion stuffed animals. My goal is to create a brand that truly stands for something: A brand that stands for the Earth, a brand that stands for the people, but most importantly a brand that seeks to bring the two back together as one. If my startup truly succeeds, then every child in the world will understand how their behaviors affect Mother Earth, and they will want to do everything in their power to protect it.
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