December 8, 2014 – If you can’t find it, make it. That’s how Connor Bernstein (C’16) came to create a company when he was only 9 years old.
As a child, Bernstein would carefully save up his allowance to buy science kits then on the market. He says they were largely disappointing.
“I’d go to the toy store and spend hours choosing a science kit and take it home and the box would be mostly empty,” says the rising junior from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “Most of the materials you needed for the experiments weren’t included, the instructions were hard to follow and you couldn’t repeat experiments.”
He got so frustrated he started making kits on his own and sharing them with his friends.
The kits were so popular that Bernstein took the next step, and with the help of his parents created Connor’s Kits for Kids in 2004.
The fourth-grader started selling the kits at local street fairs and craft shows, then created a website.
The kits today include Crystal Explosion, the company’s bestseller, which allows kids to create three different kinds of crystals and Polymer Power, which makes “slime” from chemical solutions.
There are three others available that teach various scientific concepts.
Bernstein says his kits include all materials needed for more than one experiment and kid-friendly instructions.
Bernstein, a psychology major in the College, is also pursuing a business administration minor and participates in the McDonough School of Business’ Entrepreneurship Fellows Program (EFP) at Georgetown.
He says professors such as Jeff Reid and Alyssa Lovegrove at the business school have been “working tirelessly” to build and expand the EFP, connect student entrepreneurs with one another and provide support.
“He's a great example of the kind of entrepreneurial students that Georgetown is attracting more and more frequently,” says Jeff Reid, founding director of EFP and an adjunct business school professor. “Students show up at Georgetown already having some exposure and experience with entrepreneurship, and it's our responsibility to provide them with opportunities, such as EFP to pursue their entrepreneurial passions.”
Bernstein says the professors also have helped him as he looks for investors and continues to expand his business.
“Connor has really taken to heart what we teach about having an entrepreneurial mindset, and he is now looking for ways to take his own business to a whole new level,” says Lovegrove, EFP’s co-director. “It's really exciting to see the lessons in the classroom being applied to a real-life situation.”
Bernstein also credits his parents, who he says constantly encouraged him.
“I was never told that there were things I couldn’t do or questions I shouldn’t ask,” says the only child.
The young entrepreneur also volunteers in schools and makes his company’s activity packs available for up to 25 students in schools, after-school programs and summer camps at a relatively low cost.
Bernstein says he came to Georgetown because the Jesuit ideals such as cura personalis and men and women for others “really spoke” to him.
He has high hopes for the future.
“My products and science outreach program are already inspiring and encouraging kids across the country,” he says, “but I would really love to make enough money to start a foundation. The way I see it, I want to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given in order to make an impact and provide the same opportunities to kids who may not have them otherwise.”