Scientists understand the importance of research.
And as Kina McAllister was starting her company StemBox, she had to conduct some research.
StemBox started in 2015 and is a company targeting young girls ages seven through 12 who can sign up for monthly subscription boxes of science experiments. Each month, a sophisticated experiment, authentic lab equipment and fun science accessories are mailed to their home to help fuel their interest in STEM.
So for research, McAllister went to her local Whole Foods.
“When I started it (StemBox) I was 23 and didn’t know people who had kids in the range that I was marketing for,” McAllister explains. “So I would go stand in the aisles at Whole Foods and ask people what they did with their kids after school, if they did science, if they look for that in their life.”
After her boyfriend was accepted into medical school at Des Moines University, McAllister and StemBox got in the car on July 21 and moved to Des Moines.
“I love Seattle,” she says. “It’s just a lot easier to exist here.”
Here’s the scouting report on the new company in town…
Leaving the lab
McAllister graduated from Seattle University in 2013 with a degree in Biology and a focus in chemistry and biology. She would go on to work for a research lab in Seattle but says she never felt comfortable in the space.
And it had nothing to do with her ability as a scientist.
“For being someone who likes to get up, put on makeup and do their hair, it just didn’t feel great,” she says. “And so every time I talked to women in the lab, they had similar experiences.”
So after a “TED Talk” at Seattle Ignite centering around women in STEM resonated with the audience, McAllister wanted to do something more tangible with it that might have more of an impact.
“Something like a physical product,” McAllister says.
So to get girls involved in STEM at a younger age, she started StemBox.
“When I grew up, there weren’t science kits for girls that actually honored their intelligence,” McAllister says. “It’s a lot of makeup, perfume and glitter.”
The first StemBox was a strawberry DNA extraction kit and the September experiment was a DIY constellation lamp with fiber optics and other stuff for the solar eclipse.
Between 500-800 a shipped each month to each of the 50 states.
A high profile supporter
The first group of girls exposed to StemBox came at a workshop for 20 girls. McAllister said she drove around and posted flyers everyday after work hoping for 20 takers.
“It didn’t sell as many as I thought the first two days, but the third day they all sold out,” she explained. “And it turns out a parent at Microsoft put it on an email list.”
The workshop led to a kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000.
“MTV News had picked it up, Upworthy and Melinda Gates were tweeting about it, so we ended up closing at 23,000,” McAllister said.
That capital allowed McAllister to have six months to prepare and partner with a fulfillment center.
“During that time, Melinda Gates put out a gift guide in December of 2015 with three gifts on it, we were one of those,” McAllister says. “And nobody told me.
“So I woke up with an inbox that just kept getting a new email every ten seconds. Buried under all that, was an email saying we were put on that list.”
Nearly three months into her time as an Iowan, McAllister says she’s loving Des Moines.
“It feels like Des Moines really likes to claim their businesses and they are really proud of them,” she says. “So I would like to be able to that for Des Moines and make them proud of StemBox.”
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