Empowering teens with a wide range of entrepreneurial and engineering skills.
Startable is a free program that teaches students ages 13 – 18 entrepreneurial and engineering skills through the design and commercialization of hardware products. Participants build their own businesses, keep all profits from their products, and pitch for prize money at our final event.
Startable teens gain a wide range of skills through the course of the program and beyond. Participating students will learn product and web design basics from experts in the fields. They gain experience forming equitable partnerships, managing meetings, creating and executing project timelines, and budgeting.
Together, participants design prototypes and marketing materials and develop sales pitches. The program culminates in a final community event where friends and family cheer on the competitors in a Pitch Competition. Startable provides students with a community foundation, giving them support throughout the program. The support students receive includes mentorship, supplies, tools, networking connections, and potentially cash investment. Returning students can benefit from internship & junior instructor opportunities.
Through IW, Startable’s mission has always been to create an equitable learning experience for populations who are historically underrepresented in the tech community and to promote entrepreneurship as a viable career path. Startable has helped facilitate over 300 youth-run businesses and continues supporting program alumni through additional funding, networking, and education opportunities.Startable Applications are Open
What is a Startable program like?
Afterschool or community-based program. Typically include 8-12 participants meeting once per week for 2 hours to work on product designs to submit for the Winter Pitch Competition, held in January.
School-based program. A unit within an existing course or a standalone elective course, taught by a district teacher. Students may work individually or as a team to create a product or design to submit for the Spring Pitch Competition, held in May.
How do I bring Startable to my school?
Contact us! We would be happy to connect with your school!
How do I apply?
Applications are online, but you must be affiliated with one of our host schools or programs to participate.
Am I eligible to participate?
Startable is for teens in the nine-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania that Innovation Works serves, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Fayette, Lawrence, Washington, and Washington Counties. If your school or community organization does not offer Startable, contact us!
What skills will I learn?
There are many skills that Startable students gain from the program, including networking etiquette and time management. Design skills include photography, branding, engineering, drafting, 2D, and 3D modeling. Business skills include sales, marketing, pitching, and more!
What is the program curriculum like?
Startable programming is based on the Lean Startup Method used by Innovation Works’ startup companies. This means we help students design a solution to a problem and get it to customers fast. Students then collect and use customer feedback to refine their design, finding the best possible solution while being efficient with their time and money.
What is the program structure like?
Students are guided by an instructor through program modules that cover everything from product design to pitching a business. Students work individually or in teams to design a product and a business plan to pitch to judges for cash prizes.
What are the awards:
Winning teams will receive cash prizes of $1,000 for first-place winners. Cash awards for 2nd and 3rd place awardees also.
Who will judge the awards?
Pitches will be judged live by a panel of Innovation Works staff, community members, foundation leaders, and Startable alumni.
How will the awards be distributed?
Cash awards will be distributed by direct deposit or via USPS mailed check.
Can I still do Startable if I already have a product or business?
Yes! Students with an existing product can focus on refining their design, marketing & branding, and creating a business pitch.
What are the program dates?
Startable competition season for afterschool and community-based programs runs from October to January; the for-credit school programs begin in February and end in May.
When does Startable meet?
Schedules are flexible and determined by instructor and student availability. A typical week includes 3 hours with instructor and addition independent time for students to work on their projects.
Who owns what I create?
You do! Innovation Works retains no equity in student businesses. Your ideas, designs, and creations are yours.