An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Meghan Fitzgerald, the founder and Chief Learning Officer of Tinkergarten, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Tinkergarten – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Tinkergarten was a labor of love for Brian and me. As a former classroom teacher and an elementary school principal, I saw first hand the increase in screen time among children and the significant decline in time spent outdoors, the latter of which is critical to early childhood development. I felt there was something missing from every child’s development journey, and had a vision of how to create a curriculum and training program to bring that missing piece to families. Brian, who was a career consumer technologist, knew how to build, package, and deliver what we envisioned at scale. So together, we created a unique method of instruction and a curriculum that combines the best parts of our own childhood – playing outside – with the latest in brain and learning science to help families make the most of their childrens’ early years. Almost a decade later, we have taught over a quarter of a million kids and their families across the entire country!
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
As a founder and entrepreneur, work-life balance can sometimes be non-existent. It’s important that we all take the time to do the things we love and are passionate about, spend time with our families and friends, but most importantly, take care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. By checking in with ourselves, we’re able to be better leaders in business and role models for our families.
What does the future hold for Tinkergarten?
With many camps cancelled or on hold for the summer, we want to help parents make this summer enjoyable with safe, outdoor play. That’s why in June, we began offering Camp Tinkergarten, a free 8-week guide to a summer of purposeful play. Camp Tinkergarten offers do-it-yourself outdoor learning activities and insightful resources for parents on how to get the most out of their summer, with access to a tracking trail map, a book list, and resources to help parents plan the day, the week, or the whole summer. It’s all available for free online at tinkergarten.com. We’re also looking forward to reopening our classes beginning in August, with new safety and social distancing protocols, following state/local government and CDC guidelines and regulations.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Northampton?
Given the value that so many of us in the Northampton area place on spending time outdoors, and the proximity to New York (our other office) and Boston, this is the ideal place for us to base our company and raise our family. Having moved here from Brooklyn, NY, we were pleased with the vibrancy of the startup ecosystem in the pioneer valley, connection to the big cities, and also the value placed on balance.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Follow your heart. Starting and growing a company is hard. If you don’t care deeply about your work and why you are doing it, it’s even harder. Working on a problem or area that you care deeply about improving or changing can make all the difference in your success, and more importantly, the path along the way.