In eighth grade, Eric Hansen (COM’21) asked his teacher if he could create a video instead of a standard PowerPoint presentation. From there, he was able to leverage his creative-thinking skills and transform his educational experience forever. Now, he wants to help current elementary school students do the same by expanding SpecGraphixEDU, his venture that offers creative arts and design classes.
INNOVATE@BU: How do you create innovation and what problem at your hoping to solve?
ERIC HANSEN: SpecGraphixEDU offers classes and vacation programs for elementary school children ages 5 to 12. We focus on offering programs that teach students skills that public schools do not typically offer. These subjects include video production, game design, coding, graphic design, theater, art, and languages like Japanese and Chinese.
These programs are to support the 11% of children who are right-brain creative thinkers. These creative geniuses struggle in traditional academics but thrive in artistic, entrepreneurial, and inspiring subjects. With the support of talented teachers nurturing their creative talents, these kids can impress peers and get the affirmation they deserve.
Tell us, how did SpecGraphixEDU begin and what inspired you to do this?
It started when I was in eighth grade. I was the nobody, teacher’s pet who was invisible to classmates. I didn’t have very many friends and played outside alone when the teacher said that I needed to play with my classmates. One day, that all changed. I asked my science teacher if I could make a movie instead of a PowerPoint presentation for class. He agreed and this decision changed my life forever. My video presentation changed the class’s perception of me. Since that day I have pursued my interest in film production and here I am today as a film and tv major at Boston University.
What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle you had to overcome in your role or for your new venture? How did you do it? What did you learn from the experience?
My challenge has been finding a team of people with experience in education. But as I began offering programs at the Driscoll Elementary School and through Brookline Adult & Community Education, I have made many close connections in the industry who have really helped me out.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own innovation journey right now?
You need to build up the confidence to approach important connections who can help perpetuate the growth of your venture. My venture would be nothing without the two most valuable connections I have. David Youkilis is the Vice-Principal at the Driscoll School and Monica Von-Heune is in charge of children’s programs at Brookline Adult & Community Education. You need to find out who you want on your side that will perpetuate your growth, and then muster up the courage to go to them in person and tell them who you are and why they should help you out.
What has been the biggest win so far?
Two of my current competitors who were also offering similar programs to me were dropped in favor of SpecGraphixEDU. Our programs have incredible reception in the Town of Brookline and we have a perfect 5/5 average rating amongst all Brookline families who left a review on our website. People recognize the innovations we have in our programs like exclusive software we made ourselves and recognize the dedication and passion for helping kids.
What meaningful impact are you hoping to create from this venture or project? What are you and your team working on to get there?
We’re working to expand into other cities, especially Boston, to help more and more children who are missing out on nurturing their creative talents and getting the recognition from teachers and peers that they deserve. We also have an online service that’s currently in development to accelerate the growth of the brand.
What resources have been most helpful to you along the way?
Innovate@BU, the BU Startup Law Clinic, and the mentoring and support from my connections.
When you’re not working on SpecGraphixEDU, where can we find you?
Born and raised in Southern California, and Michael raised in Miami, Florida, the ocean is our second home! If you find us on the beach, we will either be surfing, sailing, or playing the guitar/ukulele on the sand! If we are on land, Michael and I love to play sports such as soccer and basketball.