PHOTO: ESON CHAN
Sara Sakowitz ’18 has turned kitchen counters in more than 40 states into makeshift labs through a science kit subscription service for kids that she runs from her single in Wallach.
Each month, subscribers to Sakowitz’s Blue Moon Box — nearly 600 at press time — receive a kit with materials for conducting three or four experiments that revolve around one theme. Past themes have been material science and weather, with projects ranging from a cornstarchbased substance that mimics quicksand (“My favorite aspect of household science is getting your hands dirty,” Sakowitz says) to a DIY anemometer — a device used to measure wind speed. In each kit is a picture book/manual, written by Sakowitz, that features a cast of schoolaged characters who use science to solve mysteries and answer questions.
“I wanted kids to see characters just like them having adventures and exploring scientific concepts,” says Sakowitz.
Sakowitz, who transferred to the College after a year in Engineering, developed the concept for Blue Moon Box during winter break 2014–15 while pondering ways to encourage a friend’s younger sister to explore science. To her astonishment, the company’s Facebook page surpassed 4,000 “Likes” within a few weeks, and in April 2015 she was invited to pitch her business idea to investor Kevin O’Leary from the reality show Shark Tank on Good Morning America. “It was all a bit of a shock,” she says.
A Kickstarter campaign that raised close to $16,000 allowed Sakowitz to ship the first boxes in June. Save for the artist who illustrates the picture books and freelancers she might hire for other tasks, Sakowitz runs Blue Moon Box singlehandedly, from curating each kit to keeping track of subscriptions to managing the company’s social media accounts. Sakowitz did enlist a fulfillment center to assemble the kits, which entails measuring and packaging ingredients, after she overran her family’s Manhattan apartment in the process of putting together the first 377 boxes herself.
Hometown: New York City
Clubs: Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, Parliamentary Debate, Undergraduate Recruitment Committee Research interests: cancer biology
Kudos: First Place Award offered by AVASC in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair; National Finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search; Made with Code scholarship from Google
Sakowitz also is involved with the startup Liongram, a student-run, Columbia exclusive cookiegram/candygram service for campus residents that launched in December. She attributes her newfound business aptitude to her experience as a member of the student group Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs and as a participant in a business accelerator program run by the Business School called Innovation and Entrepreneurship @ Columbia. (In 2015, she was the first first-year accepted into the program.)
Blue Moon Box earned Sakowitz a spot on Crain’s New York Business “20 Under 20” list in November, just a few days after she took first place in Engineering’s annual Fast Pitch competition for entrepreneurs. For Sakowitz, one of the biggest thrills has been simply seeing photos and videos of children enjoying their science kits. “Figuring out how I’m going to teach kids how to do these experiments and what they mean is the most exciting part,” she says.
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