So much of our identity comes from the work we do. If you tally the hours, it adds up to some staggering figures so it’s no surprise that we seek meaning through our jobs. When I meet someone for the first time, I’m often asked the classic question “What do you do?”
Years ago, the answer was straightforward: “I work on Wall Street”. I rarely wanted to comment further. But more recently, since I started my company SurpriseRide, people are often curious to hear more. And since I’m all for fostering curiosity, I’m happy to entertain their questions!
So, you might be wondering what is it that we do? SurpriseRide is a service that sparks curiosity in kids, ages 6-11, through theme-based activity boxes. Every month, kids receive a surprise box with hands-on activities and all the supplies needed to explore something new about the world! Our past activities include painting in the style of Vincent van Gogh and making organic chocolate from scratch!
I’m lucky in that most people get excited about the concept and start telling me stories of projects they enjoyed most as kids. I’ve heard everything from building a robot with dad to making fruit jam with grandma. The recounting of nostalgic memories and times spent tinkering with friends and family never gets old.
My sister and I took the plunge and co-founded SurpriseRide for that very reason. We grew up in a family that scraped by month-to-month to make ends meet. We realized with time that the one thing that helped us overcome our limitations was our insatiable curiosity about the world. This isn’t something they teach in schools. This is a natural quality in kids that gets fostered at home. Sir Robinson perhaps summarized it best in his TED talk, “Curiosity is the engine of achievement.”
Our father, a full-time artist, made it easy for us to get absorbed in projects as tweens. His constant experimentation encouraged us to ask questions and think outside the box (pun intended…). A believer that beauty is all around us, he would constantly challenge himself. He made his own paint, built frames out of anything he could find, inserted electricity into his art for colorful lighting, mixed medias (from glass and plastic to metal and clay), and collected things like coins and stamps to add history to his art. Little did we know that not every kid gets the benefit of an art store, a wood shop, and a chemistry lab in their basement.
Overtime, we asked a lot of questions, had a lot of failed experiments, and created some beautiful things out of seemingly simple materials. Years later, during my MBA at Harvard, I fell in love with social entrepreneurship and did a lot of soul-searching about what I wanted to do with my life. As a former Wall Street banker who was tired of living and breathing a world of finance, I wanted to start a company that would add value in the world. Specifically, I wanted to inspire and impact the youth. The building blocks for SurpriseRide were born!
When my sister and I started to design the product, we interviewed hundreds of parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents, and other guardians. The feedback was crucial in helping us create a unique offering. We heard from moms who wanted their sons to get more exposure to subjects like art and music. We heard from dads who wanted their daughters to explore science and technology. We heard from aunts who struggle to find fun and enriching gifts for their nieces and nephews. And we heard from everyone that the element of surprise and spontaneity in today’s busy world had been missed. Oh, and we confirmed that kids love to get mail!
SurpriseRide became about more than hands-on activities in a box. With the help of experts, we design activities that spark an awareness of the world. For instance, our riders made friendship bracelets last month using color-changing ultraviolet beads and got to see first-hand the power of the sun. Our chocolate theme not only had kids make their own homemade treats but also taught them what makes a food organic. With SurpriseRide, families get to create lasting memories, parents give their kids a reason to put down the electronics, and kids get to explore something new about this fascinating world.
My sister and I spend a lot of time dreaming about where we’d like to take the SurpriseRide experience in the future. For now, we’re focused on delivering a memorable experience that our subscribers will think back to fondly for years to come. While we don’t know how our riders might someday answer the common “What do you do?” question, we hope that we will have perhaps played a small role in how the answer came to be.
Discount: Use code TechMamas10 to enjoy $10 off a SurpriseRide order.
Donna Khalife is founder of SurpriseRide (www.surpriseride.com), a subscription service that fosters curiosity in kids through theme-based activity boxes. Donna deeply enjoys mentoring young people on achieving their dreams. As author of “The Best Book on Investment Banking Careers“, she is frequently invited to speak at top universities about choosing the right career path. Donna holds an MBA from Harvard, where she published a case study currently taught in classes on Social Entrepreneurship. Other passions include the performing arts, traveling, and cheese (yum!). Connect with Donna @surpriseride and @donnakhalife and http://facebook.com/surpriseride