Exercise and education are two disparate, but integral parts of the K-12 curriculum. Marrying them is vital for both physical and mental development. However, many schools aren't able to meet the state-mandated requirements for physical education, oftentimes due to the major emphasis placed on classroom learning. These issues resonated with me when saw the problem firsthand through my volunteer work in area classrooms, and I started pondering ways to solve what I viewed as a fixable problem.
I'm very passionate about fitness and I was actually doing a lot of volunteering through junior achievement. I asked the teachers if I could play some P-90X videos in the classroom, and what they said to me was, Yes you could that's a cool idea, but what makes it hard for us isn't the lack of resources as much as it is a lack of time in our day.
To me, the answer seemed simple: why not combine exercise and education? Unfortunately, my initial idea was just that, an idea. Early on in grad school though, I heard about a program focused on turning ideas into businesses: the Ideadvance program run by UW-Extension's Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. The program allowed me to finally create my educational fitness web application, ActiveEDU, and test its merits among business professionals.
I was eventually rewarded for my efforts on ActiveEDU, receiving $25,000 in seed funding from the program that allowed ActiveEDU to become a reality. The program taught kids core educational concepts while getting them up and active, and I sent my first prototype to local teachers interested in ActiveEDU. As my' business progressed, Ideadvance continued monitoring my progress through weekly meetings.
I honestly think the number one thing that pushed our business forward throughout Ideadvance is the accountability. Every single week we have to show up to these weekly meetings and it was publicly posted how many interviews we were doing. We had to talk about it in front of, you know, a dozen or so other people! The drive for greater success, and trying to avoid embarrassment in front of your peers, helped me discover new markets for his business.
At first I said, oh I can just talk to ten teachers', because you always want to take the easy route. But they really challenge you and push you to go out and talk to the key decision makers and key people. Those conversations paid off when Agnesian Healthcare in Fond du Lac agreed to be my first client. I discovered through Ideadvance that one of the most financially supportive groups of ActiveEDU were hospitals in local communities like Agnesian, who helped get the program in every school within their district.
I hope to expand ActiveEDU to even more communities across Wisconsin. My commitment to health hasn't waned since I started growing my business, and despite how far I've come since I first applied for Ideadvance, I never fail to appreciate the joy students are gleaning from this product. I got an email from a first grade teacher who took a picture of this picture that a first grade student had drawn about our little character and about how much she loved ActiveEDU. We'll probably hang that one up somewhere because that was cool to see.