Merci Best: Entrepreneur SpotlightSeptember 23, 2021
STEAMKITX (pronounced “steam kits”) is an education startup on a mission to enhance educational experiences by introducing people to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). They design educational activities for school-aged children, so they can explore STEAM careers at home, school, or out-of-school time organizations. Their first kit, Ice STEAM Boss, is a series of five fun and educational activities that challenge families, friends, and classmates to enjoy making their own ice cream, creating a song, building an ice cream truck, designing a logo, and exploring entrepreneurship.
Merci Best, founder of STEAMKITX, is another incredible example of a business owner who comes from a heritage of entrepreneurship. “My maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur, my parents are entrepreneurs, and my two brothers are entrepreneurs. I had always boxed myself in as a scientist and never imagined being an entrepreneur myself,” Merci explains.
Like many pioneers in business, Merci’s inspiration was sparked by repeated annoyances within her journey. “I started experiencing a frustrating problem in education,” she explains, “Although I knew really smart Black people and women from all racial backgrounds, I was often left being the only Black woman in my science classes and research labs. Many of my Black and/or women colleagues had been told at some point in time that they were not good at science or math, so they never thought that science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) was for them.”
Merci wanted to create a way for all people to experience STEM in an inclusive, fun, and relevant way by incorporating the arts. She started with her first business STEAMTRIX in 2014. STEAMTRIX is an in-person summer education program. In efforts to increase the scale, sustainability, and impact they were making with their STEAMTRIX program, Merci compiled a team of educators and started making STEAM kits, leading her to establish STEAMKITX in 2020. Her ultimate goal? To introduce 1 million people to STEAM careers through STEAMKITX.
Before joining CIC’s Entrepreneur Workshop, Merci participated in the Go Start-Up Program, so she felt very confident and prepared for the first few sessions with CIC. She says, “CIC built upon the Go Start-Up Program’s introduction to entrepreneurship and really helped me hone in on the financial aspects of running a business. Overall, CIC advanced my confidence and helped me ensure that I was doing my due diligence to identify gaps in my entrepreneurial development.”
When asked for her workshop take-a-ways and advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs Merci tells us, “I really enjoyed Ellen Martin’s lecture on the financial side of things. I identified finances as my weakness and felt overwhelmed by the thought of having to learn all the financial terminology, but the way it was presented through CIC was approachable and practical. I am still connected with Ellen, who graciously helped me set up my QuickBooks account and send my first invoice. I also enjoyed Greg Dorazios’s lecture on marketing and storytelling. It really helped me to centralize why I started my business and helped me feel affirmed and ready to tackle the marketing aspect. I still have consultations with Greg, who helped overview different concepts for some promotional videos we recently filmed.”
What is her biggest piece of advice? As the fourth pillar of CIC’s program supports, it’s networking. “Keep in touch,” she says, “especially with the instructors that you resonate with. They truly can become advocates for you and your business.”