Lily Born, 11, of Chicago, has been spending the last few years designing unbreakable, hard-to-spill cups for her grandfather, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease.

Lily has just launched a new and improved stackable, unbreakable Kangaroo Cup, made of BPA-free plastic instead of ceramic.

It’s a better cup for anyone spill-prone. It also stands up on uneven surfaces, like grass, making it perfect for picnics, and its elevated base means there’s no need for coasters.

The new design is available in a range of different colors.

Lily's advice to fellow pre-teen entrepreneurs actually applies to all ages: "Don’t freak out if you screw up or fail, because you’ll fail a lot before you get it right," she says.

"Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No matter how good your idea is, there are lots of things that grownups will have to help you with.:

Co.Design

11-Year-Old Makes An Unbreakable, Spill-Proof Cup For Her Ailing Grandfather

When Lily Born noticed her grandfather, who suffers from Parkinson's, was spilling his drinks, she decided to design him a better cup. The young entrepreneur is now selling her product on Kickstarter.

While most 11-year-olds are watching Hunger Games or doing other typically pre-teen things, Lily Born, of Chicago, is busy designing unbreakable, un-spillable kitchenware to help people with Parkinson’s disease.

A few years ago, Lily, the daughter of an inventor, noticed that her grandfather, who has Parkinson’s, had been spilling his drinks. She decided to help him out by creating a more stable cup, which she named the Kangaroo Cup. "We were using hand-moldable plastic at home and then clay at a pottery studio," Lily tells Co.Design. "I could hand those cups right over to my grandpa to use, and it was very easy to see if it was comfortable or not."

This ceramic tumbler had three legs of moldable plastic attached, so it's harder to knock over than your typical cup. Lily's father Joe helped raise funds for her design on Kickstarter. Though the Kickstarter was successful, the budding entrepreneur noticed the design could be improved: it often broke, as it was ceramic, and it didn’t stack easily.

So with the help of her father, Lily teamed up with some (slightly older) designers and manufacturers to fix its design flaws. Now 11, Lily has just launched a new and improved stackable, unbreakable Kangaroo Cup, made of BPA-free plastic instead of ceramic. It’s not just for those with Parkinson’s-related tremors, but for anyone spill-prone. It also stands up on uneven surfaces, like grass, making it perfect for picnics, and its elevated base means there’s no need for coasters. The new design is available in a range of different colors. "It’s just a better cup," Lily says in the video for her new Kickstarter campaign.

Designing the new plastic version was more complicated than working with ceramic: "We went to a plastic factory last week, and I couldn't understand half of what they were saying," Lily says. At the ceramics factory, the molds were simple. "With plastic, the molds take a really long time to make, and every detail has to be exactly perfect. The robots were really cool, though!"

Lily's advice to fellow pre-teen entrepreneurs actually applies to all ages: "Don’t freak out if you screw up or fail, because you’ll fail a lot before you get it right," she says. "Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. No matter how good your idea is, there are lots of things that grownups will have to help you with. Most of the time they are excited to help you, unless it's something really expensive!"

Born Sr. knows he has an impressive kid, but says that "one of the reasons I have so much passion for this project is that Lily wasn't really recognized by her school. If it wasn't for crowdfunding, she'd still be asking me, 'What am I good at?'"

Sets of four Kangaroo Cups are available for $25 on Kickstarter.

Add New Comment

18 Comments

  • Yves Ho

    I'm going to buy one of these cups to honour the ingenuity from the young lady. Besides, the cup looks like a rocket with landing gears!

  • sai_bhupalam

    Congratulations Lily and Joe. I am not surprised that Lily was not recognized at school - this fact only bolsters her entrepreneurial inclinations. Entrepreneurs are not given the due credit until they deliver and it appears that Lily has done that.

    Most schools (at all levels including universities) do not encourage mavericks in spite of what the data has shown. It is assumed that entrepreneurs can only be adults. The purpose of academicians seems to be to turn out more academicians and the purpose of university professors seems to be to create more university professors - exceptions apply of course.

    But the time has come for young entrepreneurs to go out on a limb and make it happen - whether everyone else is on board or not. Good luck on Kickstarter.

  • Alex Berkowitz

    I think it's more spill-proof in the sense that it's wider than it is tall and therefore extremely difficult to accidentally knock over. And the handles provide a better grip making it harder to drop or spill while using it. It's not, say, dump-on-a-person's-head-proof.

  • Congratulations on your bright and lovely daughter, Joe. Of course her abilities aren't being recognized in school; it's not exactly a creative environment. Have you considered homeschooling?

  • Barbara, honestly we have our hands full just with homework. I actually think she's getting a good education, and if we augment it by supporting her design ideas, I think it's a pretty good combination.

  • Michelle Zenner Kohler

    Gotta love this! Imagine what we could do if we all had this much initiative. And what a great lesson for a dad to teach his daughter.

  • As a proud father, watching the transformation in Lily has been amazing. She went from a kid so shy she wouldn't order at a restaurant to presenting in front of 100s of adults. Inventing is more than just bringing a product to market, it's about learning what you are capable and the way that breeds confidence is hard to put into words. We need to put effort into helping our kids understand how important their creativity is, and all too often that's not something conventional education is good at.

  • Thank you so much Lisa, that means the world to us, it really does.

    It's funny when we adopted Lily, the agency made a point to tell us that many people would approach us and say "she's a very lucky girl," which did happen a lot.

    It's gratifying to have a lot of people stop us and and say "we're very lucky to have Lily." Of course, we have been lucky all along, but it's nice that this project made that obvious to more people.

  • 245707463

    It's a very encouraging story, Mr. Born. As a English-Chinese translation editor of Fastcompany and a geography teacher, I must say that your story helps me a lot in making a point to my students that their future is of great possibilities, and conventional education is never the only way to go. By the way, I'm translating this story to the Chinese readers, and I'm sure that they will love this story.