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.