12-Year-Old And His Parents Start A Cookie Company To Send Kids To Coding Camp, Prove Coding Is For Everybody

"Beyond The Cookie is so much bigger than us."

At first, you might not think that cookies and coding have much in common, but those behind non-profit organization Beyond The Cookie are showing how the two things can work brilliantly together.

Beyond The Cookie was founded by wife and husband Dulcevita and Michael Brock, and their 12-year-old son Ian Michael. The Brock family was inspired to get involved in computer science education after seeing Code.org's "Hour of Code" promo video "What Most Schools Don't Teach." In an email to A Plus, Dulcevita Brock pointed out that only 10 percent of American schools taught computer science and coding when they launched their non-profit. Currently, it's at 25 percent, but that is still very low.

To help underrepresented people in the tech field, and those who might not have access to coding and computer science education, the family took part in Code.org's global 'Hour of Code' event, and founded the non-profit organization, Coding Initiative. 

"We wanted them [kids] to see that it was possible to learn,  and that they didn't have to have special skills except knowing how to read, write, and basic math," said Dulcevita. "We got so overwhelmed with parents asking 'what's next,' following our participation in Code.org's global 'Hour of Code' event, we decided to go BIG! We re-assessed the focus of our newfound mission, then boldly decided to adopt Richard Branson's war cry, 'screw it, let's do it' and host a camp." 

So, with all the positive feedback and a passion to help kids learn to code, the family decided to host a coding camp for 4th through 8th graders. 

But they didn't stop there: Instead of having to rely on grants for the organization, they decided to make their own money by taking full advantage of Dulcevita's baking skills and sell her cookies. 


Courtesy of Beyond The Cookie/Dulcevita Brock

Creating Beyond The Cookie was the next logical next step, "We wanted to make sure that we had a funding platform so that weren't dependent on grants," Dulcevita told A Plus. "We wanted to be self-sustaining. We know that grants come and go and we didn't want the kids we intended to serve to be disappointed when those resources were exhausted." 

Dulcevita said that she has been baking since she was a teenager and has always loved preparing deserts for her family growing up. "Before I got married, I started baking and my-then boyfriend, Michael, (now husband and co-founder) suggested that I sell the goodies I loved baking. When Ian was born and he tasted my cookies, he also agreed with his dad, and I just waved it off because baking was a hobby for me and something I liked to do for family and friends."

"When we started our non-profit, it was at that moment we decided we would use the cookies to fund our organization. No waiting around for other people’s money."

Courtesy of Beyond The Cookie/Dulcevita Brock

Every member of the family contributes their own personal skills to make the company the best that it can be. "We actually work really well together. All three of us are passionate about education and bringing [computer science] and coding to all kids, so we know what's at stake and we take our mission very seriously," Dulcevita told A Plus. "Early on, everyone did the same tasks to pitch in. Now we recognize that we have unique gifts and talents and we put them to use so we stay in our lane."

In addition to being the baker, Dulcevita handles branding operations, product quality control, sourcing ingredients, and social media photo and video creation. Her husband Michael looks after operations, handling and shipping, and social media development. And their son Ian is the self-proclaimed "resident cookie-taster." He's also the face of the brand and helps to develop youth sales and marketing strategies.

Ian may only be 12 years old, but he's just as involved in the company as his parents. Dulcevita points out that he attends 90 percent of the meetings. "Ian has a unique perspective because at an early age, he gets to witness running a company first hand. He sits in on business meetings and experiences what it's like to pitch ideas. He's learning what the best selling techniques are to get people's attention. He sees what's it's like from inception/idea, to ingredient sourcing, to cookie production."

Ian was also the one who conducted Beyond The Cookie's initial test market research in a busy lunch room.

Courtesy of Beyond The Cookie/Dulcevita Brock

Running Beyond The Cookie has also helped the family grow and strengthen their bonds with one another. "As a family, we have learned that Beyond The Cookie is so much bigger than us," writes Dulcevita, "We may disagree at times, but our mission is greater than who's right or who's wrong at a given time." 

"Running a family company has also brought us closer together and we're happy we weren't forced to bring in partners or outside funding that would have changed the dynamics of what we envisioned for Beyond The Cookie. We're literally a 'startup with a mission' and have bootstrapped our way to this point."

As for what Ian thinks, Dulcevita says, "He wants every child to have the opportunity to learn computer science and coding."

Courtesy of Beyond The Cookie/Dulcevita Brock

Ian's own advice for other kids is, "Get started now with your dream no matter where you are!" As for his own goals, that means growing Beyond The Cookie nationwide as a funding resource for students. He also wants to go to Harvard and play on the basketball team. And while he's setting forth all of those plans, he is also writing his first book, Dream Hustle Code.

(H/T: Forbes)


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