Christina was exploring topics for her undergraduate thesis as a Bachelor of Design student at the OCAD Univeristy when she stumbled upon the science behind creativity in early childhood development. She learnt that children have the greatest capability for creation at the age of 5, with creativity scores of 98%; by the time they reach adulthood, their score drops to only 2%. Naturally, one would wonder why that is — Christina had the same train of thought. She researched and concluded that, based on the available empirical evidence, the decline cannot be avoided. However, it could be mitigated if only creativity were cultivated and nurtured. She brainstormed and ended up with a Bachelor’s thesis of a novel service that allows children to get creative with customizable digital 3D characters. These could then be 3D printed and purchased by family, friends, and the broader public. The platform provides crucial creativity cultivation, while the merch side enhances social development and builds confidence in children.
A few months in, Christina conceptualized the idea, developed a business plan, and pitched it to the Imagination Catalyst — OCAD’s respectable entrepreneurship and commercialization hub. She immediately got in and U-Dimensions was born. Put simply, U-Dimensions filled the market gap for 3D-printed merch. Following lean methodology and putting together a small but talented team, Christina built an agile MVP. She used Drupal to develop the basic platform to allow game companies to upload models, worked tirelessly to manually convert clients’ designs into 3D models, 3D printed them, and then handled the logistics of shipping and post-purchase customer service herself.
“We connect video game companies with their fans in an innovative, creation-based way” was the startup’s mission; U-Dimensions certainly delivered. The company was generating revenue, but something felt off. With its B2B model depending on the active user base of games companies, the revenue U-dimensions generated wasn’t enough to cover expenses. In hindsight, Christina realizes one of the major mistakes was targeting indie developers, who tend to have fewer fans willing to spend some cash on 3D printing. The greatest mistake she made, however, was not following her passion.
Fast forward to 2020: Christina is determined to reinvent her initial idea and Little You is about to be launched. With a Masters in Entrepreneurship from the University of Waterloo and a $10k grant for her business idea, she’s off to a great start. This time, the startup is, above all, a social venture — its mission is to entertain children while cultivating their creativity. In a nutshell, Little You is an online application allowing children to design and customize 3D characters. Users can share their creations with family, classmates, and social media friends, which enhances childhood social development and confidence building. The highlight is that the app is also a marketplace — children can sell their designs through it, while Little You’s suppliers 3D print and deliver them to the purchaser. Users earn points when they set up their accounts, receive likes on their creations, and receive orders; these points can be used to further redeem toys. This economic aspect is not only the main revenue-generating model, but also provides opportunities for children to acquire social skills and entrepreneurial mindsets.
Little You is off to a great start. With a successful MVP and consumer behaviour research validating the value hypothesis of the business, the startup is entering a $22B industry with the potential to become a niche disruptor thanks to the interactive nature of its service. Christina is confident that, this time, she’s on the right path:
“I’m doing what I am passionate about — allowing others to experience the joy and scientifically-proven developmental utility of art. This is more than a business venture to me — it’s an opportunity to transform the childhood of 32M children in North America into a playful but productive experience — an experience that will give them a headstart in life, and, hopefully, will preserve their creativity.”
Stay tuned for more updates on Little You’s journey, coming soon. Make sure to follow/subscribe @littleyou3d