An Interview with Grechen Huebner, Forbes (US & Canada 2019) Education

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski
Jun 12 · 10 min read

(#00027) — Success in business is a combination of heart, smarts, guts, and luck.

Helping children get a better education is a noble thing to do. They are the core of our society and will one day define the values of it.

Children absorb everything around them, good and bad, so their future somewhat depends on how we treat them while they grow up. If we appoint our youth on the right path, they will follow it and achieve greatness some day.

However, to be able to do that we need a better education system, and people that genuinely care about our youth’s future. Someone that wants everyone to get an equal chance of prospering and finding themselves and their passion further on in life.

Just recently, I met a person that fits the description perfectly.

Meet Grechen Huebner. Together with Jon Mattingly, Grechen co-founded Kodable, a company that develops apps that helps children in schools learn at an early age the basics of programming. Although at first, this might sound like a demanding task for kids, Grechen and her team have found a way to acclimate coding into a fun curriculum activity that allows children the opportunity to learn a new valuable skill in this modern world of fast technological development.

Their innovative idea also put Grechen and Jon on Forbes’s 30 Under 30 US & Canada 2019: Education list, acknowledging their hard work and determination.

If you want to know more about Grechen’s line of work, and how she got there, I warmly recommend reading the interview I’ve made with her.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Hi Grechen! First off, I want to thank you for being a part of this mission! Can you now tell us more about yourself? Who is Grechen Huebner? What was the reason for choosing the career that you currently have?

Grechen Huebner:

I always felt like I was “bad” with technology when I was growing up. Once I got to college, I decided to focus on improving my tech skills.

I became really interested in graphic design and social media marketing.

I decided to teach myself to code as a way to pursue web design and differentiate myself for a future job search.

I realized it would have been a lot easier if I had learned to code earlier in life.

I actually had a chance to take a class in high school but decided to pass it up because I would have been the only girl in class.

Learning to code created a lot of opportunities for me and I wanted to give kids the chance to learn at a young age that I wished I had.

When I looked at products on the market, they all seemed boyish. I wanted to create a game to teach kids to code, and I wanted it to have something for everyone. So, every child could find something that appealed to them, regardless of their gender.

Both of my parents owned their own businesses when I was growing up, so starting a business was something that felt natural. My parents set a very good example with their hard work and dedication.

I remember them teaching my sister and me about starting a business and helping us set up a snack stand at their office. We bought our products in bulk and sold them for a small profit. I never pictured myself starting my own business, but when the opportunity presented itself, it felt right, and my family was very supportive.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

I would also like to congratulate you for being on the Forbes 30 under 30 list! Have you ever dreamed of being where you are today? What contributed to your success the most?

Grechen Huebner:

Thank you! I remember working endless hours in the early years of Kodable and reading the Forbes 30 under 30 lists and wondering if I would ever make it there. It is pretty surreal to be in this position!

I’ve heard that success in business is a combination of heart, smarts, guts, and luck, and I agree completely.

I’ve never been afraid to take on new challenges and learn what I needed to accomplish something new. It’s also been really important not to give up when things were difficult.

My co-founder Jon is a huge part of this. We support one another when the other one is feeling overwhelmed or discouraged wondering if things will work out. It’s so important to have a great co-founder as well as a network of people around you to support you when things are hard.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

So, what is the mission of Kodable? Why is this programming curriculum important?

Grechen Huebner:

Our mission is to make programming accessible to everyone. We believe the way to reach the most children is through their teachers. Our goal is to make teaching CS as easy as possible for a teacher who probably doesn’t have any previous CS experience.

We do everything we can to prepare them and help them feel ready to teach their students this important material. The teachers all believe computer science is important and they love seeing the engagement that Kodable brings to their classroom.

The teachers who use Kodable are very brave to venture into teaching material they don’t have any experience with, and they do it because they want to prepare their students for their future. At Kodable, we want to do everything we can to support that.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

How did you know this is what you are “supposed” to do? How long were you looking for a business idea, if at all?

Grechen Huebner:

I wasn’t looking for a business idea. Honestly, I didn’t expect to start a business. I didn’t know this was something I was “supposed” to do. I felt passionate about giving kids the power to improve their lives with important skills like coding. It is amazing how far skills in technology can take you.

Coming from the South/Midwest, I wanted to create more opportunities for my community, and I felt starting with the next generation was a great way to do that. Ultimately, my passion drove me to pursue Kodable.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

As a young and a successful founder, how difficult is it for you to manage your time? What are the best time management tactics that you practice?

Grechen Huebner:

Learning time management has been a journey for me. I’m always working to improve, and I’ve learned to accept that there are good days and bad days, but you just need to do your best on each given day and things will continue to move in the right direction.

It is really important for any startup or small business to focus only on the things that matter. This means my co-founder and I are constantly checking in with each other to make sure the projects on our roadmap are moving us toward our goals. It is easy to get sidetracked if you decide to act on every “cool” idea. We’ve had to pass up some great opportunities but looking back it is a good thing we did. Having goals or a compass to guide you is critical.

In terms of my personal productivity, I started by learning what times of day I was most productive. I’m a morning person, so I try to set aside the mornings for projects that require my full attention. I like to keep the afternoon for small tasks that “need” to get done but aren’t very difficult.

I also learned to keep lists and write things down to keep my head clear. It is important for me to keep my headspace free to think creatively. I use Asana to keep myself organized and to keep the team organized.

Asana allows me to write things down, then forget about them until it is time to think about them again.

If I’m in a rut, I will change my location to get into a better headspace. Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need to get back into a productive mood. I also take every opportunity to put myself in a good mood when I’m doing difficult or boring tasks. Working outside in the sunshine is one of my favorite tricks.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

You and Jon Mattingly founded Kodable, am I right? Well, what are the top five qualities everyone should look for in a co-founder? How important is it for the co-founders to have a great relationship before they start a business?

Grechen Huebner:

It is very important for founders to have a strong relationship. It helps if they know each other well beforehand, but I don’t think it is a requirement. As long as there is a strong foundation of trust, most other things can be learned.

  • Their opinions, ideas, and judgment are all trustworthy
  • Their skills complement yours
  • Creative problem solver
  • One of you is an optimist and one is a realist
  • Their passion for the project is as strong as yours

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

What is your opinion on college degrees being necessary for success? What is your opinion on hard vs. smart work? Please explain.

Grechen Huebner:

I believe a college degree provides structure to learn how to work, to manage your time, stay organized, and deliver work according to expectations. These things can all be learned in a different context, but for some people the structure that college provides is necessary.

I am definitely one of these people. It is also helpful as an indicator to others of your ability to set a goal and achieve it. If you’re able to attend a prestigious school, it definitely helps you when networking and getting into important “groups”.

“Work smarter, not harder” is one of our company mottos. It is on the wall in our office. We allow a lot of flexibility because we believe results are all that really matter. It doesn’t matter how hard you are working if you don’t meet your goals.

That said, startups are a lot of hard work, so you absolutely must be able to work smart to get everything done. Success is a combination of both.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing? What matters in life? What is your simplest definition of success?

Grechen Huebner:

Outside of work, I am a pretty adventurous person. I enjoy hiking, backpacking, climbing and going to the beach with my dog, Mo.

I’m happiest when I’m living a simple life with the people I love, my friends and my family.

My definition of success is the ability to provide a simple, secure life that makes me and my most important loved ones happy.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Where do you see yourself and your company 10 years from now?

Grechen Huebner:

I would like Kodable to grow to be the top provider of CS instruction in the English-speaking world.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Lastly, what is the message you would like to share with the world? What would you advise everyone who struggles entering the business world?

Grechen Huebner:

Just go for it! I know so many people who say they want to start a company someday and are waiting for the right moment. I believe the right moment will never really present itself.

You need to take the plunge and go for it. You can always get another job if you fail.

Trust your gut. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, but sometimes your intuition knows best when reason isn’t getting you anywhere.

Grechen Huebner and Jon Mattingly succeeded to transform coding into a manageable and fun activity for young children, a task not everyone can handle very well. Their efforts will impact many young lives and influence a new generation of creative thinkers and problem-solvers.

The world needs more people like this. Individuals who will devote themselves to support children that want to explore their skills and interests, and will provide equal opportunities for that to happen.

Their example should be followed and incorporated by parents and teachers all around the world, who want to engage children in doing productive yet fun work that will encourage them to express themselves freely and creatively in the future, instead of abiding by the norms of repetitive studying.

Kodable is already a successful company with a bright future ahead. The business will most likely spread to as many schools as possible in the years to come, to provide children with a fun way of increasing their knowledge and skills.

“The Mission to Empower 1 Million Entrepreneurs”

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Bruno (HE) Mirchevski

Written by

The Logician (Dreamer) 👁️ Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎 Founder of HE Group - (Investor) 📈

The Logician

Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎

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