In just 10 months, this Minnesota mother-son duo has grown their business from brainstorm to launch and are now semi-finalists at MN Cup.
Taylor Mickesh first designed ConnectHuman’s flagship product, Connection Zoo, as a senior thesis project on social anxiety in the summer of 2018. When his mother, Kjirsten Mickesh decided to leave her day job in corporate America, the two decided to combine their expertise to create a company that would help children everywhere cope with social anxiety at home and in the classroom.
“Connection Zoo is intended to empower kids with the vocabulary to better express their own experiences,” says Kjirsten. Connection Zoo consists of cards with fun facts about animals that could be used to describe symptoms of anxiety – like a hummingbird’s fast heartbeat.
Less than a year after their entrepreneurial journey began, ConnectHuman became one of 88 semi-finalists in the MN Cup, a competition hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. The MN Cup prepares businesses for the final competition through workshops and mentorship. In many ways, Kjirsten already feels prepared, thanks in part to another entrepreneurship community to which she belongs: WomenVenture.
Kjirsten has been donating to WomenVenture for years. When she and Taylor decided to launch their own business, Kjirsten knew she needed help navigating entrepreneurship. “I have been supporting WomenVenture for so long that I thought I should experience the programs I have been donating to,” said Kjirsten. She enrolled in Small Business Essentials (SBE), which gave her the tools to start her business and navigate the MN Cup competition. “The next steps for the competition include creating a business plan and pitch, which I already have because of SBE!” Kjirsten explains. “We already have a huge head start in this competition because of what I learned with WomenVenture.”
Taylor and Kjirsten both have advice for upcoming innovators and entrepreneurs. “Every day is a learning lesson,” says Taylor. “I have learned a ton and continue to learn every day. You have to believe in yourself and keep moving even when it feels like there isn’t any progress.” Kjirsten agrees, adding that it is important to maintain a strong support system and keep your eye on your mission and goals. “Our open communication has allowed us to be mother and son at home and business partners while working,” she explains.
Connection Zoo ‘s first prototype was developed in January. The parent version is set to hit the market by the end of the summer and the educator version is scheduled to launch by the end of the year.
The MN Cup Competition award winners will be announced at a ceremony in October.