IDEA Lab Kids Founder and CEO Ghazal Qureshi is an entrepreneur and computer scientist. However, it was her role as a mother to three children with diverse interests that led her to found a company that currently offers more than 50 unique, integrated science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) courses for children from ages 4 to 14 both online and in retail settings. IDEA Lab Kids, which Qureshi launched in 2011 with a store located in Houston, recently announced their strategic plan to reach 700 U.S. locations over the next four years. In 2017, the company launched as a franchise, and in just two years it has doubled growth every 6 months, doubled employees year-after-year, and posted sales increases of 23+% for each location. Outside of the U.S., IDEA Lab Kids operates in Canada, Oman, Abu Dhabi, China, India, and Russia and has plans to expand to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Ghazal Qureshi is the founder and CEO IDEA Lab Kids.
IDEA Lab Kids
Finding herself driving her kids all over town is what lead Qureshi to become interested in an after-school program that would provide an intellectually stimulating, hands-on educational experience for children. She also found herself wanting to spend more time with her children. “With IDEA Lab Kids, I try to strategize about what is relevant in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) space today. We aim to teach kids different ways to be successful as they navigate through school and begin to develop their own careers,” says Qureshi.
Here, Qureshi offers her top 7 tips for getting your children interested and ahead in a STEAM curriculum and concepts:
1. Connect to STEAM all around you. There are plenty of things parents can do in terms of “real world” connections to STEAM education. Every day can be an opportunity for parents to expose their kids to STEAM topics because they relate to virtually every facet of your environment and surroundings.
2. Take walks. Walk with your children. Look at different architecture and the role that it plays in artistic and engineering accomplishments. Mention the changing colors of the leaves and the scientific aspect of nature. Notice how technology was used to develop your community. That’s all STEAM-related in some way or another.
3. Cook at home. Explain why there is a scientific purpose and process behind recipes and measurements and how that affects each meal you cook. Discover different cultures through food and its global impact in the culinary world.
4. Observe your child’s interests. Tap into what your child is interested in. Take every opportunity to explain the science and technology behind their hobbies and pursuits. If they are interested in art, educate them on different types of art. Get them excited about enhancing those basic skills and relating them to STEAM topics.
5. Know the value of STEAM topics to your children’s future. My son grew up with IDEA Lab Kids, but his true passion has been to become a movie director with animated and motion graphic efforts. Movie making and visual arts is STEAM—in particular, it’s the intersection between engineering, technology and art. STEAM is the future and what companies and countries are investing in for the future.
6. Connect with STEAM principles in sports and gaming. Elements of STEAM are actually everywhere in the sports world, as well as gaming. Take the videogame Minecraft, for example. The game has strategy and involves elements of technology and engineering. With baseball, there are a lot of numbers and statistics to discuss, which gives parents the opportunity to talk with their child about the math and science behind the sport. The thing is, parents must be involved in their child’s supplemental education to point out these STEAM connections while also making it fun.
7. Invest in the future of STEAM. In 2020, there is no set career path to take, but there are a set of skills that involve STEAM, which must be nurtured and developed. From bankers to plumbers, most every career demands a high level of skills that can be taught through a STEAM curriculum. STEAM education has something for everyone and their interests.
Qureshi founded IDEA Lab Kids because she wanted to introduce her own and other children to STEAM … [+]
Qureshi says that she never would have guessed, when she graduated from the University of Houston, what she would be doing with IDEA Lab Kids today. She knew that she wanted to be in business for herself and run her own company, but given her education and career experience in computer science, she figured that she would be fulfilled in finding a good job and working her way up the corporate ladder.
Things changed drastically after Qureshi became a mother. “I wanted to provide my kids with an education that was innovative and unique for them, but I couldn’t find what I felt they needed,” she says. “That initial desire grew into an idea to develop these same concepts for my community, which has now grown into an international business in a very organic way. I believe IDEA Lab Kids has been successful because my heart is and has always been in the right place — wanting to educate with STEAM concepts that are very necessary to the future growth of economies and countries around the world.”
It’s her passion for educating kids in STEAM that makes her excited to get up every morning, Qureshi reports. She loves developing innovative courses and science experiments for the IDEA Lab Kids curriculum. For example, when they began integrating augmented reality (AR) as part of the way they teach science, Qureshi enjoyed being able to teach the high-level concepts in a unique way. “Money is not my singular driver,” she says. “I’m all about the excitement of helping others. Being able to mix business with passion is the greatest value to me.”
Qureshi is passionate about developing innovative courses to get kids excited about science, tech, … [+]
IDEA Lab Kids
Starting out, Qureshi faced several challenges. She had to learn about accounting practices, HR, contracts, legal issues, and how to work with countries like Ecuador and Lebanon. She had to figure out trademarking and so much more. But ultimately, all the learning has been “so worth it,” she says.
To young people eager to tap into their life purpose, Qureshi offers this advice: “Surround yourself with mentors and advisors. At every stage, it’s important to surround yourself with people who have had different journeys and who are able to provide different points of view. That insight is a huge asset. Secondly, I would advocate for new experiences — take on any new experience you can. Internships, volunteering, side projects – get outside of your comfort zone.”