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The Start-Up Kids Program

Start-Up Kids is a California-based 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Corporation that believes in the entrepreneurial potential of children. We believe that children will be the game-changers of tomorrow, the ones who will bring positive change to our communities and the world. We want to ignite and nurture their entrepreneurial mindsets with programs that develop their ability to create ideas, and to turn them into reality. Whether children work on high-growth start-ups or on social and environmental change, we want them to be able to get things done. Our carefully developed program is delivered in a variety of formats and always consists of three modules - Explore, Create, and Build:

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In this module or goal is to plant the seed. Students are introduced to the concept of entrepreneurship and start-ups and they learn to distinguish between entrepreneurs, employees, and other professionals. At the end of this module, students understand which traits, attitudes, and actions are at the core of successful entrepreneurial activities.

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In this module of our program, we work with the curious mindsets of children. We introduce students to the concept of creativity and to methods of how ideas can be created individually or in groups, and how the best ideas can be selected. At the end of this module, students will create and choose their own ideas, which they will further explore in the following module.

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In this module of the Start-Up Kids program, students learn how great ideas can be turned into winning businesses. Using a simplified version of the so-called "Business Model Canvas", our experienced mentors lead students through various stages in the development of a business concept. This module then culminates in the students' first professional "product pitch".


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails" - Mark Twain


The Start-Up Kids Mission

The future belongs to entrepreneurs. The concept of creating individual and socioeconomic value through corporate careers seems to have run its course. Entrepreneurs, in contrast, create futures for themselves and opportunities for others. We provide children with the opportunity to dream, create and grow their entrepreneurial ideas by encouraging independent thinking, inspiring creativity, and enabling problem-solving skills that are necessary for a successful future. We focus on young students because it allows us to develop the entrepreneurial problem-solving mindset at the right time. 

The Goals of Start-Up Kids 

We are a Southern-California based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that believes in the power of innovation and change. And we believe in the force that are our children. We therefore deliver engaging programs for children to help them develop entrepreneurial mindsets. We help them discover, create and grow entrepreneurial ideas by encouraging independent thinking, inspiring creativity, and enabling problem-solving skills that are necessary for a successful and fulfilling future. We understand entrepreneurship as something beyond the creation of high-growth business ventures - the skill to turn visions into reality, no matter whether it means starting a new company, becoming an environmental activist or advancing a social cause.


“Do or do not. There is no try" - Yoda


The brief (hi)story of Start-Up Kids

Our story began in 2015 with the vision of a group of College professors from both state and private universities. They shared a strong belief in both the importance of entrepreneurship and the creative potential of children, and created the vision of a program designed to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in children. Later that year, Start-up Kids formed, and a 3 module program for children in grades 4-8 was developed. By the end of 2015, we had launched our first successful program at an elementary school in the Greater Los Angeles area, Westlake Elementary School (Westlake Village, CA). In 2017 we added ATLAS - Academy of Technology and Leadership at Saticoy Elementary School (Ventura, CA), and One Spark Academy (Thousand Oaks, CA). As we are constantly developing and refining the program, we continue to expand to a growing number of schools and regions. 


Creativity is putting your imagination to work" - Sir Ken Robinson


Board Members

  • Gerhard Apfelthaler is the Dean of the School of Management at California Lutheran University.  As an educator, an intra-preneur a co-founder of several companies, and a father of three boys, he sees Start-Up Kids as a way of sharing his passion to create and his ability to build. 
  • Maria Ballesteros - Sola is an Assistant Professor of Management at the MVS School of Business  & Economics at California State University Channel Islands. She holds a DBA from IE Business School, an MBA earned with high honors at Boston University and a law degree from the Jesuit University ICADE in Madrid (Spain). Through her service-learning project she is also highly involved with the local non-profit community.  Maria loves to create initiatives that have societal impact.
  • Zujaja Tehreem is passionate about empowering children and individuals through education. She is currently Editor-In-Chief of Cal Lutheran's College of Arts & Sciences, Evoke magazine.  As an Exercise Science major Zujaja will be graduating 2019 with hopes of entering medical school and educating people worldwide. 
  • Nathaniel Thompson graduated with a degree in Economics from California Lutheran University. He has played four years of both College Football and Baseball, and is now attending grad school. He loves being involved in the community which is only fitting that he does most of the content creation and marketing. 
  • Rita Vaiman is an Adjunct Professor of Economics and Statistics at California Lutheran University’s School of Management.  She holds an honor BA degree in Economics and Business from York University in Canada, as well as both an MBA and a M.Sc. in Organizational Behavior and Talent Management from Reykjavik University (Iceland).  Rita is enthusiastic about learning and sees a lot of value in early entrepreneurship education for children of elementary school age and beyond. 
  • Vlad Vaiman is an Associate Dean and Professor at the School of Management of California Lutheran University, a visiting professor at several premier universities around the world, and a prolific international consultant in the area of talent management.  Vlad cares about developing the next generation of talent.


The Start-Up Kids program is delivered by a broad spectrum of experienced instructors, ranging from college professors and students of entrepreneurship to entrepreneurs who want to give back. Eventually, we'll provide profiles of all these fine individuals:

  • Gerhard Apfelthaler
  • Dariush Apfelthaler
  • Maria Ballesteros-Sola
  • Zach Garcia
  • Tess Listick
  • Zujaja Tehreem
  • Jose E. Mendoza Vazquez
  • Rita Vaiman
  • Vlad Vaiman
  • and many more....

If you are interested in becoming a Start-Up Kids Instructor, please contact us.

Mentors and Guest Speakers

As often as we can, we bring in guest speakers and mentors - active members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem including young founders, serial and veteran entrepreneurs, or subject matter experts. In the past, these have included:

  • Jason Carignan, Serial Entrepreneur, Marketing Maven
  • Scott Clear, Creative Director
  • Marc Ferrari, Musician, Music Entrepreneur, Business Angel
  • Alon Goren, Serial Entrepreneur, Venture Capital Partner
  • Ed Maliski, Ph. D., Pharma Entrepreneur
  • Greg Monterrosa, Entrepreneur, Community Manager Hub101
  • and many others...

If you are interested in getting involved as a guest speaker or mentor, please contact us.


As a non-profit, our own revenues don't support all of our programs, especially not the ones in low-income areas. We therefore depend on the support of individuals, foundations, and businesses partners. In the past, the following organizations have supported us:

If you would like to support our program, please use PayPal Donate.