KÜDZOO founders Logan Cohen and Trevor Wilkins are putting the "earning" in learning for more than half a million students, across 46,000 schools in the country.
“I think it's really important not to underestimate the power of recognition," says Cohen, 26. “Even just a gold star on your homework makes you feel good and empowered to work harder."
With the goal of engaging students in their education by leveraging the relationship they have with their smart phones, Cohen and Wilkins launched KÜDZOO in 2015. The app, which gives kids rewards for academic success, is designed to incentivize students to perform their academic best by offering them a litany of awards; everything from gift cards to concert tickets to one-of-a-kind experiences like meeting a famous athlete.
“We are saying rather than scrolling through a mindless newsfeed, you can practice your SATS and get rewarded," says Cohen. “We see a powerful connection between recognition and academic success, and we wanted to embrace a student-first model."
Cohen says it was actually Wilkins who first thought of the idea of reward-based learning, which was based on his own upbringing. As a child, Wilkins, who is now 27, earned $10 for every A and $5 for every B on his report cards, and Wilkins would have to fork over $20 for every C. It must have worked because Wilkins went on to earn a degree in sociology from Princeton University.
"The idea of rewards instilled a competitive mindset in my siblings that has lasted us our entire lives and pushed us all to Ivy League schools," Wilkins told SWAAY. In terms of what we want to do with KÜDZOO, Logan and I see a huge opportunity to make an impact inside of the classroom so that's where we're headed! We see KÜDZOO as a mutually beneficial tool for students, teachers and school admins alike. We've seen the competitive edge KÜDZOO has brought out in students from an individual standpoint and we're excited to bring that same impact to the classroom."
The KÜDZOO app
Cohen said before actually launching KÜDZOO, she and Wilkins held a focus group with 14 to 16 year olds who gave valuable insight regarding what should be, and shouldn't be, on the platform. “That's when we realized we didn't know what was cool anymore," laughs Cohen, who says she and Wilkins made edits to the site based on the students' critique. “The kids really helped us build it out."
To capitalize on the more than 150 times students typically check their phones a day, Cohen and Wilkins designed the app to have an interactive interface in which users can play grade level-based trivia games, in subjects that range from SAT Prep to pop culture. Students can also log in to earn KÜDZOO CASH for attendance by checking into school each day, for uploading their grades, participating in survey questions, and interact with friends on a social media-esque newsfeed.
According to Cohen, KÜDZOO is rolling out an in-school version for the 2017-2018 school year, which will allow teachers to customize questions and further incorporate their curriculums and lesson plans into the platform, with an in-school version called KÜDZOOVERIFIED. “We are looking to partner with schools who want to customize rewardable actions to reward their student achievers," says Cohen.
So what exactly are the rewards offered to KÜDZOO users? Cohen says thus far, more than $300K worth of rewards have been given to students. Some were funded outright, while some were given through brand partnerships. “We are now building out sponsorships," says Cohen. “Since we built critical mass, we are now opening to school districts who can come on as partners to fund rewards for students for customizable action. For example, some schools we are working with are focused on increasing attendance, so they would reward cash for attendance."
To stay ahead of the gifting trends among her user base, Cohen says she is constantly asking them what brands they like, then bringing them in as options for prizes. Among the most requested brands by highschoolers are Amazon, because of “the spending freedom," Target, Walmart and Forever 21. Cohen says college users love brands like Chipotle and Jamba Juice. “They ask for a lot of food at the college level," laughs Cohen, underscoring that the most important element of her business is remaining authentic and listening to feedback from her audience.
“Gen Z is incredibly savvy," says Cohen. “They've been marketing to out of the womb. With Gen Z the best you can get is brand consideration and that's a win. They know if they are being advertised to, so we don't sugarcoat. We try to be very transparent. Gen Z is turned off by native ads and anything that tries to trick them."
Looking to the future, Cohen is hoping to not only work closer with schools and brands alike, but also to grow her New York City-based team of six, in order to meet the enormous potential she sees in the scholastic space. The momentum thus far has certainly been a cause for optimism.
“We are finding exciting engagement from our users," says Cohen, adding that KÜDZOO boasts an impressive average click through rate of 30.2 percent. “Something we are really proud of is that 93 percent of students said that they believe KÜDZOO genuinely cares about their success. With less than 20 percent of Gen Z saying that brands "get them" this is something we strive for."
I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.
During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.
The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.
Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.
I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.
Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.
My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:
- Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
- Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
- Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
- Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!