When Olivia Pavco-Giaccia ’16 packed her bags for her junior year at Yale, her focus hardly revolved around cardboard boxes and rolling suitcases. Instead, Pavco-Giaccia’s attention was on the launch of the first Kickstarter campaign for her startup, LabCandy, which designs and produces fashionable lab gear meant to inspire young girls to pursue the sciences.
By the time Pavco-Giaccia was fully unpacked three days later in late August, LabCandy had met it’s initial fundraising goal of $20,000. In three week’s time, that number would hit over $30,000.
“We got our Kickstarter page together, pressed ‘go’ and held our breath,” Pavco-Giaccia said of the launch.
What began as a venture at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute in January 2013 has grasped the attention of young girls worldwide. The LabCandy line consists of a colorful lab coat, a pair of do-it-yourself goggles, and a storybook entitled “Ava and the Copper Key.” The children’s story — which Pavco-Giaccia wrote herself — tells the tale of a girl who uses science to solve a challenge. At the back of each storybook is a “recipe card” so that young readers can conduct the same experiments Ava uses in the book in their own homes.
Pavco-Giaccia said LabCandy products aim to change the stereotype around “what a scientist looks like,” adding that the line was inspired by her own experience as young student with few female scientists to look up to.
The $31,035 raised through the Kickstarter campaign came through 304 backers, and Pavco-Giaccia said that orders for LabCandy gear have come from as far away as Australia and Japan.
Before launching her campaign, Pavco-Giaccia said she spent months researching and talking to manufacturers to determine exactly how LabCandy products were going to be produced.
“You can’t really launch until you know exactly who is making your products because if you don’t know that, then you don’t know how to price things,” Pavco-Giaccia said.
For much of the summer, Pavco-Giaccia visited shops and manufacturers in New York’s garment district, testing out different textiles and fabrics for the lab coat before arriving at the right thickness and texture. Then followed nailing down the designs and sizing of the coat itself.
In addition to the physical gear, Pavco-Giaccia said she originally sought a professional illustrator to bring Ava and her story into full color. When that plan hit a dead end, Pavco-Giaccia said she did what has become a common maneuver when it comes to LabCandy: reaching out on social media.
A simple Facebook post is what led her to Emily Monjaraz ’14. After Monjaraz submitted a test drawing for the storybook, Pavco-Giaccia said the two clicked.
“I was lucky that I had that connection and that I found her,” Pavco-Giaccia said. “It is amazing being surrounded by cool and intelligent people who are passionate about what they do and are good at what they do.”
Monjaraz said she wanted to join the LabCandy team because she appreciated the idea that girls could also be portrayed as scientists. Unlike existing book series like the “American Girls,” Monjaraz said LabCandy helps to create a more well-rounded image of what young girls can be.
Alena Gribskov, Program Director at the YEI, said it was “definitely impressive” that LabCandy managed to raised $20,000 in three days. Gribskov added that YEI programs are meant to support Yale students taking on business endeavors they are passionate about.
Though the target age for LabCandy customers stops at third grade, Gribskov is undeterred.
“I can’t wait to get my LabCandy gear,” she said.
According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 24% of STEM related jobs are occupied by women.