3GStrong: 1 Year After Winning CodeLaunch
3GStrong was the winner of CodeLaunch 7—the seventh iteration of the annual, national seed accelerator competition. 3GStrong is an elementary school curriculum that teaches social and emotional skills to children through a series of online stories and activities that can be done independently at home, face to face with a class, or can be taught as a combination of the two. This startup was founded by Kelly Starnes and Jamie Peden.
This blog details our 2019 Social Impact finalist’s, 3GStrong, startup journey and the critical role CodeLaunch played in the team’s narrative.
WHAT IS 3GSTRONG?
As an elementary school principal and teacher, respectively, Peden and Starnes’ inspiration behind 3GStrong came from a need they saw at school. Research shows that social and emotional skills are essential to success in both school and career. The two founders wanted to teach these skills to kids at an early age, but they couldn’t find a solution that accomplished everything they wanted out of a program while also being accommodating to teachers. Programs similar to 3GStrong often require teachers to spend a significant amount of time planning and executing on top of their already busy schedules, which subsequently takes time away from their families.
Given that, Peden and Starnes continued to push forward and develop their platform in the best interest of their children and children across the nation.
3GStrong, at its core, is an online curriculum designed to teach children the social and emotional skills critical to success. The offered curriculum is designed for schools, after school programs, and in-home learning. 3GStrong’s Educational material includes e-learning, interactive books, games for all kids, and so much more!
The 3GStrong curriculum also includes relevant and relatable characters in an entertaining presentation where teachers learn alongside students. Lessons include social and emotional development under three focal areas: grit, growth mindset, and grace.
Students connect to the stories and learn from characters Grit, Theo, and Grace in real-life lessons that teach students tools to be in control of their emotions, how to increase their intelligence, and strategies to overcome obstacles.
The 3GStrong lessons include teaching students about how their brain works and the power of breathing as one of the tools to be in control of their emotions, too.
3GSTRONG’S HISTORY & MILESTONES
Five years ago, Jamie Peden became the principal at the school where Kelly Starnes was a teacher. Being both educators and mothers, Peden and Starnes have witnessed firsthand how 3GStrong principles can help children succeed.
Starnes graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in Elementary Education and attended the University of North Texas for grad school concentrating in Education Psychology. She is the mother of two grown boys and she is married to a high school teacher and coach. Peden graduated from Texas A&M with a business degree. She owned a successful consulting company before moving into education when her children were young. Both are part of busy, active families.
On a personal note, Starnes says, “Between the two of us, Peden is the fun one. She argues I’m fun too, but she’s the risk taker in our partnership. I’m much more cautious and tend to really overthink things at times. I think it takes us both to be successful. At least for us, it works out pretty well.”
Both shared the idea that to really teach kids what they needed to succeed in today’s world, school must be more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Their belief was—and is—that it's important to create an emotionally safe culture in which kids can learn. Both were passionate about growing future adults and felt responsible as educators to make sure kids learn the tools to become happy, healthy, and productive citizens.
The Beginning of 3GStrong
Peden and Starnes became fast friends and spent many hours after school and on weekends creating what would be known as 3GStrong. It was their “nerdy hobby,” as Starnes calls it. They talked about and tried to find ways to teach kids the skills they felt they needed.
They started by looking for programs that were already created and discovered it was hard to find a comprehensive package to teach these "soft skills.” When they did find something that fit what they wanted to teach, they didn't believe the kids would resonate with the lesson enough to make the skills stick, that it wasn't consistent, or that it required too much time and work for teachers to prepare.
Starnes and Peden wanted a daily curriculum that would build culture, but it had to be short and fit into the busy daily schedule of elementary school without creating more work for teachers. They couldn't find that perfect solution so they began to brainstorm ideas on how to create their own.
Knowing how young kids relate to superheroes and characters, their solution was to create online stories and activities surrounding three characters who go through the same experiences and learn the same lessons as current elementary students do. Peden and Starnes developed realistic characters that learn social and emotional skills like self and social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making, planning and organizing, goal setting, how effort matters in growth, mindfulness, and more.
In the fall of 2016, Peden and Starnes organized these "soft skills" they felt kids needed to know under three main areas: grit, growth mindset, and grace. There, 3GStrong was born and they came up with the idea for the storyline that they used for 3GStrong in the fall of 2017. They shared the curriculum with others and tweaked it based on feedback they received. People kept telling them how much it helped them and their students. This feedback drove them because they wanted more people to experience it. They wanted children to grow. Their intention wasn’t to make a business initially; as natural educators and care-givers, they wanted to solve a real-world problem and ultimately make a real difference in the development of their children and students.
With only a small funding pool available, they hired an illustrator to design their characters and create their own scenes for the stories.
Furthermore, to establish an online presence, they hired Ansley Fones Web Design & Development to build out a website. Ansley helped them find presentation software that would work for 3GStrong stories and activities. They shared the stories with teachers and the response was overwhelming.
Since then, 3GStrong has evolved into a short, daily, online curriculum with professional voice-overs to read the stories aloud, activities that don't require materials, and discussion topics to help kids and teachers get to know each other and create class culture. Each lesson ends with a mindful breathing exercise to help kids learn to deal with stress and prepare for learning.
With the ease for teachers and the 3G skills kids were learning, teachers started asking for more. They said that it helped their students socially and allowed them to learn like never before with the sense of belonging and culture it created.
The company is growing, and the co-founders realize that they need their own platform to allow users to have the best experience as they move into making 3GStrong a viable business. CodeLaunch is allowing them to do this sooner than they ever imagined by making 3GStrong a viable business.
Peden and Starnes aren't at the same school anymore, but they still share the same passion, which has developed into a budding business. These two have big aspirations for 3GStrong's future!
Several things along the way have really helped the co-founders know they were headed in the right direction. Here are a few that stand out as milestones that helped them keep their focus on growing 3GStrong so it could help as many students as possible.
Parents sharing success stories of kids applying 3GStrong at home
- A student hurt his leg, and he said he used the breathing techniques he learned to help him stay calm while he was at the doctor.
- A student fell at gymnastics and told her mother, “It is ok, Mom. I have a growth mindset and will get up and try again. I know I can get it.”
- A parent said her child was arguing with her brother and later asked her Mom if she showed her brother grace because she was really trying to be kind and work through the problem.
National after-school care program piloted 3GStrong in three sites in Texas
- An after-school care program saw the positive impact 3GStrong had on an elementary school where it was being implemented before completion of the final product. They wanted to use what 3GStrong had to pilot the program at three of their after-school care sites in Texas. The managers at each site provided positive feedback, stating that the 3GStrong program made a real difference at their sites. After only using the program for a couple of weeks, they said they could see that students were acting more kind to one another and that students were using the breathing strategies to calm themselves down when they were upset. Managers reported that the children's overall behaviors were better and it helped their staff, too.
Teacher Survey Data - Took data on the schools where 3GStrong was piloted
- A student with more than two years growth shared that learning how to learn and have a growth mindset helped her become a better student.
Presented at the Texas Elementary Principal and Supervisor Conference (TEPSA) in Austin, Texas
- The after-school program invited 3GStrong to present on their behalf after attending 3GStrong training. Since then, 3GStrong has received more inquiries about their program.
3Gstrong became a CodeLaunch finalist!
After applying as a startup for the national seed accelerator and pitch competition, 3Gstrong was selected as one of the competition’s five finalists!
Peden is the co-owner of 3GStrong with prior experience as a successful business owner and has been in the field of education for 14 years.
Starnes is the co-owner of 3Gstrong with 20 years of experience in education and has 10 years of experience leading professional training for educators.
Tiffany is a consultant for 3GStrong and brings 21 years of educational experience with 9 of those years in counseling. She has trained with some of the most influential and knowledgeable researchers on grit, growth mindset, and grace.
THE CODELAUNCH EXPERIENCE
3GStrong pitched their startup idea to a panel and live audience on July 31, 2019. The result: 3GStrong was awarded the title of CodeLaunch 7 Overall Winner! An exclusive CodeLaunch 7 championship-style belt was awarded to Jamie Peden and Kelly Starnes upon being announced as the winner, and confetti was cued in celebration, closing the finalists’ event.
The startup entrepreneurs received additional seed services as a result of their recognition by the audience at CodeLaunch. Plus, their win has drawn the attention of a prominent Dallas media organizations.
Peden and Starnes’ win was only one of the major takeaways during their time at the event. With over 500 people in attendance, the startup entrepreneurs say that they “met so many people who have connected [them] to others who may want to help 3GStrong continue to gain momentum.”
They met many of those people at the startup expo. The CodeLaunch Startup Expo is a huge networking event with attendees who are looking to help propel startup companies. If you are an entrepreneur, it is a must because it can grow your network leaps and bounds. Peden and Starnes now have new relationships with CodeLaunch Expo participants and are excited to see what is to come of their business.
The women know that “meeting other people passionate about their idea was a wonderful experience,” but there was something more that CodeLaunch offered them.
“We believe CodeLaunch pushed us out of our comfort zone, which needed to happen for us to further our product,” said the CodeLaunch 7 Overall Winner.
They went on to say that their key takeaway from participating in CodeLaunch as a finalist was that “It was more fun and more challenging than we expected. It felt great to have people see what we’ve been working on for four years and see the value in it. I think a lot of people have ideas that are worth seeing, but they don’t know how to change it into an actual product. This is what CodeLaunch can do. It can help you launch your product into more than just an idea.”
AFTER CODELAUNCH AND WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
When asked about their next steps following the national seed accelerator competition and startup expo, 3GStrong’s co-founders said, “We’ve met a lot of people who just want to help us get our product out there to help kids. Now, we’re looking to fund the rest of our platform and develop the rest of our curriculum so we can push it out as soon as possible to impact as many kids as possible.”
The startup has received a lot of attention since the event. People have contacted Peden and Starnes just to connect with them because they believe in the power of social, academic, and emotional learning.
3GStrong plans to finish their application and get it implemented in Texas’ school curriculum as soon as possible. Then, they anticipate “branching out and changing the world to have Grit, a Growth Mindset, and Grace.”
A MESSAGE TO AND FROM 3GSTRONG
In closing their recap of their CodeLaunch experience as social impact finalists, Peden and Starnes advise people to take the chance on CodeLaunch. “Fill out the form. Just try it. You might just surprise yourself. You may have just what the world needs!” said 3GStrong’s co-founders.
For new startups their advice is to remember the three Gs. Keep a GROWTH mindset and believe you can even when it isn’t easy. Find the GRIT to make it happen. Finally, give yourself GRACE to be flexible and ask for help when you need it.
From everyone here at Code Authority, we wish 3GStrong continued success, as CodeLaunch is now under their belt—a CodeLaunch 7 Overall Winner’s belt, that is.
3GStrong's Success, 1 Year After Winning CodeLaunch
Since being crowned the overall winner at CodeLaunch 7 in 2019, 3GStrong has taken remarkable leaps towards success.
With a unique and groundbreaking concept, 3GStrong was destined for greatness, but every great idea needs a plan to execute. Co-founder, Jamie Peden, credits a lot of the early success to CodeLaunch, stating:
"We benefited from CodeLaunch in many ways, in addition to raising money. We have benefitted from the people you have put us in contact with and the services we have received and are receiving. All of it contributes to building the best product to meet the needs of our customers and hopefully soon to see a big return."
Just within the past year, 3GStrong has been able to raise over $100,000, but noted that they have received several offers for more.
Jamie Peden is extremely excited about the momentum of the startup and what the future holds in store for them.
“Based on our projections from our business mentors, the future is bright and we should have some impressive numbers in the future.”
3GStrong is one of many CodeLaunch finalists that have gone on to become very successful. If there was any doubt that CodeLaunch couldn't help your startup take off, hear it from 3GStrong themselves:
“I will say that all in all CodeLaunch elevated our business to the next level from planning, financial resources, networking and mentorship opportunities, research and development, marketing, legal services, and more.”
As is customary, the CodeLaunch winner from the previous year will be on the judge's panel for the following event. So, Kelly Starnes, herself, will be acting as a judge at CodeLaunch 8.
3GStrong will be rolling out a new and improved online program next month. Watch their social media for updates. You can follow them on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter @3GStrong, as well as their Facebook @GritGrowthGrace.
3GStrong’s Response to COVID-19
With the impact of COVID-19, 3GStrong has had to adapt, and their biggest obstacle has been timing. To combat that, they have hired more staff so they can accomplish more in a shorter timeframe.
They have also allowed teachers to Zoom with their program because ultimately their goal is to teach kids and help teachers. Their biggest accomplishment has been pivoting their program in a short period of time via online learning. They have had to think on their feet and focus on what is to come and what would be best for teachers and children—Coronavirus or not.
Join Us at CodeLaunch 8!
CodeLaunch 8 is still on and in person! Our team and the staff at the Comerica Center will be planning comprehensive health and safety measures to ensure we are abiding by social distancing policies. Read more in the announcement from CodeLaunch founder, Jason W. Taylor.
Reserve your spot as an attendee by buying a ticket to CodeLaunch 8!