Kayleigha Zawacki, Science Division LLC, Leominster, MA
Inspired by a childhood dream
Kayleigha Zawacki’s business started with a childhood dream – to own a Tribble – a fictional pet from a 1960s episode of Star Trek. Growing up, Kayleigha bonded with her father and sister by watching episodes of Star Trek on VHS. Encouraging of his daughters’ love of science fiction, Kayleigha’s father designed a playhouse to look like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. One of Kayleigha’s favorite episodes was “The Trouble with Tribbles” which featured adorable, fluffy, round animals called Tribbles. Tribbles enchanted the crew of the Enterprise with their affectionate trilling, and also had the superpower of detecting Klingons, enemies of the Enterprise and the federation they represented. “As a child, I desperately wanted a pet Tribble,” confesses Kayleigha. “Most children who see the episode . . . do.”
Kayleigha hoped a company licensed by CBS would create and market Tribbles for loyal Trekkies, but after waiting for over twenty years, Kayleigha decided to take matters into her own hands and create her own interactive Tribble.
Determined and self-reliant, Kayleigha turned to online tutorials to learn to code Arduino microcontrollers with C++. Her husband Jay supported her work by learning to solder electronics. After much trial and error, Kayleigha’s first prototype Tribble went from “4 square feet of wire clamps and speakers and breadboards” to a trilling and screaming programmable Tribble that “fit neatly inside a hand-sewn plush.” The Tribble could be programmed via a bluetooth linked app to “recognize” friends, scream at enemies and guard possessions. The end result was an immediate success with friends, family and even Kayleigha’s grandmother. Based on the positive feedback, Kayleigha and Jay decided to take the Tribble to the public.
“CWE has been an incredible resource.”
As CBS Studios holds both the copyright for Star Trek and trademarks for related logos and merchandise, Kayleigha and Jay knew they needed a licensing agreement with CBS. After initial talks with CBS and a licensing affiliate fell through, Kayleigha and Jay decided to license the Tribble directly with CBS. To do so, they needed to start their own company.
In May 2018, Kayleigha got into contact with the Central Massachusetts office of CWE. “Michelle was immediately optimistic and provided countless resources to help me get started,” explains Kayleigha. Among the contacts provided by CWE were an affordable attorney to set up Science Division as a limited liability company and an accountant to guide the company through online tax collection regulations. Samantha Pevear from CWE walked Kayleigha through establishing a social media presence. “CWE has been an incredible resource,” recounts Kayleigha; for any question she has emailed CWE “I have a response almost immediately. We have covered how to start a business, marketing, startup funding, etc.”.
Learning Through Doing
Neither Kayleigha nor Jay had been entrepreneurs prior to launching Science Division in February 2019. Both Kayleigha and Jay are lighting designers for theater and are continuing to work while launching the business. Additionally, Kayleigha has just started graduate school. “This has been a learning experience every step of the way. We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” reveals Kayleigha. “For me, this process has been about fighting for a childhood dream. When we hit an obstacle, we find a way to overcome it—like on Star Trek.” Currently, Tribbles are available for adoption through pre-sale on Kayleigha and Jay’s website ScienceDiv.com. Pre-sale funds will help cover the cost of manufacturing the Tribbles. They are estimated to ship in early 2020.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Kayleigha has learned a lot over the past year and has several great pieces of advice for others who are thinking of starting their own business:
“It is going to be the hardest thing that you have ever done—so be passionate about it.”
“Always ask for help.”
“Look for resources. Jay and I founded this business with internet tutorials, and with mentorship from other people who have done this before.”
‘[S]tart growing your social media following as early as possible. You are going to need it!”
Special thanks to CWE volunteer writer, Amy Henderson
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