Jennifer Turliuk, MakerKids
“Our curriculum is all based on helping kids become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Jennifer Turliuk has always had a passion for technology. At just 12 years old, she coded her very first website for a school book report on Harry Potter. The website went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of page views, and was even featured in a major children’s magazine. Experiencing that level of success at an early age was empowering, says Turliuk. “That was the moment when I realized I could do anything.”
Turliuk took that passion and continued to create. She attended business school at Queen’s University and was selected to attend NASA’s prestigious Singularity University, where she learned about exponential technologies like robotics and 3D printing, and how to apply those technologies to education. After this experience, Turliuk decided to start MakerKids to empower other young people to reach their potential through technology.
Based in Toronto, MakerKids offers programs, summer camps, and birthday parties for children aged eight to 12 on topics like coding, Minecraft, and robotics. With its innovative curriculum, MakerKids has caught the attention of media like Wired, Popular Science, and CTV News, and received accolades for its programs in Toronto Life and Today’s Parent.
Turliuk says MakerKids’ goal is simple: to move kids from consumers to creators. While technical skills are the primary focus, students come away with much more. “Our curriculum is all based on helping kids become the leaders of tomorrow,” says Turliuk. “Not only are we teaching them technology skills, we’re also teaching them skills like leadership, resilience, creativity, and more.”
Thousands of students have graduated from MakerKids, and many have gone on to start their own businesses or to present their projects on national television. Some have even reached out to Turliuk about opening their own MakerKids locations, which prompted Turliuk to consider franchising. “Once more than 50 people had reached out to us, we thought, ‘maybe this is something we want to consider,’” she says.
After hiring a franchise lawyer, developing operations manuals, and joining the Canadian Franchise Association in early 2016, MakerKids is well positioned to begin franchising. The company already has potential franchisees interested in Ottawa and Calgary. Turliuk hopes to find the first franchisee by the end of the year and to continue to grow steadily, providing more kids with the opportunity to learn, create, and be empowered.
In February 2017, she was named the top young franchisor in the world, taking home the first place Grand Prize in the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) NextGen in Franchising Global Competition, an accolade that will no doubt help her with her franchise expansion plans. “I am so happy and grateful to have won the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition,” says Turliuk. “I am proud to have made this a ‘hat-trick’ for Canada as the third Canadian to win the competition. I look forward to using the learnings from this experience to grow our brand and expand the Canadian economy.”