Hackstudio cofounders Randy Blaugh '91 (left) and Mike Meiners '96
When Mike Meiners ’96 first thought about making a business out of a bonding activity with his son, he knew which friend to tap: Randy Blaugh ’91.
Blaugh and Meiners met in the early 90s through a mutual Northwestern connection, and they became close friends. Over the years, Blaugh, who then worked in finance, and Meiners, an artist, would often get together to catch up and talk about ideas.
Meiners’s business idea came from his son, who in kindergarten expressed an aversion to math. Remembering how project-based learning allowed him to conquer his own dislike of math, Meiners devised a way to make the subject an engaging and personal experience: For one hour a day, Meiners worked with his son on a math-related activity of his son’s choosing, called “project time.”
“People thought it was impossible to allow each kid choose to pursue ‘anything they set their mind to’ because it would mean 30-40 kids each doing something different all at the same time. They thought it’d be chaos. We’ve shown there’s a way to do it. And not only have we shown it can be done, we’ve shown that it’s awesome,” Blaugh says.
Today, Meiners and Blaugh together run Hackstudio, which opened in 2015. The business, originally conceived for children, provides a space for the entire community to pursue projects independently, in groups, or with mentors. Longtime North Shore residents, Blaugh and Meiners say they already see the positive impact the center is making on their community.
“It’s giving people a place… where who they are, as they are, is valued and supported,” Meiners says. “That learning and growth can be joyous for the individual and can expand the individual into their place in the fabric of society.”
Meiners says attending Northwestern not only played a big role in him meeting his business partner, but the experience also reinforced his desire to have a positive social impact. Blaugh agrees. “Had we not gone [to Northwestern], we wouldn’t have met each other, and this all would be very different,” he says. “Without [Northwestern], I would not be able to see these type of opportunities, be able to take this kind of risk, and to do something that I believe is going to have, hopefully, a very significant impact on the world.”