Gangplank Jr

At Chandler’s Gangplank, adults can “be dangerous,” testing out ideas and launching start-up businesses, all with the support of like-minded individuals.

But in Arizona’s schools, with the stress on core academics, risk-taking disappears.

That’s why the Gangplank community — small business owners who use the Chandler space to work and collaborate — started Gangplank Junior, where business owners bring in experts on science, art, and even tattooing, to turn on the creative juices kids don’t always reach for today.

Susan Baier of Chandler said her 12-year-old daughter still talks about a Gangplank Junior event last year when she put a tattoo on one of the adults teaching the class. And it wasn’t a temporary tattoo, but a permanent one with the image of the Gangplank Junior’s skull logo.

A group of about a dozen kids — ages 4 to 14 — spent that day learning about tattooing, what it is, how the machine works, and safety considerations, Baier said. They then put permanent tattoos on grapefruit.

But Emma, then 10 with a birthday the following day, wanted to do a real one. And the teacher, a friend of Susan’s, said, “Why not?”

“I have a picture of my 10-year-old tattooing this burly guy. It was great. I was the super cool mom that day,” Susan Baier said.

Baier, owner of Audience Audit and a “Gangplanker” herself, said these events give kids a chance to try something “dangerous” and learn that it’s OK. During last month’s program, students separated hydrogen and oxygen from water — then used the hydrogen to launch rockets.

“It seems a little dangerous. It seems a little exciting. It teaches them it’s OK to try things that are new and scary as long as you’re careful and have supervision,” she said.

And that’s the idea behind Gangplank.

“The nice thing about Gangplank Junior is it’s introducing them to an amazing group of people who are doing scary things every day. Starting your own business, that’s scary. But it teaches them they can do those things if they have a community of people to help you to do it safely and support them,” she said. “I really hope Gangplank Junior is creating a future generation of Gangplankers.”

Susan’s oldest child may be one of them. Sparked by the people he’s met, he recently participated in a Gangplank event where teams spent a weekend starting a business.

Katie Hurst, global operations director for Gangplank, said the “junior” program started within the Gangplank community.

“At Gangplank, a lot of business owners are families, parents. They want to expose the children to a lot of what they have,” she said.

The first program — held a few years back — was along the lines of the TV show “MythBusters,” where the children did “fun science.” Students have learned computer coding, tested their skills as comic drawers and built robots with Legos.

Later this month, a comic will come in to teach students improvisation.

All programs are free and open to the public. To help fund Gangplank Junior, a casino night fundraiser will be held in October.

Hurst hopes Gangplank Junior supplements what students learn at school with the move from a skilled society to a knowledge-based society.

“Now companies are looking for people to manage multiple positions and projects, innovate and have skills outside the box,” Hurst said. “Schools are teaching reading and writing, but they (students) also need to learn problem solving, how to fail, how to pick a job in the economy.”

That failure piece is key.

“Here, kids take risk and fail … We want them to learn that’s OK. A lot of adults learn failure (when their) business failed, but then they bounce back and find something else to do,” she said.

To learn more, see the Gangplank Junior Facebook page.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

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