Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Michelle Ross, the chief operating officer of COSMO Technologies Inc. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Michelle! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Michelle: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Big technology companies make the most money when people use their devices all the time. Tech is amazing, but we’re also learning that constant technology use can be harmful or addictive—especially for kids. At my company, COSMO, we’re building tech products that connect kids to their families in thoughtful, age-appropriate ways. We’re building an operating system that will support a whole list of family technology devices, starting with a safe 4G smartwatch made just for kids!
Spiffy: That’s awesome! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Michelle: I’ve always been passionate about helping kids and families learn and thrive. In my first job, I was a seventh grade math teacher. When I started teaching, educational technology was pretty new, and I started using iPads to help students learn in the classroom. Eventually, this led me to Apple and then to a project in India and Kenya, where I helped scale tech-based learning programs to help people get better jobs. At COSMO, I get to make technology that improves kids’ lives—and it’s the best job.
Spiffy: How are you and your team at COSMO working towards a more equitable world?
Michelle: At COSMO, we believe that every family, every parent, and every kid should be able to be safely connected in an age-appropriate way. We’ve worked hard to build a product with features that emphasize connection, safety, and affordability for every family. One example of this is how we built a parent-controlled 911 calling feature into our JrTrack kids smartwatch to give parents the opportunity to train their kids for emergencies and give them access to critical help in a crisis.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your audience?
Michelle: This year we launched an updated version of our 4G kids smartwatch, called the JrTrack 2. This watch had features that our customers asked for, and I felt proud knowing that we listened to what kids and their parents said that they needed—and then got to share the improved watch with them. Next year, we’ll be launching our smartwatch in other countries, and I am excited that kids around the world will have access to a safe and affordable communication option that connects them to their families.
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Michelle: Since starting my company, I’ve had to learn a lot about how to give my best while balancing my priorities. In addition to my job, I have a family of my own and am a foster parent. I always feel like a failure when I run out of time or make the wrong choice in the most important ways to spend my time. But I’ve learned that I can only get so much done in a day! For any of us, it’s so important to understand our biggest priorities and then be kind to ourselves when we do our absolute best.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Michelle: I hope families know that there are good options for family-safe, age-appropriate tech out there! One parent told us that her child was able to use our smartwatch to call 911 after her grandmother had a medical emergency (she was okay!). Stories like this are what motivate me every day. At our best, I hope that COSMO can be the company that reimagines a new world of tech that helps kids stay kids—while being able to access a connection that makes everyone safer.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Michelle—it’s been an honor!
Michelle Ross is the chief operating officer of COSMO Technologies Inc. She was a seventh grade math teacher before becoming a business leader and tech entrepreneur. She is passionate about education, social justice, and inviting people from all backgrounds into her home for good food and storytelling. Michelle lives in Colorado and enjoys skiing and hiking with her family. (Nominated by Charlotte Michailidis of Parenthood Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 4, 2023.)
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.