Storytime! From couch-surfer to award-winning CEO

Meet Arieann DeFazio. 

She is the CEO and founder of Kitables, a company that breaks down barriers to DIY projects by offering accessible kits and hosting social DIY project building events. SheEO just named her one of the top 5 female CEO’s in the nation.  

I got to meet up with Arieann for a personal branding photo shoot and learn what she’s all about. We talked about her humble beginnings and how she handles the ever-present “impostor syndrome”. She also shared her excitement and disbelief around this whole empire she is building. 

Q: Tell me your story, how did your company get started?

Arieann: “I was not by any means born into this life. I grew up as a barefoot redneck child in south Florida, pretty much on my own since I was 13. And yet I ended up with an almost-PhD in biochemistry and running companies. The struggle has been real for me, pretty much until I was 27. That’s when I moved to Colorado and things started to turn around. 

“I moved to Boulder as my quarter life crisis. I didn’t have a plan, it wasn’t an intelligent thought-out thing, I just had a freak-out. I was getting my doctorate in Florida and I was a competitive rock climber at the time. I know, it’s like a Jamaican bobsled team – makes zero sense. I was living in a place that I hated that did not fit my personality. I came out here to visit a friend and I just fell in love with Colorado. I put everything I owned in my car, quit my doctorate, and drove out here two weeks later.”

“People ask if I moved here for the startup scene, and I didn’t even know there was one! I stayed in a spare bedroom and needed to eat, so I spent my first few years working in a lab as a biochemist at the University of Colorado.”

Q: What inspired you to create Kitables?

Arieann: “I was working at the university as a biochemist and – fun fact – I wasn’t making enough money to live in boulder. So I went on Craigslist and worked all kinds of odd jobs – even chalking on the sidewalk for advertisements.”

“I finally wound up as an R&D scientist at Geekify, here I had my lightbulb moment. I had access to all these makerspaces and machine shops, both at Geekify and at the university so I could basically make anything I wanted. The only thing stopping me from making something was my ability to figure it out … and money.”

“Then in 2014 on my birthday weekend I was driving up into the mountains to go mountain biking and this thought just pops into my head: I make all this really cool stuff and it’s dope and I want other people to make cool stuff. But how do other people do it? I have all these cool DIY tools at my disposal but it still kinda sucks to make stuff – there’s still all this background work and planning… I can solve that – I’ll just take everything you need for a project and put it in a box.”

“I launched a Kickstarter two months later. It got funded and I pulled everything together to produce my very first kitable – a rubiks cube solving machine.”

Q: Why are you passionate about what you do?

Arieann: “What makes Kitables special is that we specifically focus on adults. We’re not an “education tech” company, Kitables was made to build confidence in people. I don’t care if you understand why the thing works, all I care about is that you realize that you built it.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a 35 year old with a dual masters degree freak out about soldering and then five minutes later look at me and be like “that was it”? Mind blown. That’s what we’re trying to build!”

“You don’t wake up with Elon Musk style confidence one day, there are baby steps along the way and I think building and physically interacting with things is a very big part of the way humans learn. It’s also something that is dwindling out of our everyday lives, particularly for adults. That’s where Kitables comes in. Kitables gets people interested. It’s like saying “hey, you can do this. It’s not that scary, it’s not that serious.” 

Q: What are you most excited about right now?

 Arieann: “My goal is to build confidence in people. We came up with the concept of the Build n’ Brew micro-event. It’s very similar to paint and wine nights except with drones and beer.”

“We go around to local breweries and co-working spaces and we drink beer and we build stuff for two hours. It’s in a casual, fun environment that focuses on the social aspect to bring down the scary factor. There’s a “buildologist” there to help you if you get stuck and a community of builders to support each other. It’s a great date-night activity.”

The first time we ran an event, I was like “this is it! this is the business I’ve been trying to build!” Now our big goal is expanding the Build n’ Brews platform so we can get it in many states – we even ran some in Australia! 

Read the rest of Arieann’s story and see more awesome personal branding photos on my Denver Photographer website!