Science magazine founder turns her kitchen into a lab

Jenny Inglis, who created children’s publication Whizz Pop Bang, and her family trial the science experiments at home.

Like many home-based entrepreneurs, Jenny Inglis also has a family to look after. But while most have to work out how to fit running the business around their caring responsibilities, Inglis’s business is a family affair, with everyone – husband and three children – pitching in.

A graduate in physics, Inglis worked for several years in scientific publishing before having children.

When the time approached for her youngest child to start school, she decided to put into practice an idea she’d been nurturing for a while: a scientific magazine for children. “I have done science activities with my own children, so science has been a big thing in our family life,” she says. “I wanted to do something that would help more children, and on a nationwide scale.”

Over the summer, Inglis raised initial funding of £12,000 through Kickstarter, and in September, Whizz Pop Bang was launched – an attractively illustrated, full-colour, 36-page monthly magazine aimed at children between the ages of 6 and 11 (although parents read it too, says Inglis). Now three months old, the magazine has 3,000 subscribers.

Each magazine includes numerous suggestions for experiments that children can do at home. “The experiments all need to be tested first. That’s how I’ve changed working from home from being the problem to being the solution,” says Inglis.

The kitchen in their Gloucestershire home is now a makeshift science lab, as Inglis tries out the activities with her own children, who range in age from four to nine. The windowsills are full of jars growing different kinds of crystals, and fake blood mixed in pudding basins.

Some experiments are messier than others, and there can be a lot of cleaning up required to transform the “science lab” back into a functioning kitchen. “It’s sometimes hectic, but we work around it,” says Inglis.

“We’ve had model rollercoasters spanning the living room furniture and had catapults being fired between children’s bedrooms. The neighbours weren’t too impressed when a drinks bottle rocket blasted into their garden, but on the whole it’s been pretty friendly.”

The magazine has a broad enough scope to appeal to everyone, whether they’re budding physicists, biologists or chemists. When Inglis buys magazines for her own children, she dislikes the amount of commercial content, so there is no advertising in Whizz Pop Bang.

It’s also important that the magazine’s content is gender-neutral: “I get very frustrated about the lack of women in science, having experienced sexism at university, such as comments about women being at the kitchen sink instead of in laboratories. I wanted to be part of the solution and try to change that attitude.”

Inglis does most of the writing herself, although she has brought in other contributors, mostly other school mothers with a science background. A freelance illustrator provides the artwork. Inglis stores most of the materials in plastic crates in her garage.

Her husband, a vet and DIY fanatic, does some of the writing and has built a packing station in a storage room where magazines can be prepared for posting out to customers.

“It’s truly a family business,” says Inglis. “There’s no escaping Whizz Pop Bang in our house.”

Whizz Pop Bang was shortlisted in the Small Business Showcase competition’s Home Business Innovation category. This post originally appeared in The Guardian

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