Technology is constantly evolving, but for older generations, this can be scary and seeking help can feel paralyzing. In this episode, Wes sits down with Trish Lopez, Founder of Teeniors, a business created to connect tech-savvy teens with tech-hungry adults and seniors, to discuss mending this digital divide.
Trish shares her journey and the history behind Teeniors, her process for hiring employees, making her business lucrative, and the technological learning curve that came with the pandemic. She also addresses the impact of her business on seniors and shares Teeniors success stories. Additionally, Wes and Trish analyze when we start getting “bad” at technology and why it’s important to never stop learning.
Read Show Notes From This Episode (click to expand and read notes from the full interview)
- It’s almost as if it’s okay for someone to slowly not understand technology as they get older. Wes remembers people being confused about email. Then it just kept going from there. Rapidly evolving tech. Now facebook going to the metaverse.
Teeniors: tech savvy teens and young adults helping seniors learn tech through 1 on 1 personalized coaching. Our goal is to empower older folks while providing paying jobs for teens. It started in New Mexico. Virtually, it’s available all over the globe. In person it’s only in New Mexico right now.
Pre-pandemic it was 100% in person. In person in the office space downtown, at homes, senior centers, etc. Once covid hit, as you can imagine it was quite a learning curve telling folks how to do zoom. NPR had just done a great story on Teeniors. As restrictions have been lifted they’ve been doing more in person.
Wes says how do you make this lucrative? If it only costs $50 it’s not enough. If it’s $1500 that’s more than the computer costs. Trish Loves this because no one ever brings it up. Trish is not yet paying herself what she’s worth. The kids do get paid $15 or $16. (Trish used to work in the film industry). She’s been able to succeed as a small business but in no time she realized a lot of people couldn’t afford to pay. Trish doesn’t turn anyone away. They weren’t profiting. Now she has a small business and a non-profit. Almost like Bombas socks, where they give away a free pair of socks to someone in need. That’s not how Trish is doing it per se. What essentially happens is, that if someone can afford to pay she puts it through the small business, and if they can’t pay they put it through the non-profit.
Trish says it’s not hard to recruit the kids. If it did happen she would go to college for computer science projects. But they get great press so it’s been pretty easy to find people.
There are about a dozen teens working for her at any given time.
Impact on seniors: Goes way beyond a product or service. They address social isolation. They try to survey everyone they work with. And with their coaches. What has come from that has been astounding. They were getting ready to let go of one of his coaches and when she reached out he said “please don’t fire me, this is the reason I wake up in the morning. Give me another shot.” He had been in depression and that’s why he had been late. And after that he was fantastic.
In the beginning, Trish thought people would want to learn social media. But that’s been the least. They want to learn how to attach files. Whatsapp to talk to people in other countries. Get rid of spam emails and messages. Some are a little more advanced – got a new computer to want to learn how to transfer everything. Use cloud more efficiently. Use zoom.
Teens run from 15-29. It’s been back to being more in person than virtual. Sometimes contact them through the website. They always get a live person. Trish’s whole goal is to empower the people to do it themselves. Not to just do it for them.
If the client wants it at their home they’ll send an older teenior. The client will charge by the hour and then after that in 15 minutes. $39.95 per hour to start. And then $10 more if they want to visit the office. If they come to your home, then it’s $10 more ($59.95). How often does Trish see repeat biz? At least 35%. And it’s cool because it’s not usually about the same thing. Cool. Want to learn how to do a resume online or sell something on amazon. They want to learn. It’s empowering.
Client ages run from 50 to 103.
How do they train? Trish doesn’t train the kids in software or hardware. They hire them knowing what they know and that’s the topic they teach. Sometimes the teens are scared that they’ll be asked something they don’t know. She says don’t worry about it. Just tell them you don’t know it and google it. And almost always the older person is like “Oh fun! You don’t know either!”
Wes: Brings up Tom Vanderbilt’s “Beginners” – one of his favorite people he interviewed. Trying to break out of that human mode and not being scared to be a beginner despite age.
Wes: When do we start getting bad at tech? Trish says 50 seems to be the age. But even at her age, she has friends who want to do it but they are embarrassed because they feel like they should know. Trish has hired someone to wipe her computer because they are so fast.
The tech has changed so quickly in the world that of course people can’t keep up.
Are there other companies like Teeniors? (Geek Squad?) Wes doesn’t like the name of Geek Squad. But also, Geek Squad is going to do it for you, not empower you. Trish is very big on empowerment.
Trish thinks the intergenerational connections have been amazing because we live in an ageist society. To Trish, ageism can go either way – too young or too old. Trish says we reinforce it unintentionally by saying “I’m dating myself but . . .”
Trish says ageism is the same as racism or sexism.
One woman Trish met after a first time teenior was crying. Overwhelmed by feeling so welcomed. Didn’t feel stupid or condescended to. She just wanted to learn how to do boarding passes online. A young woman let me learn it myself. I asked them the same question 6 or 7 times and no one minded.
Trish realized that sometimes in surveys people were saying the coach was amazing but they’d only give him/her a 4 out of 5 because they felt like their own performance was bad.
Wes: an acceptable nudge is like “you don’t know computers. It’s funny and dumb, etc.” Wes is saying even his age range is saying it like a badge of honor – I don’t even need tech.
Wes asks how big Teeniors can get. Trish is a mom. How do you become a small giant? Trish brings up Navajo Nation. Every time there’s a national press piece on them they get calls from around the country.
Trish would like to put it as a non-profit if it scaled because she’s way more interested in helping people than she is about being a billionaire. Wes says that’s why this is going to continue to work. She sees her mission so clearly.
In film – Trish was working in the studios from college onward. Interned at Sony then Warner Bros. She said if you take out the cool industry it was really just an office job. It was cool but her actual job was just a job. What greater purpose was she adding to the world?
*Trish always says the main service they provide is human connection, not tech.*
Connecting seniors back into the world. Trish’s mom didn’t know you could just open a program and listen to music. Beach boys on Pandora. They’ve taught the mapping app. NY Times app would be more friendly than the website.
Never ever stop learning.
New Mexico is one of the most impoverished states in the country. Wes brings up how Suze Orman and how she says you have so many millions to be able to retire. Wes has gone the other way. You need more than social security. But you don’t have to have too many. $500,0000.
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