After months of preparation by participants in the inaugural Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Competition, the finalists have officially been selected.
On March 30th, fourteen semi-finalists and their teams were joined by members of the St. Louis community at a speaker event held at Washington University. Serving as keynote speaker for this event was Theresa Wilson, founder of The Blessing Basket Project, a sustainable non-profit operating in 5 countries around the world which helps impoverished women to rise out of poverty. Theresa shared with the audience her moving story about how her project has enabled hundreds of women around the world to feed and shelter their families, start small businesses, and regain their self-confidence and dignity.
Following Theresa’s speech, the eight finalists were announced. This year’s SEIC finalists are:
• ArtWorks Enterprises: Part of an existing nonprofit organization, the project will sell products such as note cards and calendars designed by at-risk teenagers who are apprentices to artists.
• BUILD St. Louis: Businesses United for Independent Local Development is a coalition of St. Louis area business owners, residents and community development organizations that provide support for homegrown entrepreneurs.
• The Haven of Grace: A residential facility serving the homeless, children, and pregnant women is increasing its capacity by building a 12-unit apartment complex. The organization will provide retail training through an on-site resale shop.
• La Loba Life Services: Brings writers to the bedside of hospice patients to assist the patients in turning their memories into written legacies.
• Meds & Food for Kids: Produces and distributes an innovative, nutrient-rich peanut butter paste, called Ready-to Use Therapeutic Food, for children dying of malnutrition in Haiti.
• Panda Athletic Club: A full service boxing gym geared toward teaching boxing to underprivileged, at-risk teens. The gym will also provide mentoring and tutoring.
• Redevelopment Opportunities for Women: Provides victims of domestic violence with assistance to develop knowledge and skills needed to increase the economic empowerment of women.
• The Wyman Center’s Peak Performance Profile Initiative: Helps organizations locate and develop potential employees to lead the children and youth the center serves
These teams are still in the running for up to $65,000 in funding from Washington University and The YouthBridge Organization. The next steps for finalists include submission of a sustainability plan on April 12th and a final presentation to judges at a private event on April 27th. Winners will be announced at a public event in May on the Washington University campus.
The Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition (SEIC) is the first of its kind in the region. The competition was launched in September, 2005 as a joint venture sponsored by Washington University and the YouthBridge Association. In the months following, participants have attended workshops and networking events where they received feedback from a variety of people who are experts in social entrepreneurship and innovation. The goal of the workshops is to assist participants in developing sustainable plans for their concepts. Both existing and new not-for-profit organizations are eligible to participate.
The Skandalaris Center stimulates a campus-wide environment of collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurial creativity. This expands learning, understanding and economic opportunities for students, faculty and the St. Louis community. The Center supports entrepreneurship in all academic disciplines and defines it as “the process of seeing novel opportunities, acting energetically, and using limited resources and collaboration to create new value for others.”
The YouthBridge Association is a 135-year-old organization that was previously known as the General Protestant Children’s Home for children. YouthBridge’s mission evolved to fund and support multiple innovative youth-focused social ventures, some of them located on its 19-acre Creve Coeur campus. YouthBridge has supported and funded ventures designed to operate as independent entities following the association’s initial support. YouthBridge’s goal is to support more ventures that can benefit from the organization’s initial support and then grow into self-sufficient entities.