YouthBridge competition invites entrants, celebrates 10th anniversary​

​It’s been nearly a decade since the YouthBridge Community Foundation partnered with the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis to launch an innovative competition for mission-based organizations, known then as the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition.

The goal of the competition was to award funding to teams with innovative plans to address a social issue or problem. Since its inception, the competition has awarded more than $1.1 million to more than 40 social ventures, many of which were founded by Washington University students and alumni.

In 2009, YouthBridge increased its financial commitment to the competition, renaming it the YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition, emphasizing the goal of encouraging nonprofits to look to earned-income models for sustainability, rather than relying on traditional grants and donations. Entries for this year’s competition, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the partnership, are due Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Details are available on the Skandalaris Center’s IdeaBounce website.

With the help of YouthBridge, other funders have joined as sponsors in the competition, including the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, the Regional Arts Commission and the Brentmoor Foundation. Over the past 10 years, these funders and other donors have supported a wide variety of social ventures that meet their missions.

“We are very grateful for the seed funding YouthBridge and our sponsoring foundations have provided to bring the competition to where it is today,” said Emre Toker, managing director of the Skandalaris Center. “Their support has been invaluable as Washington University has increased its visibility in the area of social entrepreneurship, through our partnership with our funders and our colleagues at the Brown School.

“Our business plan competitions are great training grounds for our entrepreneurial students and faculty, and we have plans to increase our programming to even better prepare students for high-impact new venture formation,” he said.

Some past winners in the competition include:

  • Meds & Food for Kids (2006 winner), founded by Patricia Wolff, MD, professor of clinical pediatrics, is dedicated to saving the lives of Haiti’s malnourished children and other nutritionally vulnerable people by developing, producing and distributing highly nutritious foods, including the gold-standard Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).
  • St Louis Dancing Classrooms​ (2010), founded by Olin Business School graduate Lauren Wilmore and inspired by the hit documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” brings its economical, effective and fun social development program to schools throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.
  • Janji (2011), was co-founded by Washington University alumni Dave Spandorfer and Mike Burnstein and sells running apparel modeled after the flags of various countries, with each piece of Janji apparel providing clean water through partnerships with organizations working in those countries.
  • Perennial (2011) was founded by Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts graduate Jenny Murphy and is a community workshop and store in St. Louis that offers educational programming in creative reuse to diverse populations and sells creatively repurposed home goods and eco-friendly project supplies.
  • The Migrant & Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project (2012), founded by Washington University Law School alumni Nicole Cortes and Jessica Mayo, provides legal assistance and outreach to the immigrant community.
  • Independent Youth (2013), founded by community entrepreneur Tanya Hamilton, generates entrepreneurial awareness and understanding among youth through an array of educational programs and hands-on experiences.
  • Made for Freedom (2014), supported by a 2014 Hatchery team from Olin Business School, is a social enterprise addressing the issue of sex trafficking through sales of its “Creabelis” pants. Made for Freedom was also a winner in the 2014 Arch Grants competition.
  • STEMs for Youth (2014), founded by then-freshman Allen Osgood in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, lowers the barrier to entry for STEM education by fostering student interest in STEM subjects, igniting their desire to learn and providing them an accessible outlet to explore their interests.

“We are proud of the positive social impact achieved within our community as part of the YouthBridge SEIC and our partnership with Washington University,” said Michael Howard, chief executive officer of the YouthBridge Community Foundation. “Seeing nonprofit organizations embrace innovation and apply entrepreneurial practices to their business models has been especially exciting.”