35 Plans for Social Impact Created by Teenage Entrepreneurs

In a social impact, youth-driven version of television’s “Shark Tank” – minus the snarky comments and big egos – more than 125 teenagers, comprising 35 teams from across Lynn and Greater Boston, showed up at the Brown Brothers Harriman office in downtown Boston on Saturday,  November 15, 2014 to pitch their ideas for social change and compete for up to $1,000 in seed money.

As part of United Way’s Youth Venture initiative these social entrepreneurs spent the last two months working with their mentors (United Way volunteers from many of our local corporate partners) to flush out their ideas and develop business plans which included objectives, strategies, and estimated budgets.

They then gave up a Saturday to pitch their plans and prepared to be grilled (like all entrepreneurs seeking funding) by panelists that included top business leaders at companies like Hubspot, Mass Challenge, State Street, Brown Brothers Harriman, and more, for the chance to put their plan into action.

So what do our local youth want to change?

  • A group of teens from the Youth & Police in Partnership (YPP) program based out of Children’s Services of Greater Roxbury want to start an initiative called “Can You Hear Me?” that will build awareness and peer support for bullying and hazing by promoting volunteer work and support resources.
  • A group of 6 middle schoolers from the Marshall Middle School in Lynn, each of whom is from a different country and has been in the U.S. for 2 years or less, want to show that immigrants can be community leaders too. They plan to host a local basketball tournament to raise money for homelessness, donating profits to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.
  • And a returning Youth Venture team, Project YELL from Lynn, wants to continue to grow their successful group of young environmental leaders to help clean up their city.

The teens also learned important workplace lessons, like:

  • How to stand in front of a room of strangers, overcome stage-fright, and speak passionately about things that are important to you
  • How to answer critical questions on the spot
  • How to adapt on-the-fly when technology and power point presentations fail at the precise moment you need them!

Keynote speaker George Foreman III, former professional boxer and owner of the South Boston gym The Club by George Foreman III, fired up the crowd with his advice on entrepreneurship and the importance of never giving up.

Seeing the passion and dedication presented by the Youth Venture teams also reaffirmed what we already know – that when given an opportunity to lead, youth are inspiring, thoughtful, and engaged in improving their community.

Teams will be notified in December of the funding decisions.  Then, they will spend the rest of the year working with their mentors to implement their ventures.   We can’t wait to see what they do!

Read more about last year’s successful Youth Venture projects.