February 19, 2019
BUILD Boston Raises $660K via Student Pitch Challenge

June 21, 2018 — BUILD Boston, a Boston-based nonprofit that uses entrepreneurship and experiential learning to help prepare youth in under-resourced communities for high school, college, and career success, announced that it recently raised $660,000 at its second annual student pitch competition, surpassing its goal by 20%.

Funds will support the organization's Youth Entrepreneurship program, which serves 400 students in seven Boston high schools.

The 2018 BUILDFest Pitch Challenge, held June 4 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, which drew 500 attendees, sought to raise $550,000. Last year's event raised $560,000 and attracted a similar number of people.

Ayele Shakur, chief executive officer of BUILD Boston, said, “Having corporate partners sponsor a student team, versus a table, helps to better engage our supporters in our program. In addition to financial resources, they provide mentors and coaches for the student businesses that they sponsored, and they stay involved in BUILD throughout the year, not just at this annual event.”

Funds were raised primarily by sponsorships, with corporations and companies sponsoring each of the 37 ninth grade student business teams. In addition, another $60,000 was raised during the event via a Fund-A-Future effort, a live auction, and several online auctions.

Funds raised at BUILDFest represent one-third of the funds BUILD Boston aims to raise this year.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh opened the event, and 25News Anchor Vanessa Welch served as master of ceremonies.

Last year was the first time BUILD Greater Boston raised funds via the pitch challenge, which replaced the organization's traditional gala.

With the focus on students, the event provided supporters and audience "a chance to see in action the fruits of the BUILD program, rather than hearing an adult, and one chosen student, talk about it," according to Will Leitch, grants and communications manager for BUILD Boston.

Three ninth-grade finalist teams presented to a panel of VIP judges, and the audience participated by voting.

Winning the pitch competition was Bottom Feeders, a company launched by Joshua Ramgee and Katio Barbosa from the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, which makes an adhesive vinyl sheet that prevents unwanted objects from sticking to the bottom of sneakers.

Bottom Feeders received $2,000 cash and a workshop offered by Underscore VC. The three finalist teams also received a laptop computer donated by Comcast.

During the school year, the Bottom Feeders student team was mentored weekly by Sally Rowland, development and programs associate at SquashBusters, Inc., and Jameson Toole, cofounder and CEO at Fritz. The student business was sponsored by fama PR and Viacom.

The judges included Jane Steinmetz, managing principal of EY; Bob Davis, general partner at Highland Capital Partners; Ivy Brown, president of the Northeast Region for UPS; and Katie Rae, CEO and managing partner of MIT’s The Engine.

At a business expo held during the event, 40 student teams sold more than 1,000 items to more than 250 shoppers, netting nearly $10,000, which they kept.

“Imagine what it must feel like at 14 years old to take an idea from concept to customer and to stand at the Student Business Expo selling your product as the CEO of a company that you created,” said Shakur. “That experience changes what’s possible in a young person’s life. In BUILD, we don’t just teach students how to build a business, we teach them how to build their lives.”

Among the products sold at the Expo were: Pet Delights, homemade pet treats for a person’s best friend, from Charlestown High School; Custom Coasters, coasters printed on a 3-D printer, from Madison Park High School, Roxbury; Spread the Love Pins, inspirational pins that showcase the causes you support, from Another Course to College, Hyde Park; and Thermoware, spoons that change with the temperature of your dish, from Community Academy of Science and Health, Dorchester.

Since launching in 2011, BUILD Boston has incubated more than 150 student businesses.

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