Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation and early-stage education startup incubator 4.0 Schools teamed up to launch the first PitchNOLA: Education to award cash prizes to entrepreneurial solutions to increase equitable education outcomes for all New Orleanians. On Wednesday, November 4, ten semi-finalists pitched to a packed house at the Propeller incubator.
A total of $10,711.55 in seed funding, provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and audience donations, was awarded to the four finalists of the evening.
The judging panel included Kathleen Padian, Forrest Collins, Amanda Kruger Hill, and Deirdre Johnson Burel.
“What stood out to me was the desire to uncover key challenges and be really creative about finding solutions,” said PitchNOLA judge Amanda Kruger Hill, Executive Director of the Cowen Institute. “What I saw tonight was this vision for youth success, for a city not only where every child has access to excellent education pre-K to 12, but where every young person has access to a job that they love and access to high-quality education beyond high school.”
In a surprising twist, the judges announced that three ventures had tied for first prize, the first time to ever happen in the years of other PitchNOLA events. Judges split the $9,000 grand prize evenly three ways between College Bridge New Orleans, RAE Grooming Barbershop, and NOLA Go!. The remaining second place prize of $1,000 went to The Southern History Project.
College Bridge New Orleans helps New Orleans public school graduates enroll and succeed in college by providing assistance with financial aid applications, summer support with the enrollment process, and experienced guides who work directly with students as they transition to college the first year. With this latest funding, the startup will expand their services to two partner high schools, impacting 200 more students in the transition to college.
RAE Grooming Barbershop, LLC prevents youth in the juvenile justice system from entering a cycle of incarceration by mentoring young men into manhood through a paid apprenticeship program and a pathway to long-term stable self- employment in barbering and personal grooming. The entrepreneurs plan to launch a pilot with four youth over the next year.
An initiative of the New Orleans Kids Partnership (NOKP), NOLA Go! increases access to public transportation and a coordinated system of youth services and resources, ranging from the New Orleans Public Library, to recreation centers, to after-school programs.NOLA Go! will pay for the core costs to launch a five-month pilot for 50 students starting in January with the prize money they received.
College Writing Buddies took home the Audience Favorite Award of $711.55 for their idea to bridge the writing achievement gap by digitally connecting university and low-income public school students.