It’s summer. School’s out and for many of the students, the city is a playground. Some participate in internships but what if, instead of internships, you start a program where they can learn what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and start a business?
That’s precisely what the New York chapter of MIT Enterprise Forum decided to do with their newly inaugurated MIT Enterprise Forum NYC Future Entrepreneurs.
“For the pilot program, we reached out (NYC Promise coordinated) to public schools in NYC that had highly diverse student populations and a strong record of success in getting girls into college,” said Lori Hoberman, who chairs the MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC, “NYC Promise coordinated it. The contact points for NYCPromise were, in one case, the school principal; in another, the founder of the school; and NYU, which has a strong outreach program to city high schools. Each school was allotted a certain number of places.
“The girls were recommended for the program by their advisors and teachers. Most of the girls were rising seniors, a couple had just graduated, several were juniors and a few were sophomores,” Hoberman explained. “We had about 50 girls apply.”
To be eligible, students were required to be interested in the field of business and or any STEM fields and perform at the top quartile of their class.
Seventeen in all were selected to participate.
While all were computer literate, “not all (by a long shot) possessed computers. Four of the 17 were able to bring a laptop or iPad for the group business development exercise,” she added.
They were divided into four groups (“none of the girls in any of the groups knew each other previously”). The program ran for a week, mentored by Stephanie Cion, Founder, WELLalarm, Katja Bartholmess, Founder & CEO at Gimme Gorgeous, me (MIT Enterprise Forum NYC), and Hal Goldstein (NYC Promise), who were also the group who put the program together.
There was a competition for Best Idea at the end of the week, and the winners walked away with their own Kindles. (All participants one a One-Year Membership to the MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC).
If you want to know what’s on the minds of young entrepreneurial girls, here are the projects they came up with and fleshed out in just five days:
International Workshop Kitchen
A place for the community to gather, have fun, learn, enjoy international cuisine and of course, get to know your neighbors. The tables will be communal, and classes and workshops will be given in cooking, knitting – whatever the members of the community gravitate to.
Green Gym is an eco-friendly gym powered by kinetic energy, solar panels and a floor that converts footfalls into usable energy. The idea behind this sustainable ecosystem is that it will draw little or no outside power at all, so it won’t be long before we’re hearing, ‘How many yoga instructors does it take to power a light bulb?’ (We know: the stationary bikers will beat ‘em by a mile.)
Speaking of needing to charge your batteries, Tek Truk takes it literally, providing a service where the community can come and recharge their phones (or laptop, kindle or tablet), or jump on the Internet (WiFi isn’t ubiquitous and we sometimes forget that not everyone has access to computer at home). It’s a truck and literally in line with the idea of mobile first.
One shoe, infinite purposes is the idea behind Taussure and we’ll explain. Ever notice women in business dress on the streets of New York. Then you look down and they’re often wearing sneakers, flat. Shoes that seem incongruous with the rest of their attire. Ever try walking more than a couple of blocks in heels or stilettos? That’s just asking for trouble. Instead, most women carry a change of shoes.
Tassure is proposing shoes with removable heels, or rather, interchangeable heels, so that instead of changing your shoes – you change your heels. (And eliminate the need for Dr. Scholl’s, as one of the girls pointed out.) The name itself is a combination of Italian and French – ‘heel’ and ‘shoe,’ respectively. Clever girls! They’ve got our vote! In fact, we were personally one of the judges – and Taussure won the competition.
The program may be over, but the organizers are hoping to somehow keep the teams together to continue their projects.