2018 B-SEEDs Competition
This year as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a handful of Babson’s most promising startups gathered to pitch their social impact missions in the B-SEEDs Social Impact Business Competition. B-SEEDs is a student-run organization and stands for Babson Sustains the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to Drive Social change.
The judges for the event were: Rich Bryden – Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at HBS, Ravish Majithia – Founder & CEO of Magnomer, Angela Sanchez – Founder & CEO of Artyfactos, and Matthew Allen – Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, Faculty Director for the Institute for Family Entrepreneurship, and Academic Director for STEP.
The founders were called up to present their pitch. Once finished pitching, the founders were asked thoughtful questions by the judges, often going over the financials section in detail. The focus of the questions also tended towards impact, the judges wanting to clarify any details and assumptions. After all the pitches had taken place, the judges took 15 minutes to discuss the various startups and chose three winners from the group. The prizes for the event were $1,000 in cash, access to the B-Seeds mentoring network, and potentially a $30,000 investment (contingent on due diligence).
The profiles of the startups are as follows:
Hope Sews – Maya Mutalik told the moving story of Vida Sowah, a Ghanaian seamstress who needed money for electric sewing machines. When Maya visited Ghana, she realized that the fabrics being used were amazing and, combined with western clothing styles, made for a bold and vibrant look. Hope Sews’ mission is to provide microfinance loans to seamstresses. The company has received press in the past few months, allowing it to grow its audience.
Restorative Wellness – Keely Byron’s mission is to empower inmates with yoga instructor training and to heal them with yoga. Byron pointed out that the cost of incarceration is $82,000 per inmate per year in the US, with recidivism rates (likelihood of returning to prison) at 32% within 3 years. Furthermore, 79% of female inmates have mental health cases. In order to take on this problem, RW certifies inmates as yoga teachers and hires them after they finish their sentences. The instructors are paid at market rate (hiring partners pay 70% of the rate and the the difference is made up by Work Opportunity Tax Credit). The company has already see a decrease in recidivism for inmates who attended the program.
Jamani Ventures -Jacob Fohtung founded Jamani Ventures as a training program for African startups to raise money, as well as figure out creative exit strategies. The inspiration for his business came on a trip to Uganda, during which time Fohtung worked for Sani Drop, a seemingly successful company with $120,000 in funding. Unfortunately, Sani Drop didn’t make it, because they didn’t have the skills they needed to build a company. Based on Fohtung’s studies, 80% of similar companies don’t reach 5 years old and 50% don’t reach 3 years old, usually due to poor execution. Jamani Ventures wants to work in the Ugandan startup market, helping startups raise the grants and grow, and is planning to start the first cohort in January 2019.
OmHero – Founded by Alex Corindia, Omhero exists to make the world better through meditation. Meditation reduces stress and increases wellness. However, habit formation around guided meditation is difficult, and there is a gap in the market, between guided meditation apps with low personal interaction and live studios with a higher price tag. OmHero is a platform where you get live, guided meditation. Each user pays $20/month, of which meditation experts (guides) get a share. The company had very exact data on the marketing and an extensive plan on how to scale. In early conversations and focus groups, they found that the human interaction that their product offers is a big draw.
Yad – Deborah Cohen is the founder of Yad, a social enterprise that manufactures unique home decor products showcasing the art of people with special needs and supports Puro Arte,the center for artistic creation in Guatemala City. Cohen told the story of Griselda, whose life was positively impacted by the business. She was having difficulty finding a job and felt that her talents were not being used. She was able to find a source of income and tap her creativity through working with Yad. While the company does not seem to face any direct competition in Guatemala, there are a number of companies in the United States that are running similar social impact businesses. Cohen shared Yad’s financials – it is currently in a number of large department stores and had around $70,000 in revenue this past year. From its sales, 6% of wholesale sales are given to the center, while 12% of direct to consumer sales are given to the center.
Wolfpops – Josh Wolfson wants to make the world a better place through popsicles. The idea behind Wolfpops came when Josh Wolfson, the founder, happened to visit a company named Steel City Popsicles in Texas. After enjoying his first popsicle, he decided to buy a second popsicle and, later that day, messaged the company asking if they had franchising opportunities. Fortunately (in hindsight), the company replied that they did not franchise; and so Josh decided he would start his own popsicle company. Now the company is preparing for launch; Wolfpops has finalized 20 of its recipes, built a team, and plans to launch in the summer of 2019, starting in Sacramento. The plan for impact is to partner with local after school programs to serve students free health fruit popsicles and, in the future, to fund these programs.
After the judges offered feedback to each of the finalists, the winners were announced:
The 2018 B-Seeds Winners
$1,000: Hope Sews
$1,000: Restorative Wellness