On Wednesday night, 6 of the 14 SEA Change teams pitched their ideas and collectively won $100,000 to take their ventures forward. It was an inspiring evening and fun to see some fellow social entrepreneurs, such as Harley Blakeman from Honest Jobs, and Aslyne Rodriguez from EmpowerBus.
SEA Change is a 14-week accelerator for budding social enterprises, for brand new social impact business ideas to companies in the first couple years of business, still figuring things out. The point of the accelerator is for ventures to determine whether their business is viable.
Like other accelerators, SEA Change focuses on developing your business – refining your mission and vision, validating your idea, and flushing out your financial model. But one thing they do differently is their focus on developing social impact – they bring in many experts from the field to teach modules, and they connect people to ensure ideas can evolve to make the best impact in the community.
This year, 14 teams went through SEA Change. This included friends of mine at Spice Up, and Rise Mental Fitness Studio. Spice Up creates events to celebrate diversity & highlight the cultures of immigrant chefs through storytelling, food, & cross-cultural connections. Rise Mental Fitness Studio is a community program to improve your mental fitness – that is, your ability to emotionally and behaviorally overcome life’s stress and engage in your day to day activities.
Both great concepts making an impact.
On to the pitches…
 Rentor Mentor
Jerry Valentine is a cool guy who has worked at the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority for some time. I met him at Give Back Hack, where he pitched an idea to build a better system for connecting tenants to landlords with low-income housing – the equivalent of uber for renting. They’ve come a long way since April, and this could be seriously transformative for the housing crisis here in central Ohio – and a platform that can spread nationwide.
Milkmade provides nutrition solutions to help every breastfeeding mom reach her goals. I was dazzled by Whitney’s presentation, what’s she’s doing, and how she’s marketing her business. She’s got that spark, and something tells me she’s going to be successful. I know from talking to Emily Lawrence at Lilac Pack that building a product-based company for new mom’s is a tough business, but Whitney has built a sharp clear brand around what she’s doing… so if you know any breastfeeding mothers, point them her way!
 Latch & Learn
Latch & Learn was one of my favorite surprises for the evening. They are an initiative providing innovative and culturally competent breastfeeding education in the African American Community to reduce infant mortality. They are focused on educational programs and increasing awareness because the impact of breast-feeding on reducing infant mortality is huge, especially in the African American community. I’m so excited about what they’re doing… and may have one of the biggest opportunities for social impact from the teams that presented.
 Gender YOUphoria
Gender YOUphoria is a venture to flip the script from Gender Dysphoria to Gender YOUphoria… changing the story around gender transition – because media tends to talk about it as a condition, rather than a profound journey of aligning your mind, body, soul and spirit through gender expression. Really cool mission and I love seeing how they’re building a sustainable business model that can connect and impact the transgender community – it’s not an easy transition, and changing the stories we tell about it can make such a difference.
 Roots Up
Roots Up was another delight – they’re building really cool modular farming solutions, that fit into the size of a parking space in urban areas… it reduces water consumption for growing plants by a factor of 15 and can grow plants year-round. They’re developing a business model to build these in food deserts, with strategies to place them and hire locally to maintain them… brining in fresh food and jobs to areas that need them.
The environment is always top of my mind, and I think what they’re doing could be huge. Plus their presentation was so cool that I want to buy one to put next to my house.
NUDL Is developing a new approach to preschool – with new innovations in teaching and learning and a business model that can hopefully raise teacher’s wages. I was shocked to learn how much less pre-school teachers make than other teachers, and I thought teacher’s salaries were already low. (Emily Lawerence was telling me that her preschool has gone through 13 teachers in the last year… that’s turnover of about one a month!)