January 2017 Elevator Company of the Month: Villedge

Villedge provides hard-to-to reach teens with Information, Opportunity, and Empowerment by surrounding them with holistic support, community, and enrichment. A key component to our approach is one on one coaching and leveraging the community. We are creating a web-based software that will allow us to leverage the existing community supports and create a process for real […]

Villedge provides hard-to-to reach teens with Information, Opportunity, and Empowerment by surrounding them with holistic support, community, and enrichment. A key component to our approach is one on one coaching and leveraging the community. We are creating a web-based software that will allow us to leverage the existing community supports and create a process for real time feedback so that data is being used to drive the behavioral change most important for teens success.

Why did you apply to Elevator?

When Villedge was still an idea. I sought advice from a colleague that happened to work in Union Hall, on how to navigate and garner support. After sharing the pilot data and vision with her, she shared about an accelerator program, dubbed Flywheel Elevator, that “would be a great fit for me”. However, the deadline had closed for applications so she personally connected me to Flywheel to “pitch” my vision and need for Elevator. After reading and learning more about the program, I applied having been granted a 24hour deadline. I knew that if given this opportunity it would be a game changer for the work.

How did being in Elevator impact your enterprise?  

 As the daughter of a small business owner, I knew starting a business would be tedious and complex. A social enterprise is even more complex and overwhelming. I gained so much from the elevator, none more important than showing that others believed in me and the vision which is especially crucial at any point in the infancy of establishing a business enterprise. It also provided me the support, coaching, guidance and most of all the chance to be humble and be open to learning. I was able to ask and be asked questions that would help drive the business as well as be prepared for the road forward.

What aspect of Elevator was most valuable to you?

 The most valuable part of Elevator were the mentors and connections that it provided. The mission of Villedge is rooted in my own experience in that when one is presented with the right information, opportunity, and empowerment, dreams come true. Elevator yet again reinforced this believe and created opportunities for me that I did not have before and again confirmed we all need the same thing. A good example is how my mentor helped drive the idea for my organization logo and branding.

This is the same concept Villedge is following. Young people need the same support that I have been given time and time again, and not by one or two people but collectively as a community.

What progress have you made since graduating from Elevator?

The progress since Elevator has been unbelievable. In just two short months I have established a strong foundation for the work, developed a board of directors, built over 10 community partners, have over 40 Ambassadors, and have a co-founder for our technology and are in the initial stages of building the software.

How much startup funding have you received to date?

We had the support of Flywheel in December and held our first annual Christmas fundraiser. At the event, we had over 70 people and we were blown away by their enthusiasm and support for the mission. We also raised over $14,000.

What are your plans for 2017?

Our goal in 2017 is to continue developing contracts with multiple providers so together we are achieving greater outcomes for the young people in our city. We will continue to develop partnership and build our Ambassador support so that everyone is doing a little in the areas they feel best equip to serve. We will also have our software piloting with the current young people so we can have a product that is efficient and simple, but effective in using data to drive the support we are offering young people.

What advice would you give to a company applying to be in Elevator’s 2017 cohort?

My advice to the 2017 elevator cohort is to realize that the opportunity presented to you is critical and that every second you spend doing the homework, meeting with mentors or other members of the cohort is critical to your success. Give yourself to the process, come in as amateurs regardless of your experience or current success and take it all in. It takes a Village to not only raise a child, it takes a Village to build a successful Social Enterprise because most of us are tackling some of societies largest and most complex problems. Lastly, lean into the other member of your cohort, and stay connect afterwards. They have not only provided moral support but Villedge is working together with two of the companies to achieve our collective missions; LaSoupe provides two nutritious dinners each week and Hive introduced our teen to yoga last quarter! I am also talking with two of the other companies as we discuss how we to can collaborate! That’s the beauty about a cohort like this, the founders are mission focused, therefore they are open to be creative, partner, and to support the next man. It’s a beautiful thing!

Thank you Flywheel and all the supporters of the program for your vision to support social enterprises! I think I can speak for the entire 2016 cohort when I say, we hope to show you not only the financial return but the social impact that is possible when social entrepreneurs have the support and a place at the table in solving society’s most complex issues!

 

Watch this video to see Katie’s Demo Day pitch for Villedge at SECincy’s Summit 2016 ! 

To learn more about Villedge or contact the organization, visit their website.  

 

Edited from content submitted by Villedge founder and Elevator 2016 graduate Katie Nzekwu-Mullarky

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