Category: Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Brittany Young Turns Dirt Bike Passion…

Meet the Entrepreneur: Brittany Young Turns Dirt Bike Passion Into Opportunity

 

Brittany Young

Growing up in West Baltimore, Brittany Young was only one of many in her neighborhood enthralled by the dirt bikers who would ride, rev and repair their bikes in Druid Hill Park as well as teach others how to do the same.

Now an engineer, Young created the social venture B-360 to show students how the skills they have developed to maintain their bikes can open career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It also advocates for safe dirt bike riding.

Developing STEM skills and interests early gives these children a greater opportunity to end up in a STEM career, which pays 50 percent more on average (starting at a high school diploma/GED) than their non-STEM counterparts. Additionally, a recent Brookings Institute study found that Baltimore has the eighth-highest percentage of job openings in STEM fields among large metro areas.

Another report shows that the city has more than 122,000 mid-skill level STEM careers that can lift low-income residents to the middle class.

Below, we discuss Young’s vision for B-360, Baltimore’s startup support system and the benefits of the Social Innovation Lab.

In 5 words, what does your company do?
B-360 turns passion into opportunity.

What are your goals and how will you get there?
B-360 aims to change the perspective of engineers and dirt bike riders using STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, architecture and math). It also provides safe spaces for students in the program to ride and work on dirt bikes.

In addition, we aim to create a STEM workforce development pipeline by establishing an elementary and middle school program that teaches students the engineering design process, safety protocols and mechanics.

For riders, we want to advocate to the city government for safe spaces to ride and the decriminalization of riding. We also aim to partner with STEM organizations and companies to provide occupational opportunities in this field.

Why have you chosen Baltimore as your startup’s home?
Baltimore is my home and I need to start with solutions here first. Also, Baltimore is a perfect place to prove the model works. If the model can work here and be sustainable, it can work anywhere and help others who are developing social ventures that have the potential for great scalability.

Baltimore is the dirt bike capital, and dirt bikes and all their positive attributes deserve to be included in the culture of our city. As the city develops, I want its citizens to have the opportunity to grow with it and expand their career options.

What opportunities make Baltimore a good place for growing a business?
There are a lot of incubators and startups in Baltimore already as well as initiatives, such as the Social Innovation Lab, that help develop social ventures. Baltimore has a lot of resources, and people want to see innovative solutions grow and thrive here.

In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?
Baltimore is a city with great potential because it has the perfect climate for innovation. Not only have established Baltimore changemakers built a tremendous infrastructure that facilitates change in the city, they are supportive of new ideas and initiatives. It’s the perfect mix between new ideation and traditional solutions.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?
Never be afraid to get out there and try something new, and don’t think your idea is too simple. Also, understand that not everyone was given your vision, so it is okay if people do not get it.

What book are you currently reading?
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates and Building Nonprofit Capacity: A Guide to Managing Change Through Organizational Lifecycles by John Brothers

What innovator do you look up to? Why?
Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code. I feel like we have similar stories of noticing inequity/disparity in our communities or workplace and wanting to help future generations not have the same struggle.

She was able to start with a small model, teaching girls of color how to code locally and then was easily able to replicate her model and help so many in a powerful way. Her program gives hard skills for careers but also social and life lessons on the importance of power in numbers, community-based solutions and impact as opposed to quantification.

It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?
Depending on my mood, it will be either Connie’s Chicken and Waffles, Home Maid or Land of Kush.

What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?
I honestly just enjoy family time; getting together to go for walks or having picnics at Druid Hill on warmer days, visiting a museum, going to visit my grandmother, taking random car rides around the city. My siblings and I get together every weekend just for some “us” time and they keep me grounded.
 

Want to join the Social Innovation Lab? Click to apply!

 

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nikhil Panu Connecting Communities Through Sports

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nikhil Panu Connecting Communities Through Sports

 

Nikhil Panu

Weekend warriors head to nearby courts and fields for exercise, competition and fun, but too often they find either long waits or too few players. That reality plagued Nikhil Panu as a high school student-athlete in San Jose, California and followed him across the country when he enrolled at The Johns Hopkins University. It also inspired a solution.

Panu—the most recent captain of the Johns Hopkins basketball team and a recent master’s graduate from the Whiting School of Engineering’s computer science program—is developing Squadz, a mobile app that follows principles from Airbnb and OpenTable to establish a facility and sports event marketplace.

The app allows people looking for a game, whether it be basketball, tennis, golf or nearly any other sport, to find teammates and competition at a nearby venue. By connecting athletes and coaches to players, events and venues, Panu believes he can make Baltimore’s communities stronger and more active.

Panu participated in the Social Innovation Lab’s 2016-2017 cohort, and the five-month accelerator for social ventures supported him as he launched a pilot program. In the pilot, Squadz produced encouraging results, including 130 bookings of facilities in recreation centers over only a few weeks. Those bookings linked people from across Baltimore, allowing them to gather through the positive outlet of sports.

Below, Panu discusses Squadz, Baltimore and the goals he has for his social venture.
 
In five words, what does your company do?
Enable and foster active communities.
 
What are your goals and how will you get there?
My goals are to get access to as many clusters of sports facilities in certain locations as possible and build a user base of active sports participants, coaches and league administrators in those areas. I am looking to partner with high schools, universities, community centers and independent complexes by going through governing bodies or organizations that run them in order to allow them to rent their gyms, fields and courts out to our users.

In addition to drawing existing visitors to these spaces, I will partner with current sports organizations and social leagues to encourage their active organizers to use our platform.
 
In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?

Having grown up and worked in Silicon Valley, the general willingness to collaborate is something I have noticed that stands out in the tight-knit Baltimore startup community. People are always willing to lend a hand or make an introduction because they have a genuine interest in helping fellow entrepreneurs.
 
What’s next for Squadz and why is Baltimore a good playground in which to grow this app?

Squadz screenshot

Currently, we are working with the city to activate their community centers and schools and bring them onto our platform. Once we have that solid base of venues ready to go, we will be able to officially launch the mobile app in Baltimore later this summer. We are also planning on launching in the San Francisco Bay Area in July with some of the partnering facilities we have developed there. Stay tuned for announcements on both upcoming launches!

In addition, Baltimore has displayed a tremendous interest in providing health and recreation opportunities to members of its various neighborhoods and communities. People want to stay active, and the city wants to help them do so. There are not many cities around the country that have such a dense distribution of community recreation centers. That has made working with the city seamless and has provided us the necessary support to grow the platform.

Although the interest is apparent, there are definitely processes and points that need improvement. That is where Squadz can help. There is a clear opportunity for us to make an impact in Baltimore by keeping local recreation centers operational.
 
If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

As much as you want everything to be perfect, it’s impossible. It is so important to gather as much data through research and user feedback as possible to learn, improve and make informed decisions.
 
What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Shoe Dog by the Nike founder Phil Knight.
 
What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I have and will always look up to my dad, who built one of the fastest growing early SaaS companies. From a young age, he shared his experiences with me and let me observe what he did firsthand. He always led his employees with passion, dedication and integrity and constantly strived to innovate. He’s the reason I ever had an interest in starting my own company, and I hope to be half the entrepreneur he is.
 
It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

Chicken Rico is definitely my go-to place. They’ve got a great chicken dinner combo that always hits the spot!
 
What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

As a student, a lot of my time outside of work was spent in the classroom or competing with the varsity basketball team at The Johns Hopkins University. However, when our team was out of season, I frequently played and still play pickup basketball at many of the local community centers like Madison Square, Virginia S. Baker and 29th Street. I also like to catch Orioles or Ravens games when I get the chance.

Click to learn more about the Social Innovation Lab!

 

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