21 Days of Kindness Challenge wins Cruz Cares: Pitch Contest for Social Change
By Teresa Ruiz Decker
Justina Bryant, founder and president of a social enterprise aimed at helping schools create kindness challenges to reduce bullying, took first place, $2,000 plus business advising services Wednesday night at Cruz Cares — Santa Cruz’s pitch contest for social change.
Bryant was one of six entrepreneurs who took the stage to propose business ideas focused on tackling social or environmental issues in front of a panel of six judges and about 220 people at the Del Mar Theater.
Bryant presented the 21 Day Kindness Challenge, a program that provides teachers with 21 days of lessons, projects, activities and team meetings that teach kindness, compassion, appreciation and caring.
“Watching the news, hearing about all the school shootings and all the tragic things happening with today’s youth — all of those things combined with a particular act of bullying at my child’s school made me decide I needed to do something,” Bryant said.
Bryant and the company’s Vice President Christina Tall say the Kindness Challenge programs have resulted in more than 150,000 acts of kindness, with thirteen schools participating in the 2014–15 pilot program.
“We hope to use the funds from tonight’s contest for a marketing campaign to get the word out about the Kindness Challenge so that more teachers, more principals, and more students can be impacted by our program,” Tall said.
Now in it’s second year, Cruz Cares’ annual contest gives nonprofit or for-profit startups a shot at winning funding and a suite of business advising services including web design and legal counsel for their business idea. Wednesday’s event was hosted by The Inspiring Enterprise with Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp.
Gail McNulty who presented HIVE at Cruz Cares, a concept for a safe space for struggling young adults transitioning out of foster care, took second place for the evening earning her $1,500 in prizes and services. McNulty will use the funds to work toward creating a space where struggling young adults can receive intergenerational and community support.
“I’m actually really excited about the legal advice and the website help because we’re in the ground stages of this. We’re also hoping to launch a crowdfunding campaign in May,” said McNulty.
Former teacher Mitchell Slater pitched Levered Learning, an ed tech program that empowers teachers and meets the needs of the widest possible range of learners in the classroom through a mix of online and in person curriculum lessons. Slater won third place, $1000 plus business advising services. His next step is to use the web development hours to further curriculum on the site.
“It really felt great to win tonight because at this point I had been literally in my closet writing curriculum,” Slater said.
“This was a chance to use my support from the Inspiring Enterprise to hone my message, get focused and go out to find the resources to continue what I am doing,” he said. “I’m really grateful to both the Inspiring Enterprise and Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp for providing that catalyst to push me to think about what comes next.”
The Cruz Cares event also included a panel discussion on “Social Good, Technology and Community” with Peter Meehan of Newman’s Own Organics, Lydia Dobyns of New Tech Network, Bud Colligan, South Swell Ventures and Katie Roper of UC Santa Cruz Everett Program.
The panel offered tips, advice and insight on how aspiring social entrepreneurs can do good while doing good business.
“Our culture really values the individual in society, and when we look at leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Cesar Chavez we forget they had organizations and community groups they partnered with to make change,” said Katie Roper of UCSC’s Everett Program. “One of the best things you can do as a social entrepreneur is find a group of people who believe in the work you do,” Roper said.
“I want to encourage social entrepreneurs to really research their ideas and find out who is doing the same or similar things they want to do,” said Bud Colligan of South Swell Ventures. “Many times there are ways for people to collaborate or collectively use resources that could help us scale and solve the problems our community faces faster.”
More on 2016 Cruz Cares Winners
21 Day Kindness Challenge / Christy Tall: Empowering youth to change their world with kindness, reducing bullying in schools and increasing overall happiness and well-being.
HIVE / Gail McNulty: Cultivating collective impact and community with a cooperative prototyping zone and community workspace where young adults learn to network within a diverse, cross-generational group.
Levered Learning / Mitchell Slater: Creating and distributing free, technology-enabled educational systems that empower teachers and meet the needs of the widest possible range of learners.
People’s Choice Award
Soliculture / Ingrid Anderson: Enabling sustainable practices in the agricultural industry by combining solar energy and agriculture with Soliculture’s energy-generating greenhouse.
Footprint Inn / Alicea Cock-Esteb: Providing environmentally sustainable, affordable and welcoming accommodations and immersive education and training for guests, enabling them to use sustainable living practices in their homes and communities.
Assure Technologies / Kara Kyle: Delivering technology that provides social connection and support to older adults and their families, starting with an easy-to-use mobile app focused on a simple daily check-in.