Comprising young and minority entrepreneurs, the winners will meet in Baltimore in early August to participate in a ten-day boot camp, where they will workshop their projects, followed by eighteen months of coaching from like-minded executives acting as mentors. The international program, which started in South Africa ("Amaphiko" means "wings" in Zulu) in 2014 and then was expanded to Brazil, has launched a hundred small businesses, the best known of which is Repurpose Schoolbags, which manufactures and distributes a combination backpack/solar lantern charger. The 2017 cohort is the program's first class of entrepreneurs from the United States.
Most of the U.S. winners are focused on social service programs rather than products. For example, Brittany Young from Baltimore founded B-360, a community group that uses dirt bikes to teach STEM subjects and connect interested students to employers within those field; Jon Dengler of Tampa heads Well Built Bikes, a program that repairs donated old bikes and uses secondhand parts to build new bikes for those who need them, particularly the homeless who might otherwise not have way to commute to work; and Matthew Kincaid of New Orleans launched Overcome Racism, a nonprofit that provides training and consulting services to schools, teachers, and other organizations aimed at creating a bias-free culture in schools. Other projects include an online platform that sells clothes made by and for women, a pop-up project that awards micro-grants to needy causes that diners vote for at their table, and a sexual abuse program that offers victims a wide range of services.
"What we are looking for is potential," said Red Bull Amaphiko career coach and social innovation consultant Alfie van der Zwan. "A lot of these are grassroots things solve [problems] for their communities. To not have it all figured out already is a good thing. We want to help them grow and develop as they do."
To learn more about the 2017 U.S. winners, see the Amaphiko Academy website.