Student Entrepreneurs Pitch for Seed Funding at BUILD’s Showcase

On February 13, 130 ninth graders from seven Boston Public High Schools convened at MIT for the BUILD Investor Pitch Showcase to present their business plans and request seed funding from a panel of judges recruited from Boston’s business community.

This was the first time these BUILD freshmen presented their ideas in public, and they rose to the occasion. An unprecedented 35 out of the 38 businesses received startup funding on the spot. Seven teams were selected as Showcase winners – see their photos and profiles below and learn about all the amazing teams that competed here.

“BUILD teaches kids skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives, and develops a self-esteem that is not conferred but is earned and permanent,” said Mark Lohr, a Senior Advisor at Klaviyo who mentors Origami Wonder Book, a business of five students from Dearborn STEM Academy in Dorchester.

The Investor Pitch Showcase is the second in a series of four competitions leading up to the 2018 BUILDFest Pitch Challenge on June 4 in which the top three student business teams compete for glory and cash prizes in front of a panel of celebrity judges and an audience of over 600 people.

Meet the Winning Teams

Retract-A-Pen BUILD Student Business

An easy access pen you can attach to your belt loop or pocket.
Another Course to College, Hyde Park

BUILD Youth Engagement Coordinator Steve Mea told us, “Retract-A-Pen ran into a problem with their original product idea, but managed to pivot before Showcase 2 and continued on to win best presentation in their room. Perseverance and grit guided their preparation, and their final presentation highlighted all of their hard work.”

Irresistible Scents BUILD Student Business

Irresistible Scents
Decorative oil diffusers that will make rooms smell pleasant.
Dearborn STEM Academy, Dorchester

Irresistible Scents mentor Savant Moore says that winning this showcase “showed them that hard work and dedication will be rewarded. It helps break the false sense of insecurity to allow the students to know that they belong and that they will make an impact.”

Co-mentor Devon Vincent, Founder & CEO of Synple Space, added, “I was very proud of each and every one of the students. They stepped up in a major way. I began to notice a shift in the students’ behavior in the final weeks leading to the showcase. Their confidence started to grow as they continued to practice their presentation. They were very encouraging and supportive of each other, which I think led to their success. This win really boosted their confidence and will give them the motivation they need to win the BUILDFest Pitch Challenge.”


360 Wrap Around BUILD Student Business

360 Wrap Around
A phone case that allows you to wrap your headphones around for tangle-free storage.
Community Academy of Science and Health, Dorchester

Mentor Gabrielle McCree tells us that in the days leading up to the event, “I witnessed a willingness to take on responsibility for their own contributions to their team and to encourage others to do the same…. The best part of winning was the lightbulb moment that there is value in the process of reshaping ideas, composing relevant content, revising scripts and rehearsing.”

Mentor Jarred Diorio of LogMeIn agrees that the key to 360’s success is that “each team member believes in the person next to them. They aren’t hopping on each other and trying to take over someone else’s role. They do offer advice to each other, but they own their responsibilities which allows them to stay in their lane and removes friction & stress … I am excited to see our Team continue to grow and lead by example for their peers.”

Safe Holder BUILD Student Business

Safe Holder
Pot and pan handle-mittens that guard your hands against burns.
Dearborn STEM Academy, Dorchester

Mentor Silvana Escobar-Stephen, a former high school teacher, was struck by how much effort Safe Holder put into practicing for the event, which resulted in a very impressive presentation. “It was striking to me how well they performed, not just individually, but as a well-coordinated team.”

Cultural Secrets Cookbook BUILD Student Business

Cultural Secrets Cookbook
A cookbook that will feature unique dishes from around the world and keep you from cooking the same old things.
Dearborn STEM Academy, Dorchester

Mentor Jeremy Szteiter from UMass Boston says, “I was particularly impressed by the way that the students had been able to take initiative and start asking themselves difficult questions about their product to challenge themselves to really understand what they are trying to do with it…. This seemed to support them to bring up their confidence and energy to rise to the occasion of the Showcase.”

Mentor Rachel Goldberg adds, “I’ve noticed tremendous growth in terms of leadership. Our group of four has a diverse set of personalities. Some were more quiet than others. Some were more focused than others. But what I noticed over the course of the program leading up to this Showcase is that each student held themselves responsible for their role, and in turn, shared their strengths where a teammate maybe showed some weakness. They each showed great awareness of their teammates, and that level of leadership engendered greater collaboration, unity, and confidence.”

Custom Coaters BUILD Student Business

Custom Coasters
Customizable designer drink coasters.
Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, Roxbury

Mentor Andrew Haeger from Cambridge Associates is proud of his team and excited about the encouragement that will come from such positive affirmation. “They’ve worked hard and deserve recognition so I’m very happy for them… they’re finally starting to realize that this program will enable them to accomplish something that’s really cool, something that gives them a sense of self-worth… they’ve taken on more responsibility and are becoming much more involved and committed to the process! Finally, they’re absolutely starting to become better friends with each other and I feel lucky to have helped them along!”

Origami Wonderbook BUILD Student Business

Origami Wonder Book
A collection of origami intended to inspire creativity and challenge children.
Dearborn STEM Academy, Dorchester

Mark Lohr recalls, “Right after their presentation, one of the boys asked me – ‘Did you see my knees shaking? My knees were shaking so bad!’ I assured him he didn’t look at all shaky and that they all did a great job (which, of course, they had).”

Inspired by these mentors’ stories? Mark encourages you to join him: “for people who don’t think they would be good mentors – a lot of it is simply showing up – consistently – and being honest. You’re supported by teachers … in helping the students realize their potential.”

Thank You to Our Judges!

We’d like to extend a special thank you to the 41 judges for the thoughtful feedback and encouragement they offered the students. These volunteers hailed from:

Amazon Robotics, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, BNY Mellon, the Boston Bruins, Boston Children’s Museum, BPS, Brand Fox, Brookline Bank, Capital One, Citizens Bank, Eaton Vance, Endurance International Group, fama PR, Gemini Investors, Goodwin, Hack.Diversity, NEVCA, Hasbro, Houlihan Lokey, HUBweek, Invoice Cloud, KPMG, LogMeIn, Optum, Resilient Coders, Silicon Valley Bank, SouthieMap, Staples, State Street, Timbertrail Holdings, TripAdvisor, UPS, and Wellington Management.

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