As the summer months approached, TRAP House was still just getting started. The team was just finishing up riding a wave of early fundraising and publicity. Our CEO, Bashaun Brown, was interviewed by the Hartford Courant in May and around that same time, TRAP House won Wesleyan University’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship 2016 Seed Grant. However, this all occurred before TRAP House began formally engaging with its target community. Come June, it was time for us to start testing our New Hustle Philosophy.
For weeks, Bashaun would go up to barber shops, street corners, halfway houses, and grocery stores, where he would pitch TRAP House and ask people to answer a question. That question was: “If you could make any idea a reality today, what would that idea be?” These ideas first met a reality at TRAP House’s Startup Day 2016.
Participants came to Our Piece of the Pie, located on Sargeant Street in Hartford’s North End, and presented an unrefined 90 second business pitch to our audience of TRAP House team members, business mentors, volunteers, and participants’ family members.
After these were completed, Bashaun provided some wisdom to the entrepreneurs in attendance. He stated on the rationale for Startup Day:
“Even though the poverty rate in the North End is around 50%, there are a lot of people out there making real money. We’re just trying to make sure that it’s the right money.”
Everyone in attendance seemed to feed off of this idea. Namely, that the entrepreneurial spirit and the hustle was already present; what was lacking was the vocabulary and formal business experience and networks in the community.
Mentors including Makaela Kinglsey, from Wesleyan University’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, James Woulfe of reSET (Social Enterprise Trust), Hartford-area entrepreneur and IT consultant Supriyo Chatterjee, and Mike Roer of the Entrepreneurship Foundation all worked with participants to outline business ideas, provide pitch advice, and offer their professional advice gleaned from their experience in the formal market.
We did not restrict access in any way during the mentoring portion of the day. Participants were welcomed to cycle through our network of mentors to achieve the highest possible rate of return. The focus was on magnitude of impact and access of impact. In fact, our mentor to participant ratio was around 1.5:1.
In line with the accessible feature of open access to all mentors, the community theme was reiterated in the event being a family affair. Participants brought their families and friends to watch them plant the seeds of success. The space, originally an empty warehouse-like basement, was Transformed and Reinvented into a full, welcoming, and productive environment.
At the conclusion of the day, participants presented a final, 4-minute refined pitch of their business ideas to the mixed audience of mentors, family, friends, and the TRAP House team. Mentors scored the pitches and submitted these to team members for review.
We found the process of deciding which individuals we would devote all of our time and energy to this summer to be one of extreme difficulty. Participants came to us at all stages of life, all categories of need, and with every idea under the sun. But they all came with the same vigor and enthusiasm. So, we made the decision to invite all participants (and anyone we met along the way) to our free 6-week entrepreneurial bootcamp class, where we would extend the formal vocabulary of the “business world.
It was truly a wonderful kickoff to the TRAP House mission, and it couldn’t have happened without every “piece of the pie.” Our mentors were amazing. The community response was inspiring. Our volunteers worked tirelessly out of the kindness of their hearts. Our donors were present in the audience to witness the reality of their support. And, above all, our TRAP Stars showed no signs of quitting.
We can’t wait for the next Startup Day.