The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2017, March 18-19

The Gray Matter Experience

Paired with Sprout Social

The Gray Matter Experience is a 501(c)3 organization based in Chicago, IL that serves as an entrepreneurial experience program for African American high school students. It provides a 9-week entrepreneurship experience in which select students across Chicago learn business concepts directly from Black entrepreneurs and work to launch businesses that help impact their communities and/or the demographics within their communities. Students that create the most viable businesses within the program are then placed into an incubator-style version of the program in which those top-performing students receive a portion of seed funding and work with mentors to build out and launch the businesses they’ve created.

What new functionality we are looking for

We are currently looking to build out a website/app for one of the student groups that is developing their business. The business is called Hire Up and is a platform to connect teens to local jobs. Students are looking to develop both a website and application that allows students the opportunity to find local jobs in their area and apply for them through simple steps within the site/app. The site/app would need to have functionality enough for users to create profiles and upload resumes and reference letters. It would also need to have functionality that allows it to match students with jobs based on their qualifications and the requirements of the job seeker. The app/site would also allow a "quick apply" option so teens wouldn't have to constantly enter the same information, but job applications could be auto-populated to fill in students' information. Additionally the site would allow teens and job seekers to rate and write reviews of the companies and the employees.

How the new functionality will help

This build out would allow us the opportunity to continue developing and launching the business the students created during the program. Once we have this functionality, the students will be able to start acquiring customers and we'll be better able to track the results and impact of the program through the amount of customers and revenue the business (app) is able to generate.

Because most of our students don't have coding/development experience, it is difficult for us to build out their final project. This opportunity would allow us to continue working with teens to deliver the product they need in order to take their business to market.

How our organization will use the technology

Again, this technology will help us to further the work we're doing. As we are a new organization and still looking to build strong partnerships with companies that can help us long term, in the interim, this build out would allow us the opportunity to tangibly show the results students were able to accomplish through the program and allow us the platform on which to continue developing with them. Being able to prove results through our first cohort will validate that our organization is necessary, thus aiding in recruiting efforts, fundraising efforts as well as the opportunity to continue developing partnerships.

Once we're able to demonstrate the success students have shown with their products and services, it will open the door to many other opportunities that will be vital to our success.

Who will use the technology

The students will be the one using the new functionality and it will directly benefit both them and the organization. Students will benefit by having a tangible product to sell and showcase to potential customers and clients, thus validating our claims that students will be more empowered through our programming by having additional ways to make money for themselves.

The organization will benefit by having a successful student group able to procure customers and clients and begin generating revenue. This will allow us to prove the success of the program and further empower students to pursue a career as an entrepreneur.

35 Messages from Supporters

2017-01-31 12:42:44 UTC
Leola thompson

I was privy to witness the gray matter awards ceremony a few months ago and can truly say it was a "Shark Tank" moment. I was utterly amazed over the accomplishments these young black future entrepreneurs accomplishments.

2017-02-08 18:07:31 UTC
Stella Ashaolu

As a mentor for The Grey Matter Experience, I was able to see first hand to need for the great work that Britney is doing for our community. This is a much-needed program that is really creating impact for ALL that are touched, including the mentors and communities these students are from. Please invest in the program and students in which GME works with to help continue the positive impact they have created.

2017-02-01 16:06:55 UTC
Rendel Solomon | One Stock One Future

The work that Britney Robbins is doing with youth is phenomenal. I work full-time as a private equity investor, so I see first hand the power of entrepreneurship and investment to create a strong sense of accomplishment, ownership, responsibility, and ultimately wealth. The students are learning business planning, marketing, financials, strategy, operations, and more. I had the honor of serving as a judge for the 1st Gray Matter Pitch Black competition in late 2016. The students represented very well, and it was a joy watching them make their pitch and ultimately win cash prizes to start their business. GME is deserving of this award to help one of the students groups launch their business.

2017-02-01 16:09:42 UTC
Brittany Applegate

The Gray Matter Experience is a program that is much needed. Traditionally throughout school at both high school and university levels, students are taught all the skills necessary to work for someone else someday; but Britney Robbins knew that the students whom she serves have the capacity to create their own businesses and the next generation of innovators, inventors, and change agents this world needs today. Exposure to entrepreneurship at such a young age is important and because of Britney's leadership these students are learning life and business skills to change not only their own world's but the lives of those around them. I highly recommend that Nerdery supports this program!

2017-02-01 16:22:54 UTC
Aaron Byrd

Brittany Robbins is an excellent example of an asset based community developer. She is proving that there are overlooked assets with latent talent and potential in these underserved communities. A great analogy for her program is how diamonds are formed. Brittany's program is like the Earth's Mantle, which through high pressure turns these minerals (kids/ideas) into diamonds (potentially viable companies). With her Grey Matter experience program she takes these youth who come up with great ideas, and puts them through a process that turns them into potentially viable companies. These companies are then ready for either incubation or acceleration. The partnership with Nerdey will alow Grey Matter the ability to refine and continue to prove out its mission. I recommend that Nerdey support the Grey Matter Experience.

2017-02-01 16:27:05 UTC
Joseph-Michael Chopin

The Gray Matter Eperience,

From working with this great group of people, they've Shown respect and love. They have helped us find some great young African professionals that will help our organization, the 99 Years Foundation help African children understand their culture and heritage, and The Grey Matter Experience group is showing awesome support. Thank you for adding value to our community.

Joseph-Michael Chopin

2017-02-01 19:49:34 UTC
Ximena N. Larkin

Britney and the work she does is inspiring. In a short amount of time she's been able to grow an organization that is desperately needed in Chicago. This is a simple a testament to her dedication and passion for the work she does. This isn't just a business for her. Britney is trying to change the world and anyone who crosses her path is better off for it.

2017-02-05 00:01:39 UTC
Michael Reed

"The Gray Matter Experience" is a remarkable program. The program highlights the great work done by students in the program and other black innovators. As an alumnus, I would highly recommend this program to any teen seeking the opportunity to put their ideas into action. Through The Gray Matter Experience I have not only learned more about market research, creating a business plan and writing an executive summary but I've learned that true leadership is the ability to face disappointments and setbacks but not give up. I have begun to do things that involve much leadership such as a project entitled “FUND the homeless" which features me as I go to various Chicago neighborhoods donating to the homeless. I am also a member of "The National Honor Society" a prestigious organization that focuses on excellence in character, scholarship, leadership and service. I have seen the passion, empathy and concern that the “Hire Up" group portrays and I would only desire for their ideas to become a reality that a tremendous amount of youth are able to experience.

2017-02-07 00:48:00 UTC
Shanayah Brown

My experience there was amazing. The program teach me how to think outside the box, not to rely on someone else ideas but to actually think for myself and be more creative. The program had me wanting to do more in life. But also to not just sit around and wait to something come my way because life doesn't work like that all the time. Ion learned a lot of things just being there. Ms.Britteny Robbins was cool, kind, creative, and intelligent. She made me believe I can be so much more that I didn't have to be a shy girl standing in the shadows and that if I put my mind to it everything will come true.

2017-02-01 23:03:21 UTC
Edward Goodloe

The Gray Matter Experience founded by Britney Robbins is definitely needed in our community. Seeing the young minds come together and display their innovative ideas along with a solid business plan to back those ideas up, made me very proud, especially since one of them was my son! I strongly recommend the Nerdery support for The Gray Matter Experience because this program exhibits the ability to sharpen, shape, and mold the youth of today into great leaders and entrepreneuers of the future. Britney Robbins has made a significant impact on the youth and the need for The Gray Matter Experience is imperative. I strongly recommend the Nerdery support this program.

2017-02-01 23:16:32 UTC
Langston Hill

Britney Robbins' Gray Matter Experience is one of the most innovative and dynamic education and entrepreneurship programs for youth of Chicago that I have seen. The exposure these youth receive to entrepreneurship is an incredibly valuable experience. I'm jealous there wasn't a program like this when I was growing up! The work Brittany has done to form this program, in such little time, is amazing. However, what has been most exciting to see is the ideas and innovation for businesses the youth are generating while in this program. From my experience volunteering with the program as a business mentor, the youth in the program are smart, eager to learn, and have real desire to work on bringing their ideas to life. The partnership with Nerdery Foundation will continue to build on the growing momentum the Gray Matter Experience has provided for these very talented, yet many times under-served youth and communities.

2017-02-01 23:47:27 UTC
Sharris Wilson

I was lucky to watch the growth of The Gray Matter Experience from just an idea to the successful program that it is today. Britney helped these children see that they can make their dreams a reality with mentorship, responsibility and continued learning. Gray Matter's approach to entrepreneurship is fresh and hits all the buttons for an urban community organization that speaks to teens. After seeing all the great ideas at the Pitch Black showcase, I know that there are a variety of different entrepreneurial interests among the students but this opportunity would be relevant for all. The Gray Matter Experience provides a service to these teens that they might not otherwise have. By providing this tech, it can only continue to increase the success of these students and their dreams. I also highly recommend that the Nerdery support the Gray Matter Experience.

2017-02-02 00:26:37 UTC
Detra Sutherland

I am so gratful for Gray Matter. Kudos to Britney for not only planning but for having the passion to execute her vision. Chicago African American high school student and parents,deserve to have, an organization that is a strong backbone that sincerely supports their visions. Gray Matter is impactful, necessary and welcomed staple Gray Matter staple of Chicago.

2017-02-01 23:11:49 UTC

I attended the Pitch Black event and I was thoroughly impressed by what I witnessed on that evening. The youth were confident and deliberate in their speech and in their ability to answer the judges questions and they were poised and very professional in their attire. I thank Britney Robbins for her hard work and ingenuity in putting The Gray Matter Experience program together. This type of program is much needed for all youth. It gives them hope, confidence and brings out who they really are, strong powerful leaders and entrepreneurs! I definitely recommend the Nerdery support this program! It's not just a program it's a chance for young people to Emerge and Arise into who they truly are! I strongly recommend the Nerdery support this program.

2017-02-02 01:55:13 UTC
Julian Gilliam

I personally know that the Great Matter Experience was cultivated from determination, passion, relentless meetings, and the yearning to help the black youth, which is why I was eager to join the board of directors. Brittany Robbins and the Grey Matter Experience provide a very comprehensive hands-on program where the students are allowed to fail and succeed gracefully. The program develops confidence, tenacity, and the ability to adapt. No matter the outcome, growth is synonymous amongst all Grey Matter students.

2017-02-02 19:36:27 UTC
Ken Wade

For the final 3 weeks of the inagural GME workshop series, I was able to witness Britney's engaging and thoughtful teaching style, as a volunteer in her class. Over the last decade, I have worked for multiple startups (and larger companies) in Chicago and I truly believe that Britney is imparting practical wisdom that these young adults can use on their entrepreneurial journeys. Not only are they learing to identify problems and brainstorm solutions, they are also gaining an understanding of the legal process, implementation details, and the importance of viability.

I also spent a good chunk of my volunteer time working with the Hire Up team. They are a dedicated and intelligent group and I'm glad they are moving forward with the business idea.

2017-02-02 03:26:18 UTC
Keith Jacobs

This past fall I had the pleasure of working with The Gray Matter Experience as a 3D design and printing instructor. My experience working with the program was both memorable and impactful. The experiential learning approach that The Gray Matter experience applies to their programming allows participant to experience entrepreneurship first hand, in the field, with real entrepreneurs. Unlike any youth group I have worked with, the Gray Matter participants approached each activity with an entrepreneurial mindset. The ideas and concepts that we discussed that day were beyond the scope I would have expected of high school youth. The Gray Matter Experience is changing the landscape of youth programming, and providing West and Southside communities with young, capable entrepreneurs.

2017-02-02 17:46:10 UTC
Lesley Etherly

The Gray Matter Experience is an amazing program that makes the connection for African American high schoolers to get hands-on experience with developing and launching a business.

2017-02-02 21:12:51 UTC
Alexx Poston

The gray matter experience is making a real impact where Chicago needs it the most - in the minds of young people. The program is not a band-aid fix, it is transforming the minds of young people to understand how fundamentally their talents, ideas, and needs matter and can be used to better the world around them. I am honored to sit on the Board and hope Nerdery will help bring to life the idea of a group of talented young people through this app-build. We are all very excited.

2017-02-02 15:39:10 UTC
Shayna Atkins

I supported one of the first Gray Matter sessions and got to see the students progress over time. I highly recommend the Nerdery support so students will be able to see their ideas come to life.

2017-02-06 04:51:45 UTC
Khadijah Williams

The Grey Matter Experience was very eye opening for me. I gained better communication skills, relationships, partnerships and most importantly knowledge. I experienced things most people don't get to see until there 20's. Thanks to GME, I get to take the first steps to achieving my dream, starting my own business. If I had the chance to do it all over again I would. With The Nerdery's help, we can successfully launch our app and start earning revenue.

2017-01-26 20:34:44 UTC

I have watched the Gray Matter Experience grow vigorously in a short time under Britney Robbin's amazing leadership. She has brought together an intelligent, driven cohort of young people who are shaping themselves as the next generation of entrepreneurs. I have been incredibly impressed by both their dedication to their work, as well as Britney's guidance. I highly recommend The Nerdery further support this important work!

2017-01-26 20:37:32 UTC
Dave Roberson

I was able to witness firsthand the amazing fruits of Gray Matter Experience's labor. I attended the Pitch Black event, where the top student groups were able to pitch their business ideas, be judged by a panel of experts, and win validation and funding to start their ventures. No fluff, just real world training and deliberate action in order to prepare students to develop and launch. This organization is an answer to the education woes, income gaps, and violent trends that are plaguing the youth of Chicago. I couldn't be prouder, and Gray Matter Experience couldn't be more deserving.

2017-02-08 05:43:42 UTC
Jason Johnson

Britney and GME are doing amazing work molding young minds and preparing them for entrepreneurship. Britney is passionate about her work, and her love for GME students is self evident. I've been a early supporter of GME, and have also volunteered time as a mentor and business coach to the students. I really believe in GME's mission, and the organization's ability to create a positive for Chicago's youth.

2017-01-27 21:37:08 UTC
Chika Umeadi

The Gray Matter Experience takes an innovative approach in developing solutions for the Chicago's pressing challenges. Over the course of the last year, Britney has developed a platform that empowers students, who are traditionally voiceless in their communities, with the tools and resources needed to be the solution to the problems they see. The opportunity to collaborate with Nerdery will advance Gray Matter's mission and prove out that the youth can be change agents in their community in a profitable and impactful way. I recommend the Nerdery support the Gray Matter Experience.

2017-01-27 17:48:05 UTC
Ryan Clark

Britney Robbins is a fantastic example of what EXCELLENCE means. She embodies the true characteristics needed to effectively lead and be the catalyst for change that we so desperately need in this world. The youth she works with on a daily basis look up to her as they rightfully should. Seeing the Gray Matter Experience's Pitch Black event further proved that her dedication and love for impacting change is working, which is evident by the many young people that stood in front of an audience to compete and pitch their ideas. It was a sight to see and quite honestly, the Gray Matter Experience could not be more deserving. I recommend the Nerdery support the Gray Matter Experience.

2017-01-28 22:24:07 UTC
Sharon Thompson-Saffold

Britney Robbin's Gray Matter Experience is phenomenal. Exposure to entrepreneurs who look like them brings hope to young African American children. Watching these young people BRING IT during the Pitch Black event was literally breathtaking. Participants responded to robust business questions and scenarios - a testament to program quality. Business skills are life skills and The Gray Matter Experience is making sure young people have a great start. I strongly recommend the Nerdery support this program

2017-02-06 17:58:22 UTC
Thomas K.R. Stovall

I have been a supporter of Britney and GME from Day ONE! She told me that she was going to create it, and I told her that I meet with a LOT of people in Chicago, and she was one of the few that I knew if she said she was going to do it, it was as good as done, and ANY support she needed, I had her back.

I attended the GME launch event, as well as the culmination event for her first cohort, where all the kids pitched. It was absolutely inspiring to see the growth in the kids, and how polished they were for the event. It was easy to forget that I was only looking at high school kids on that stage.

I wish I had that kind of opportunity in high school, and my wish is that Britney and GME have the opportunity to provide that opportunity to so many more Chicago kids. This website project will give GME the type of outcome that can clearly show what happens to the kids as a result of this program, them having the opportunity to create a REAL BUSINESS. I'm thrilled to offer my support here in the form of a testimonial, and I can say, without a doubt, that Britney Robbins and GME will make the absolute most out of this opportunity, if it is granted. Good luck B!

2017-02-06 18:34:03 UTC
Kori Rhoades

I hear a lot of prominent officials speaking of the problems in Chicago however offer very little solutions. I believe there are studies to confirm an overwhelming amount of violence and drug use is directly rooted in economic disparity. With all this in mind, The Gray Matter Experience deserves serious attention and/or investment. I have not seen very many viable solutions to these economic challenges Chicagoland African-American youth face. The Gray Matter Experience is groundbreaking on so many levels and I believe the investment would be far less than the return on all fronts.

2017-02-04 15:56:58 UTC
Tom Knorring VP Business Development CBOE

The current proposal to build an app for the startup Hire Up!deserves serious attention. Two facts stand out: 1) The need is great- unemployment for minority teens is at an all-time high. The consequence is that teens without opportunities will end up in negative outcomes. The demand for the services of these teens is present-many of the opportunities are filled by immigrants. Jobs for this group will serve as training for later life and provide income for continued education 2) The developers of this start-up are exceptional - My own exposure has been to Nicholas Goodloe through my company's after school tutoring program. Nicholas is a bright, dedicated individual who will make a difference in whatever endeavor he chooses. It's not surprising that he and his group have already won a contest seeking entrepreneurial ideas for he was already contemplating future plans when I worked with him in elementary school.
Please provide their start-up with the tools necessary to bring their idea to fruition

2017-02-18 12:54:00 UTC
Daunte Henderson

The Grey Matter Experience is changing the paradigm for Black America's future. Training Black kids to become entrepreneurs instead of job seekers will reap great benefits for the future. I full support the work they do.

2017-02-17 19:14:27 UTC
Morgan M Malone

I am absolutely in awe of the way Gray Matter has cultivated young leaders and opportunity in our community. Not only is this program meeting a significant need in our community, it is truly changing lives and broadening horizons. I am extremely impressed by how hard these teens worked in the Gray Matter program and with the ideas and companies they came up with. Gray Matter exemplifies that anything is possible if given a chance. I look forward to their continued work and being on the sidelines to cheer them on.

2017-02-23 00:13:09 UTC
Brian May

I was fortunate enough to attend one of the sessions for Gray Matters where students shared their business ideas. To have our youth thinking about entrepreneurial activities at an early age is exactly what is needed. The work that Britney has been able to do in a short period of time is truly remarkable. Focused on an area of the city that for too long has been neglected brings hope and more importantly change. Selecting Gray Matters for this award would be very beneficial in moving this organization forward in a major way. Keep up the good work Britney!

2017-02-24 16:23:54 UTC

I am writing this testimonial letter for Nicholas Goodloe. We here at Maywood Park District prides ourselves on lifting-up our younger generation. I, Commissioner Terrance Jones, have had the pleasure of knowing Nicholas Goodloe for many years.

Nicholas is a fine young man with a great foundation from a wonderful, strong and vibrant family. Nicholas along with my boys have traveled throughout Chicago over the years and Nicholas have always been respectful, fun and energetic. I am proud to learn about his involvement with the Gray Matter Experience

Nicholas’ strong personality helps him work well with others. Nicholas will be a very successful entrepreneur. His ambition along with opportunities like this will help him in the years to come.

I am truly excited for Nicholas Goodloe’s future. He is standing on the shoulders of our ancestors and is going to make the future brighter for our community.

Terrance Jones, Commissioner

2017-02-25 20:34:01 UTC
Travianna Jones

I am writing this testimonial letter for Nicholas Goodloe. I am a senior at Aurora University and I love seeing people go for their dreams especislly at an early age in life. I have had the pleasure of knowing Nicholas for many years.

Nicholas is a very intelligent man with a serious drive to be successful. I was eager to see that my cousin is involved with the Gray Matter Experience.

The Gray Matter Experience seems like a really dedicated program to the youth in helping with becoming entrepreneurs. I can see this being a great use to Nicholas as well as the other youth to further accomplish their goals in life.

I feel this program is what the Chicago Community needs and this is a great way to have role models for the younger kids who would one day want to be a part of the Gray Matter Experience.

Respectfuly yours,,

Travianna Jones

Our Mission

Our mission is to empower youth to create their own businesses that will positively impact their communities, increase their self-worth, and strengthen their ties within the communities of which they live.