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Three Young Social Entrepreneurs Give Us The Inside Scoop On Their Entrepreneurial Journey

Three Young Social Entrepreneurs Give Us The Inside Scoop On Their Entrepreneurial Journey


This summer, Red Bull executed their fourth year of Amaphiko Academy, a platform promoting and uplifting people making a change in their communities, connecting them with others and sharing their inspiring stories about social change.

Being a young social entrepreneur is already a very challenging  route to take on. Age is a major factor, which can be a barrier on its own for securing funding and support. Add in diversity, community affiliation and having the right connections, and you’re constantly hitting brick walls. Now to top it all off, add a social purpose to the venture. Building communities and accessible resources for young social entrepreneurs to thrive is crucial. Platforms such as Amaphiko Academy, Causeartist and Centre for Social Innovation are just three amazing initiatives being implemented to help bridge the gaps present in growing as a social entrepreneur, especially when outreach and marketing can be a huge barrier as well.

I connected with three Amaphiko Academy US 2017 fellows, all operating grassroots initiatives, to see what their journey has been like so far. See below for a Q & A with Amy Kaherl, founder of SOUP, Matthew Kincaid, founder of Overcoming Racism and Eli Erlick, co-founder of Trans Student Educational Resources.

Amy Kaherl – Founder, SOUP

Amy Kaheri - Young Social Entrepreneur
Amy Kaheri poses for a portrait for Red Bull Amaphiko in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Soup is a micro-granting crowdfunding dinner celebrating and supporting ideas that are looking to make a city or community better. Diners hear from four presenters that deal within subjects ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education and technology. The presenters have four minutes to share their idea and answer four questions from the diners. At the event, diners eat, talk, share resources, enjoy art and vote on the project they think benefits the city the most. At the end of the night, we count the ballots and the winner goes home with all of the money raised at the door from a $5-10 suggested donation.”

Soup originally started in Detroit, operating monthly dinners for the past seven years. The organization has raised over $140,000 from Detroiters for Detroiters, $5 at a time. SOUP has connected over 40,000 people and will be replicated in 170 cities around the world!

What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?

To me, I wish all entrepreneurship were about how a product could make substantive change to the world. How a product should rise up from the bottom rather than continue to build things that destroy. It is using something to make the world better through critical thinking and processing.

What inspired you to launch your social enterprise?

It was the right time and the right place with the right group of people! We built the dinner in 2010 in Detroit where the idea of revitalization was not part of the narrative. We needed to be doing something actionable in our communities and this felt like the right thing to do. To create space to allow for ideation and empowerment. I was (and still am) fascinated by how people connect and engage with one another and to see one another as human rather than just by our parts.

As a young social entrepreneur, what are three of your biggest barriers/challenges?

  1. I have found that funding in the past is a barrier. Since we support all sorts of ideation, it’s hard for some to find something to fund as it doesn’t stick to one box or silo.
  2. Metrics and data are hard to measure in the space, but a three hour event has immense possibilities and potential! It is hard to dive in and understand the meaning made through a community engagement event. We know that people have gotten married after meeting at SOUP or received jobs but that takes months to develop and we are people participating in a moment, not necessarily a study.
  3. Making sure I take time for myself. It is hard to be so present in the work and you take away time for yourself.

Eli Erlick – Co-founder, Trans Student Educational Resources


“Trans Student Educational Resources is dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender nonconforming students through advocacy and empowerment. It is the only national organization run by transgender youth and the only one focused on trans students. TSER has educated millions of people on transgender issues online, changed policy at dozens of institutions around the country (along with several statewide initiatives), and provided hands-on training to hundreds of trans youth to become leaders in their own communities.”

What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?

Put into the simplest terms, social entrepreneurship is the ability for individuals, teams, or collective to implement innovative solutions to social problems.

What inspired you to launch your social innovation/nonprofit?

I opened up about being a queer, transgender girl when I was eight years old to an isolated town in rural Northern California that was not ready to support me. I experienced years of isolation, harassment, and physical violence as the result and did not have a community to help me. When I was thirteen my family allowed me to transition and I was fortunate to be able to be more open about my identities. However, that was not enough and the violence continued. I realized the only way that I could truly make education a safer place for other transgender youth and myself was through collective action. So when I was 16, in 2011, I co-founded Trans Student Educational Resources in order to tackle these issues by and for trans youth.

As a young social entrepreneur, what are three of your biggest barriers/challenges?

Co-founding a large organization at 16 without the help of any adults, I recognize there are unique challenges we face as young social innovators. As a young person, my work is regularly delegitimize. TSER is frequently dismissed as merely a “student project,” while in reality we have accomplished so much for our community. Secondly, it is difficult to mobilize youth in such a way that we are able to maximize our impact. Between school, college, and supporting our families, youth lead very busy lives and often do not always have time to take action in their communities. However, we have been fortunate to gain over three dozen consistent volunteers at TSER over the years.

Finally, some funders and donors have issues with trusting youth with their money. We are lucky to have had numerous foundations support us over the past three years yet there could still be more. It is not our age that is holding us back but rather the way that society sees young people: as unreliable, ineffective, and unintelligent. In reality, I have worked with trans youth who I know are some of the most dependable, resourceful, and smart people I’ve ever met.

Matthew Kincaid – Founder, Overcoming Racism

Matthew Kincaid - Young Social Entrepreneur
Matthew Kincaid poses for a portrait for Red Bull Amaphiko in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Overcoming Racism teaches individuals and institutions how to envision, embrace and work toward a world without racism. Working primarily in schools and with educators, Overcoming Racism provides intensive and high quality professional development that seeks to interrupt patterns of disparate achievement outcomes between white students, and students of color. Overcoming Racism believes that we can continue to address the symptoms of educational inequity or we can address the cause, systemic racism.”

Kincaid had worked as a social studies teacher and school administrator before starting up Overcoming Racism. The New Orleans-based organization has been identified as one of the top five education start-ups to watch in the city, and this year we will train over 1000 educators who will go on to impact over 7000 students. Overcoming Racism is making big waves in New Orleans and co-hosted an event bringing Trayvon Martin’s parents to New Orleans for a discussion on “Rest in Power”, the story of Trayvon Martin, as well as the work of the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?

To me, social entrepreneurship means taking the unjust and prejudicial conditions that our communities have created and exist within and work to create something to address those issues.  


As an educator I tried to work within the system to invoke change for a number of years, social entrepreneurship means changing my focus and working to change the system entirely.

What inspired you to launch your social innovation/nonprofit?

I was inspired to found Overcoming Racism initially because of my personal experience in education, and then because of the realities that my students faced in schools. I have been leading anti-racism trainings and workshops since I was fourteen years old. I grew up in an all black community but I was the only black student in my school from kindergarten until 8th grade. While the adults and the world around me didn’t talk about race or racism, I lived in these two hyper segregated environments, I had to learn the functions of race as a means of survival. Race and racism as they have been constructed in this country might be one of our oldest and most significant inventions, and conversations about race are often among our steadfast taboos.

For students who happen to  grow up in communities that have been the victims of a cocktail off oppressive policies, housing discrimination, employment discrimination, failing schools, teacher shortages, lack of access to healthy food, economic disenfranchisement, predatory policing, violence, crime, the list goes on, the answer for them can’t just be, “work hard and go to college.” For students who grow up in affluent communities that have been benefitted by the same policies that have disenfranchised the students I mention above, can’t just be told “work hard and go to college.” We have to work, collectively, to face, reduce, and eliminate the unjust and oppressive conditions that undermine the foundation of our democracy.

As a young social entrepreneur, what are three of your biggest barriers/challenges?

  1. Transferring my passion to others – It can be easy to get caught up in trying to do everything myself, I care so much about the mission of my project that I want everything to be perfect. I have to know and understand that I cannot accomplish my goals without others and I have to know how to leverage my community for help and support.
  2. The unseen details – Being an entrepreneur means wearing a ton of hats, before you can hire people to specialize around the varying tasks that you have to complete, you are all there is. Getting all of the details right, and learning the ins and outs of running a business can be daunting.
  3. Self care – These initiatives are near and dear to our hearts. It is easy to put your mission, your vision and your passion before your health and wellbeing. For my initiative specifically, taking on the weight and burden of overcoming racism is heavy, hard and comes with great achievements and great disappointments. Understanding that if I don’t take care of myself, that the work can’t go on in the ways that it needs to, is important to sustaining this important work.

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