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sharEd team shot

This past fall I joined three of my MMM classmates in a case competition. Two quarters later, what started as a distraction from studying is blossoming into a real business. We secured more than $16,000 (and counting!) of initial funding, we have a great set of advisors and potential partners and we are planning to launch our first pilot this summer.

So how did we actually get here?

It started with the Hult Prize competition at Kellogg, where we were tasked with answering this question: Can we provide quality early education to 10 million children under age six in urban slums by 2020?

It’s not an easy task by anyone’s standards, but it is crucially important.  Because of the way the brain develops in the child’s formative years, it is much more effective to intervene at this point rather than later in life. Children who receive early education are more prepared for school, are more likely to graduate high school and are more likely to accrue a higher income in later life. Unfortunately, due to high costs and lack of proper training, quality early education is not always a possibility.

Our solution, sharEd (pronounced like “shared”), is a simple answer to this complex problem. We focus specifically on addressing the quality gap in existing preschools by providing the right resources and ongoing teacher training:

  • High quality education resources
    Variety matters for proper development, and for only $5 a month a preschool will have access to $1,000 worth of books and educational toys and games. We’re able to provide this variety by pooling resources across a network of schools and rotating the materials monthly.
  • Ongoing teacher training
    Teachers will come together monthly to trade resources, share best practices with each other and learn the most effective way to provide early childhood education from sharEd educational experts. Our monthly training sessions will ensure that teachers are able to effectively use the materials and improve our model over time.

Please take a look at our website for more details about our solution.

After winning the Kellogg Hult Prize competition in December, our team advanced to the regional semifinals in London. While we didn’t win, we returned to Evanston confident that our idea was solid. Without explicitly discussing it as a team, sharEd became much more than a case competition idea – it became a company. We would find the resources another way. (Plus, can you imagine if JK Rowling had given up after the first 8 publishers turned her down?)

Our team immediately launched into funding mode. We started a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo – which is also part of an online competition for the Hult summer accelerator – and applied to more competitions. We have been able to raise more than $16,000 in the last month and are on our way to launching a pilot this summer!

And with that, I want to comment as to how Kellogg and MMM have been integral in our startup adventure so far:

Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative:
One of the things that makes business school a great place to bring an idea to life is that Kellogg actively supports students and their ventures. In addition to helping us market our crowd funding campaign on Twitter and Facebook and connecting us with additional contacts, Kellogg also provided the initial seed money for the business and financial support so that some of our team could focus exclusively on the business in lieu of a summer internship.

Apart from what they teach us in class (we came up with our concept after talking about the benefits of pooling resources in an operations class), our professors also serve as mentors. Our professors have helped us tweak our hub-and-spoke model to reduce waste, better tell our story in order to win over investors, proactively recruit summer interns and connect us to other similar businesses. And did I mention some of the professors helped us without having any of our team members take their class?

My peers at Kellogg continue to impress and amaze me. Kellogg boasts such a modest student body, so it is easy to forget that the classmate you just saw dancing in Bollywood Bash actually founded a startup in Rwanda or advised the Clinton Foundation in Malawi. Not only have my classmates contributed to our fundraising campaign, they also willingly and proactively share their expertise and introduce us to their contacts.

And that’s sharEd! Stay tuned for more updates.

Kate Geremia ’16 is a first-year student in Kellogg’s full-time MMM Program. Prior to Kellogg, Kate worked as a consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners, where she helped companies develop product marketing and pricing strategies. She received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.