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Entrepreneurship competition comes to a close with several big winners

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 13, 2010 - Jonathan Kaufman was beaming when I tapped him on the shoulder Tuesday night inside an auditorium at Washington University’s Olin School of Business.

He had just accepted three awards totaling $45,000 on behalf of The One Percent Foundation, an organization he’s run with his brother since 2007. “It’s been a good night for us,” Kaufman said amid handshakes and hugs.

The foundation supports a range of organizations by persuading young adults to pool their funds (they pledge to donate at least 1 percent of their income to philanthropy each year) and time.

It emerged from the YouthBridge Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition, run through Washington U.’s Skandalaris Center, as the biggest winner. Now in its sixth year, the contest gives entrepreneurs with socially conscious ventures a chance to win part of the $155,000 pool.

Five of the seven finalists in the competition came away with funding. Twice Blessed Resale Shop earned the second most in prize money: $40,000. The retail store aims to develop a sustainable revenue stream for the nonprofit Our Lady’s Inn, which serves homeless pregnant women and their children. Twice Blessed made it to the semifinal round last year when the store had yet to open. 

City Greens Produce, which provides access to fresh, local produce to people in low-income communities, won $30,000. St. Louis Dancing Classrooms, a program that uses dance to teach lessons about teamwork to students in St. Louis schools, earned the same amount.

Crafts By Youth, an organization that allows young people in Uganda earn money by creating paper bead jewelry, came away with $5,000.

Kaufman, a first-year M.B.A. student at Wash. U. who took part in the competition for the first time, also won a $5,000 personal award on top of the $45,000 for his foundation. The latter amount will help the foundation, which is now entirely run by volunteers, begin to pay its staff.