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Pittsburgh students, want to build a business? This pitch competition is for you

A BUILD.org program involves a $1.2 million investment from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which will go toward supporting a pitch competition and entrepreneurship curricula over the next four years.

BUILD.org will host a pitch competition for Southwestern PA youth. (Courtesy image)
Pittsburgh students have proven they’re interested in tackling social issues through startups. Thanks to a new partnership, middle and high schoolers will soon have another chance to launch a socially minded business idea.

Youth entrepreneurship education nonprofit BUILD.org, which is headquartered in Redwood City, California, is partnering with Pittsburgh’s Richard King Mellon Foundation on a new effort to bring its services to the region. The partnership will include a $1.2 million investment from the foundation, spread over four years, to help students in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties develop their entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

“Entrepreneurs can be powerful agents for social good,” said Sam Reiman, director of the RK Mellon Foundation, in a press release. “They bring their passion and creativity to vexing societal problems, with the potential to generate solutions that can be scaled to achieve significant positive impact.”

The collaboration will begin with the 2022 Southwestern PA Youth Pitch Competition, which opened applications this month. The free and online programming includes the chance to win up to $2,000 in cash prizes for schools and organizations and up to $1,000 for student business teams. Plus, educators who participate in the competition will have access to other free trainings, curriculums and platforms from BUILD.

The competition focuses on business ideas related to what BUILD calls the human-centered design process, meaning that youth teams will compete in creating a product, service or campaign that solves a problem in support of a thriving community. Participating students will then share their ideas through a pitch video, with the top three teams later presenting their pitches to a live panel of judges to determine the final rankings.

The video submission deadline is Friday, April 15, and the final teams will be selected by Friday, April 22. The live pitches from those teams are set to take place throughout the week of May 2.

“Today, students and educators need digital skills and an entrepreneurial mindset to thrive in our rapidly changing workplace,” BUILD CEO Ayele Shakur said. “We are thrilled to partner with RKMF to bring youth entrepreneurship education to Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties.”

Register for the pitch competition

The foundation’s investment in BUILD demonstrates a continued focus on building the future of Pittsburgh tech, and follows a slew of major investments in 2021 for robotics manufacturing and life sciences, as well as a social impact pitch competition to encourage more entrepreneurs to innovate for the Pittsburgh community. The youth education investment within this announcement also dovetails with goals outlined in a recent report from the Partnership to Advance Responsible Technology, which the foundation supported.

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Richard King Mellon Foundation

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