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    Date submitted
  • 18-Nov-2017

IRONBOUND USA

Abstract

Over the last five years, our inner cities have imploded into chaos, driven by the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and countless others. As a result, the plight of young men of color growing up in American inner-cities has never been more visible. To help address the demands and challenges of such disadvantaged youth, my business partner Gary Bloore founded IRONBOUND USA, a non-profit organization fueled by its commitment to social enterprise. IRONBOUND USA is a 501(c)(3) organization based out of Newark, New Jersey. Last year, Gary and I partnered together to incorporate boxing under the umbrella of IRONBOUND. The mission of IRONBOUND USA is to fund non-profit boxing and personal branding education programs in disadvantaged urban communities. We fill the gap where other systems have failed by providing social enterprises dedicated to establishing and building connections with kids in disadvantaged communities, then building upon those relationships to positively influence them. We accomplish our goals by renovating abandoned urban spaces and transforming them into venues to operate our boxing and education programs. In February of 2017, we opened the Ironbound Boxing Academy, the first of many social enterprises that we intend to bring to America’s roughest inner-cities. Boxing allows us to engage youth in a non-traditional setting and mold our offerings to what urban youth are attracted to and excited about. This purposeful relationship building through hands-on training allows our organization to provide life coaching and wider initiatives that help build professional and social skills beyond the boxing ring.

Our education programs vary from traditional education programs, due our emphasis on understanding the importance of personal branding, particular in the age of social media. We teach kids to view themselves as a brand and market themselves accordingly. In the Academy, our personal branding program focuses on soft skills such as shaking hands, being accountable, and holding a personal standard. Outside of the Academy, we partner with local high schools to teach our methodology in a moral formal classroom setting and instruct students in the evaluation other brands. The idea is to help students understand how branding relates to marketing themselves on college essays, job applications, and general public appearances. This hybrid curriculum is already in action at St. Benedict's Preparatory School, an all-boys school in Newark, as well as Newark Tech, a nearby local charter school. The result? Children are taught life skills in academic settings with the opportunity to train together after class in a safe environment at the IRONBOUND Boxing Academy. We strive to reduce crime among youth, while simultaneously increasing job placement and graduation rates in Newark to ensure a lasting impact in our community.

IRONBOUND USA is a business enterprise that is specifically designed to support disadvantaged youth in America’s worst inner-cities. In order to fund our organization, we will be launching an IRONBOUND apparel line. The goal for the apparel line is twofold; increase visibility and be the primary source of income for our nonprofit, enabling us to grow and impact more youth. We also rely heavily on grants, charities, and the philanthropic community. Our approach represents hybrid model, blending for profit business practices, to accomplish a social mission. IRONBOUND builds relationships in communities traditionally difficult for local government and law enforcement agencies to reach. We speak “with” youth, not “at” them. Using our template of our Boxing Academy and education programs in Newark, we aim to expand to Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore amongst other cities.

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Additional Questions

Who is your customer?

We are targeting youth in American Inner-cities.

What problem does this idea/product solve or what market need does it serve?

In Newark, NJ, there are 7,000 opportunity youth (youth between the ages of 16-24 who aren't enrolled in school, don't have a job, and are unable to contribute to the economy. 90 % of Newark residents are Black and Latino. Only 8% of Newark jobs go to those that actually live in the City. 10% of our residents have a bachelors degree and only 4% hold a Masters or higher. What does this tell us? Young Blacks and Latinos are overly represented as opportunity youth. They are growing up in violent neighborhoods, raised by parents who lack formal education, and an education system that has been unable to effectively reach them. We are attempting to reduce the current number of opportunity you in American inner-cities, while simultaneously preventing others from becoming opportunity youth.

What attributes will make this idea/product successful? Why do you believe that those features will create success?

IRONBOUND USA is a network that utilizes the social economy, leveraging technology & human capital, to foster transformational change for youth in American inner-cities. IRONBOUND's technology platform and business model, allows us to funnel youth into existing public and private businesses. We remove barriers to entry and create ease of access for those in our network. , specifically catered to their interest. Our technology will allow us to create digital membership cards, created specifically for each kid, with a network of free programs/services catered to his or her interest. For example, In Newark, NJ, we are in the process of building a network of 8 boxing gyms, to train local youth. Using Newark and Boxing as a template, we are building a platform to disrupt the traditional business models of the "Boys and Girls Club" and "YMCA," while simultaneously supporting their existing infrastructure. We are bringing technology and innovation to address the challenges of inner-city youth.

Explain how you (your team) will execute to make this idea/product successful? What gives you (your team) an advantage over others already in the market or new to this market?

Our team is in the process of developing our "Proof-of-Concept" in the City of Newark, NJ along with our minimal viable product. Once complete, we will attempt to raise support through the social impact community, while simultaneously leveraging mentorship within the business community. Our current ties to youth in the City of Newark, through our IRONBOUND Boxing Academy, allows us a first-hand perspective of the challenges faced with this venture. However, we are able to make adjustments through constant observation and feedback. My business partner and I have experience working hand-in-hand in one of America's roughest City's. Combined, we spend approximately 15 hours a day with the City's youth. We live where they are, maintain a boxing gym in the heart of the city, and are able to interact with them daily. Our advantage is our knowledge and experience working/living with inner-city youth and leveraging assets to support them. We have the ability to connect the dots where they don't exist.