In December of last year my new business partner, Kyle Rawlins and I decided to apply for the Echoing Green Fellowship for social entrepreneurs. I had applied before with FOURM design studio and made it to the semi-finals. I decided that with the launch of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, it was time to give it another go. Just a couple of months ago we were informed we had made the finals. We were one of 70 finalists( out of approximately 2000 applicants) that would be invited to the Echoing Green Finals interviews. I was ecstatic! Kyle was calm and cool as usual. We rapidly responded to their additional queries and chatted with a current fellow assigned to us, Katrina Spade who founded the Urban Death Project. ( you must check this out as its amazing). She along with the folks from the Reset Foundation gave us some great advice on the interview experience.
We were then asked if we wanted to participate in the Echoing Green’s largest fundraiser, the annual Big Bold Benefit, by pitching our company in 60 seconds in front of 400 people. After my heart skipped several beats I said “sure” knowing that they would only select a few to do it so what were the odds. One day later we were informed that we would be one of 11 organizations pitching that night. My heart may have stopped for just a minute. I then went into a round of pitch coaching with Bill Smartt who helped me get the complexities of our company explained in just 60 seconds. This is a very short time with little room for error so I practiced it in the shower, on walks, in the car, on the street and anywhere people would not think I was crazy. During the week I also found out that my friend Damon Packwood founder of Gameheads was a finalist and my colleague from Harvard Quardean Lewis-Allen of Made in Brownsville. Their work is exemplary of the kind of amazing people we were among.
Finally, the day came and on Wednesday of this week, Kyle and I had our first interview with staff and that evening I gave the pitch. I was last and think it went pretty well despite an obvious gaff afterwards during the Q&A where I tried to answer another applicants query….sigh.
Thursday we had individual and partner interviews with several groups of judges, a photo shoot, peer coaching session and a final pitch at the end of the day with dinner and drinks. It was by far the most intense and exciting selection process I have been through and I am grateful to the Echoing Green staff for all their help. Can’t help but do some shout outs: Janna Oberdorf( helped me with pitching), Maggie Gleason( reminded me to eat and feel calm), Leah Stern( helped us figure out our theory of change), Neelam Sakaria & Fozzie Nelson ( helped us figure out where we were going) , Teresa Vazquez ( helped us think through converting small fish into big fish) and many more…..
No matter what happens, we had an amazing experience with the best being the other amazing finalists we met. They are truly incredible people. I made some new professional colleagues and some new friends ( including my awesome roommate Sylvia) this week thanks to Echoing Green.