Video by Sean Logan | Multimedia Producer
Skate After School co-founder Tim Ward was a little hesitant at first when co-founder Ryan Lay told him about SEED SPOT. But after the two decided it could benefit their nonprofit company, they applied — and now they’re in.
The nonprofit organization, which offers skateboarding as an after-school activity for elementary school children, was picked for SEED SPOT’s venture program in late February. Skate After School and 10 other organizations were selected from a group of nearly 100 applicants for the highly selective venture program.
SEED SPOT, which started in 2012, aims to “support the nation’s most innovative social entrepreneurs,” according to the organization’s website. It offers different levels of programs for business startups, whether they are nonprofit or for-profit.
Courtney Klein, co-founder and chief executive officer for SEED SPOT, said the entrepreneurs selected for the 16-week program receive office space and training.
“We run them through our curriculums, so they’re in session with us about 10 hours a week,” she said.
Klein said the curriculum for the rigorous program is both lecture and workshop-based. Additionally, she said they rely on a network of community leaders who come in to lend their expertise in fields like law, accounting, finance and raising capital.
Ward and Lay, along with co-founder Bobby Green, created Skate After School in 2012 to offer skateboarding as an after-school activity at the CARE Partnership in Mesa. When they saw that the kids loved to play around with the skateboards they brought once or twice a week, they decided to do more.
As they gathered more skateboarding equipment from steady donations, Skate After School added Crockett Elementary School in Phoenix to its program. Now, the three co-founders and their team of volunteers host their program at CARE Partnership, Crockett Elementary and Westland School in Glendale.
Still in its early stages as a nonprofit organization, Skate After School is not yet set up legally to accept financial donations. However, Ward said SEED SPOT will help them with that process of becoming an official nonprofit organization.
“We’re hoping to learn more just about the business side of things and how actual nonprofits are run legally and officially,” Ward said.
Skate After School is only a couple of weeks into its SEED SPOT program, but it’s already been helpful, Ward said.
“We feel like we have a good idea, and we’ve seen that we have a good idea and a good program that gets good response, but they’re going to help us make it official, so that we can continue on what we’re wanting to do,” he said.
Ward said Lay was the one who found out about SEED SPOT and really pushed for it. The experience and the environment at SEED SPOT has been great thus far, Lay said.
“It’s pretty humbling just meeting so many inspiring people, and everyone there is just really, really motivated and highly intelligent,” Lay said. “It’s kind of funny being there — Tim and I are like the skateboard guys at the office.”
Although starting a new venture can be a daunting thing to take on, Klein said SEED SPOT’s ability to walk them through a structured process is what helps the most.
“It’s incredible to see entrepreneurs that are eager to learn and receive feedback and contribute to the community, so they’ve been fantastic to work with,” she said.
At the end of the 16-week program, SEED SPOT will host two events — one will invite accredited investors to hear the ventures’ pitches (those looking to raise capital), and the other will feature a live community audience for the ventures to pitch their concepts.
Lay said he hopes to utilize the SEED SPOT program to help solidify Skate After School and expand it as a nonprofit organization.
“We want to really solidify it and package our program,” Lay said. “From there, we can very easily scale it and work with more schools in the Valley and potentially reach out to donors or foundations and just grow the program naturally and organically.”
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