Check out BALSA Grant winners Julius B. Anthony and Kianna Hill on FOX2 Now.
We are delighted to announce our Summer 2018 BALSA Grant Finalists! These ten first time entrepreneurs will each receive a $1000 cash grant, in-kind donations of professional services, and ongoing mentorship to help start and grow their business:
The award ceremony featured a panel discussion with Shay Gillespie of World Wide Technology, Valerie Patton of the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative, Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; moderated by Dr. April Warren-Grice of Liberated Genius. The conversation allowed the panelists to share their WHY; why they do what they do as professionals and business owners. All three expressed the importance of believing in yourself and your idea, surrounding yourself with like minded individuals who encourage and support you and your business, building relationships and giving back to the community.
See our press release here.
Join The BALSA Foundation at Venture Cafe for an informative discussion about starting a food-related business. Panelists are early-stage entrepreneurs and more advanced professionals in the food service business - manufacturing and catering.
The presentation is targeted toward first time entrepreneurs: we will cover the basics that those starting out should be aware of, and discuss available help and resources. Bring your questions!
We are delighted to announce our Spring 2018 BALSA Grant Finalists! These ten first time entrepreneurs will each receive a $1000 cash grant, in-kind donations of professional services, and ongoing mentorship to help start and grow their business:
You can read more about the finalists here.
The award ceremony featured a conversation with Jason Wilson, CEO of Northwest Coffee Roasting hosted by Dr. Cheryl Watkins Moore, Director of the BIOSTL Inclusion Initiative. The conversation covered Jason’s scrappy professional background that brought him to the success he is currently experiencing in his career, his thoughts for promoting a more diverse and inclusive Saint Louis, and how he ended up on camera handing Joe Biden a bag of coffee.
See our press release here.
Photos from the Spring 2018 BALSA Grant Award Ceremony
2017 has been an exciting and busy year for The BALSA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The BALSA Group! We selected 20 first-time entrepreneurs to receive the BALSA Grant of $1,000 plus mentorship, reviewed 130 Idea support applications, and the Entrepreneur’s roadmap was downloaded 400 times. For the first time ever we partnered with the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership to award an additional $5,000 to a previous BALSA Grant recipient.
We had annual elections on September 18th and elected a new leadership team of officers and Directors - I’m delighted to be the third Executive Director of this organization! We also merged with the East St. Louis Initiative, a student run venture supporting small-scale businesses and entrepreneurs in East St. Louis. This new venture will allow us to work with underserved entrepreneurs in East St. Louis more effectively while providing targeted consulting services to past BALSA Grant finalists.
2018 promises to be even more exciting! We start the year with the 7th BALSA Grant, and are accepting applications January 1 - 15. The new leadership team will build on past success to improve our programs and provide support to underserved entrepreneurs in our region.
With best wishes for a safe, joyful and prosperous 2018--
Aziz Traore, Executive Director of The BALSA Foundation"
The BALSA Foundation’s East St. Louis Initiative (ESLI) held it's 3rd Annual Pitch Competition on October 27th, 2017. Nine entrepreneurs from the Greater St. Louis area (including 4 from East St. Louis) participated in the competition, representing local entrepreneurial ventures in industries ranging from retail, human resources, healthcare, and nonprofit. A panel of 3 experienced judges voted for the best pitches on the basis of the robustness of the ideas and the opportunity for ESLI to add value, and selected four entrepreneurs to receive six months of pro bono consulting services from teams of Washington University’s graduate business students. This consulting engagement will aid entrepreneurs in furthering their ventures, with expertise in areas such as strategy, finance, marketing, business development, legal and nonprofit management, free of any charges.
ESLI's 2017-2018 cohort (winners of the Pitch Competition) are:
We're delighted to announce our merger with the East St. Louis Initiative, a student run venture supporting small-scale businesses and individual entrepreneurs in the underserved community of East St. Louis. The venture shall now be known as the BALSA Foundation’s East St. Louis Initiative.
The East St. Louis Initiative was founded in 2015 by students from the Olin Business School and the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, to support small-scale businesses and individual entrepreneurs in the underserved community of East St. Louis. ESLI offers entrepreneurs the support of 2-3 member student consulting teams over a 4-6 month timeframe with a wide variety of expertise in areas of business, finance, marketing, legal and nonprofit management, free of charge.
The BALSA Foundation is a volunteer-run organization founded in 2014 as the philanthropic arm of the BALSA Group, a student-run consulting organization. The BALSA Foundation’s mission is to promote social equity and prosperity in the St. Louis region by empowering first-time entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. We fulfill this mission by (1) maintaining an online, step-by-step guide to starting a business, (2) providing free feedback from experts to anyone with a business idea, (3) providing cash grants, mentorship, and donations of professional services to first time entrepreneurs who need and will benefit from them the most.
The BALSA Foundation’s East St. Louis Initiative will continue the work of serving East St. Louis entrepreneurs with focused consulting services while taking advantage of the BALSA Foundation's network and expertise.
We invite entrepreneurs from the East St. Louis area to participate in our 2017 Annual Pitch Competition. The Pitch Competition provides entrepreneurs a stage to pitch their idea to a panel of experienced judges, and the opportunity to win attractive cash prizes. Up to 5 entrepreneurs will be offered the services of a team of business consultants from the MBA program at Washington University, who will work with the selected entrepreneurs for up to 6 months to realize clearly defined business goals, free of charge.
The competition will be held on Friday, Oct 27, at the Skandalaris Center at Washington University in St. Louis. For more details and updates, please click here. All interested entrepreneurs are requested to reach out to email@example.com.
The BALSA Foundation held its annual elections on September 18th 2017, and elected officers and directors who are passionate about helping first-time entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region start their businesses. In its three years of existence, more than 700 for first-time entrepreneurs have taken advantage of programs put together by the BALSA Foundation. More specifically, 57 BALSA Grant finalists have received over $55,000 in cash grants, over $90,000 in professional services, and countless hours of personalized mentorship and assistance. Many of the former officers will play a role in the Board of Directors and remain engaged. The new leadership team, made up entirely of part-time volunteers, will work tirelessly to implement programs geared towards entrepreneurs in communities that need it the most.
The new officers are: Arpan Majumder (Finance Director); Mark Katerberg (Technology Director); Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano (Business Director) and Aziz Traore (Executive Director).
“I am proud and excited to be a part of this organization because of the work it does at the grass-root level” says Aziz Traore the new Executive Director. “Entrepreneurship can be a powerful weapon in improving the economy, prosperity and overall well-being of an entire region. But for that to happen for everyone especially those in under-resourced communities, it is crucial to lower barriers to entry in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The previous leadership team has done a tremendous job in realizing this vision and we hope to deliver on that mission.”
AZIZ TRAORE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Aziz is the Executive Director of the BALSA Foundation and a Senior Scientist at MilliporeSigma working on the development of tissue chips to study drug safety and toxicity. Born and raised in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Aziz moved to the United States to pursue his education in Engineering in 2005. He received both his Bachelors and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech before moving to Washington University in St. Louis for his postdoctoral studies in Biomedical Engineering. Aziz believes in the power of entrepreneurship and the positive impact entrepreneurs can have on the economic growth and prosperity of an entire region. He is a strong proponent of increased access and participation in the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem by lowering barriers to entry. He also serves in Board of Directors of the Balsa Foundation.
ARPAN MAJUMDER, FINANCE DIRECTOR
Arpan is the Finance Director of the BALSA Foundation, and a graduate business student in the Olin Business School at the Washington University in St. Louis. Born and raised in Kolkata, India, Arpan graduated as a mechanical engineer and went on to work in management and business development roles in major multi-national corporations. Arpan's love for the city of St. Louis brought him to be associated with the East St. Louis Initiative (ESLI), a student run body that aids individual entrepreneurs from the underserved community of East St. Louis. His association with the BALSA Foundation began with the successful completion of ESLI's merger with BALSA. Arpan's motivation for driving financial operations at BALSA stems from a belief that stability and predictability of operations will move the BALSA Foundation towards its goal of providing every individual with equal opportunities to succeed.
MARK KATERBERG, TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR
Mark is the Technology Director of the BALSA Foundation and a software developer at Slalom Consulting where he specialized in front-end web development. He is a transplant from Grand Rapids, Michigan and has received his degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota. Working to help shape a city that encourages its citizens to grow their skills regardless of institutional setbacks is a passion for Mark. He supports STL Women Techmakers, the STL Techies Project, and other St Louis organizations that work for social change.
GABRIELA RAMÍREZ-ARELLANO, BUSINESS DIRECTOR
A native of Guanajuato, México, Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano has spent the last few years helping entrepreneurs and small businesses expand and gain access to capital and opportunities for growth. She earned a bachelor of science in Marketing from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA from Lindenwood University. After graduation she moved to Michigan, where she raised her family and found her voice for helping the community build economic strength through financial literacy, entrepreneurship and education. With over two decades of nonprofit experience, Gabriela has specialized in assisting organizations develop strategic plans to reach their marketing and outreach goals. Now back in St. Louis, she continues to help small business owners as the business counselor at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was recently named by the St Louis Business Journal one of the top 100 people to know to succeed in business. Gabriela and her husband own Don Emiliano's Restaurante Mexicano in O'Fallon, MO and she is active on the board of the Balsa Foundation, The University of Missouri Extension and recently joined the board of Fontbonne University.
SAINT LOUIS, September 5, 2017. The BALSA Foundation, a not-for-profit promoting inclusion in the Saint Louis entrepreneurship community, has awarded another round of grants to first-time entrepreneurs and the first ever $5000 STL Partnership Award to a previous BALSA Grant recipient.
“We often talk about entrepreneurship in terms of smarts, passion, and determination,” said Matt Wyczalkowski, Executive Director of the BALSA Foundation in his opening remarks at the LaunchCode Mentor Center, where the awards were presented on September 5th. “All of these things are important. Yet what strikes me the most is the bravery it takes to press forward into the unknown, to risk so much with no certainty of success.” The night’s program also included a panel discussion on efforts in Saint Louis to promote entrepreneurship in underserved communities moderated by Ginger Imster from The Saint Louis Economic Development Partnership. The panel was made up of individuals who have dedicated their careers to the effort, including Galen Gondolfi, Chief Communications Officer at Justine Petersen; Alyce Wilson, Director of Grace Hill Women’s Business Center; Kristy Jackson, CEO of DK Solutions & Events and Founder, Social Synergy Project and GLAMM; and Josh Wilson, Executive Director of MISSION: St. Louis. The discussion covered efforts in Saint Louis to help underserved entrepreneurs, the specific needs of those communities, and a couple of success stories including the inspirational history of DK Solutions from founder Kristy Jackson herself.
The BALSA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the BALSA Group, a local non-profit strategic consulting group, and was founded on the premise that a more diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem will contribute to a more inclusive and collaborative city. The Foundation offers a downloadable roadmap to starting a business (in both English and Spanish) , a mentorship-for-all program, and individual grants For the 2017 fall grant cycle BALSA grant recipients will receive $1,000 in cash, as well as in-kind awards valued in total at over $25,000, including co-working space from TechArtista and in-kind technical assistance from Faro Law STL, Polsinelli Law, Cortex Innovation Community, Brazen, St. Louis County Public Library, The Private Bank, Sierra Communications and several others. Funding for half of cash grants was made possible by the generous support of the STL Economic Development Partnership.
A diverse set of entrepreneurs and industries applied for the grant awards and recipients pitched their ideas to an audience of over 150 at the ceremony on September 5th.
New for this grant cycle was a collaboration with the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership that allowed an additional $5,000 to be granted to a previous BALSA grant winner, The STL Partnership Award. It was targeted toward entrepreneurs that made significant progress with their business while also being a positive force for the St. Louis small business community. The $5,000 prize was awarded to CORE + RIND, launching a cashew “cheesy” sauce soon that is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, organic, non GMO and with no preservatives. The grant from the BALSA foundation will help the St. Louis startup through the final stages of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
The BALSA Foundation will launch its next BALSA Grant cycle on January 1, 2018; details and deadlines will be announced at www.balsafoundation.org.
ABOUT THE BALSA FOUNDATION
The BALSA Foundation is an all-volunteer non-profit organization established to provide resources, mentorship, and funding to first-time St. Louis entrepreneurs. The BALSA Foundation’s mission is to promote social equity and prosperity in the St. Louis region by empowering first-time entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. We fulfill this mission by (1) maintaining an online, step-by-step guide to starting a business, (2) providing free feedback from experts to anyone with a business idea, (3) providing cash grants, mentorship, and donations of professional services to first time entrepreneurs who need and will benefit from them the most.
For more information visit: http://www.balsafoundation.org.
The success of the BALSA foundation relies on the relentless dedication of its volunteers, the constant support of partners in our community and the determination of first time entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region. On August 1st, 2017 we celebrated the successes of past BALSA grant finalists, recognized and thanked our various supporters in the community.
As we look forward to an exciting upcoming cycle, we must continue to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem to support the vibrant community of first time entrepreneurs in our region. We are delighted to welcome a new cohort of BALSA grant finalists that will be announced at the award ceremony on September 5th, 2017.
We are delighted to announce our Spring 2017 BALSA Grant Finalists! These ten first time entrepreneurs will each receive a $1000 cash grant, in-kind donations of professional services, and ongoing mentorship to help start and grow their business:
You can read more about all our finalists here.
Our finalists ceremony featured a panel discussion by several of our past BALSA Grant Finalists including: Arriel Bivens-Biggs, Young Biz Kidz; Carrie Lewis, Sweet Life Gourmet; Janelle Mack, 2Geez Catering; and Patrice Hill, Inali Jewelry. A big thanks to all of our finalists for sharing their personal experiences and to Jade Harrell , Founder and CEO of RareGem Productions for moderating!
Photos by Constantino Schillebeeckx. Program by Brittany Riehlman.
The BALSA Foundation will hold the BALSA Grant Awards Ceremony on March 7 at LaunchCode - we will be giving away at least $10,000 in cash grants and $20,000 of in-kind donations to ten first time entrepreneurs.
We will feature a panel discussion with several of our past finalists, to learn about their experiences as BALSA Grant finalists and first time entrepreneurs.
Light refreshments will be provided.
We're happy to share our December 2016 newsletter! Take a look to learn about our programs from 2016, our new Mission and Vision statement, and more!
We're looking for volunteers to join our team!
The BALSA Foundation is a small, dynamic nonprofit run by volunteers passionate about promoting social equity through entrepreneurship. Our BALSA Grant awards small cash grants, professional services, and mentorship to first time entrepreneurs who need and can benefit from it the most. This program is funded, in part, by our partners in the local business community. The Business Director will be mainly responsible for communicating with existing partners and establishing new ones, as well as identifying grant and corporate funding opportunities. This position involves a volunteer commitment of 5-10 hours/week through September 2017 and is a great opportunity to build a strong professional network in the St. Louis business and entrepreneurial communities while making a real positive change in people’s lives. If you find this interesting or know someone who does, we’d love to talk to you - see here for details and get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Since the BALSA Foundation it has been unreal.” Nine days into a month long market in Belleville, IL, “I have already sold out twice.”
Meet Bonnidette Lantz, the founder and owner of Lightenstein and a 2016 Summer BALSA Grant finalist. Lightenstein sells handmade lamps that are works of art. Popular ones include a book sprouting a light and an old-fashioned camera holding a bulb in place of the lens. In Bonnidette’s eyes, almost anything can become a lamp.
Bonnidette made her first lamp out of flea market finds when she was 12. More recently, the creation of the lamps began as a hobby and grew into a business that was officially established in 2015. She had an Etsy shop to sell online, did a few shows, and was an early artist with Create Space. Yet she needed an investment in her company, every penny she made in sales went straight to parts for the next lamp. Julia Lee with Create Space mentioned applying to the BALSA Grant for a small business grant.
Bonnidette applied to the BALSA Grant and was selected as a finalist. “How has the Foundation helped me?,” Bonnidette noted, “It was huge for me.” The grant money enabled her to buy supplies in bulk to reduce production costs, which allowed her an opportunity to invest in her business and grow her company. However, Bonnidette said, “It’s not just the money with the BALSA Foundation, it is [also] the people you get to meet and throwing ideas around.”
The impact of the grant has snowballed. In less than four months she sold all the lamps made from that first bulk order and placed a second one. “For some people that [$1000 BALSA grant] might seem like only a little bit, but with that little bit, I was able to cut my costs so much that it’s allowed me grow at twice the rate without raising prices on customers,” says Bonnidette. She reports that her sales have doubled, “Last year I was so excited because I sold 10 lamps in December and I sold that in the first day of December this year.”
But it wasn’t just the money that impacted Lightenstein. Bonnidette’s business plan expanded thanks to a marketing class, an introduction to Instagram, and a fortuitous discussion with other entrepreneurs that opened up her eyes to what her business could become. “The other thing that was huge was the other recipients,” she commented. Bonnidette explained how the community connections with other finalists and entrepreneurs has been invaluable to share struggles, triumphs, and bounce ideas around. She also received an in-kind donation of a co-working space. With her expanded network and skyrocketing sales, she is grateful to have a professional place to meet clients.
Through the introduction to Instagram, Bonnidette found people all over the world interested in upcycling lamps. Combined with a conversation with other finalists regarding do-it-yourself products, a lightbulb moment occurred. “I can sell parts,” she thought, and moments later, “I can sell kits.” Beyond selling to customers who love the lamps as art, Lightenstein now has an expanded business plan to also reach customers who want to create one themselves.
Bonnidette describes her experience as a first-time entrepreneur as “scary and exciting and exhausting. It is all those things, and all in a good way. Even the scary is somewhat exciting. That’s the thing you go through so many different emotions.” She offers advice for first time entrepreneurs, “Take the first step, as simple as it sounds, just trust yourself, and take the first step. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Throw your hat over the fence and you will figure it out.”
For first-time entrepreneurs considering submitting a BALSA grant application, she highly recommends applying. Her advice: “Don’t be intimidated…just go for it.” She explained, “The worst that can happen is that you don’t get it.” She continued, “What’s great about the BALSA Foundation is that even if you are not one of the [BALSA grant] recipients, they have a great program where they will give you feedback.”
The BALSA Foundation has made a significant impact for the future of Lightenstein. Bonnidette summarized her experience with the BALSA Foundation, “I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity of working with the BALSA Foundation. It is a great organization. Anyone who can be involved with it should.”
The BALSA Foundation recently updated our Mission and Vision statement, with the goal to crystallize who we are and what we do for ourselves, our applicants, the entrepreneurial community, and for the future of our Foundation.
The original statement guided the Foundation during our formation. After two years, four BALSA Grant rounds, and 38 BALSA Grant finalists, it became clear it was time to update the Mission and Vision statement to more precisely address who we serve and to what end.
A committee to refine the Mission and Vision statement was led by Daniel Povinelli, a board member with significant nonprofit leadership experience. Povinelli said, “By coming to a clear consensus about the problem our grant programs, outreach efforts, and mentorship programs were intended to address, we could then focus these programs in a way to make the biggest difference to the Saint Louis entrepreneurial community.” He continued, “If you know who you are, others will too.”
The Original Open-Ended Vision
The BALSA Foundation was founded in 2014 as an effort to support and expand the local St. Louis entrepreneurial community. We were created to encourage first-time entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into businesses. Many people have great ideas for a venture, however turning them into an actual business can seem an insurmountable hurdle. We aim to lower the barriers for first-time entrepreneurs and empower individuals with great ideas and passion to start their businesses.
The original Mission and Vision statement aligned with the programs we developed to provide resources and support for first-time entrepreneurs. These programs provide financial resources, mentorship, and education to empower first-time entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into businesses and connect them with the St. Louis entrepreneurial community.
While we clearly met our goals of serving first-time entrepreneurs, the original Mission and Vision statement was relatively open-ended. Povinelli said, “What was less clear was whether our Foundation was primarily addressing all first-time entrepreneurs or whether there was a population of first-time entrepreneurs that we were best poised and excited to support.”
Serving Entrepreneurs With the Most Need
The committee deliberated on the entrepreneur population our Foundation sought to support, and agreed the Foundation’s focus should remain on first-time entrepreneurs to provide them with support and resources to build their first business. However, for the BALSA Grant, the Foundation was most passionate to assist first-time entrepreneurs from underrepresented and underserved communities and demographics where there are higher barriers to entrepreneurship.
“The new Mission and Vision statement crystalizes our mission by explicitly stating that our grant and mentorship program is designed to support individuals who most need the resources (small grants, mentorship) and who are most likely to benefit from them,” said Povinelli.
These changes do not alter our character or operation. Instead, the statements reflect more precisely our actions and will contribute to our long-term stability.
The updated Mission and Vision statement represents us embracing and solidifying our role and mission in the St. Louis entrepreneurial community. With respect to the new statements, Povinelli said, “The updated Mission and Vision statement sends a strong signal to the Saint Louis community that The BALSA Foundation has a specific and complementary role to play in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of St. Louis.” He continued, “We are looking to occupy that sweet spot where we support highly-motivated individuals for whom our level of support can be life-changing.”
The BALSA Foundation held its annual elections on September 19, and elected a team of officers who bring a wealth of experience, passion, and knowledge to support our goals for the next year. Although founded only two years ago, The BALSA Foundation has already made an impact in the St. Louis entrepreneurial community. More than 500 people have taken advantage of our programs for first-time entrepreneurs, and 38 BALSA Grant finalists have received $36,000 in cash grants, over $70,000 in professional services, and countless hours of personalized mentorship and assistance. Looking ahead, the new leadership team -- all part-time volunteers -- will continue these successful programs while reaching out to communities that need and can benefit from them the most.
“I’m proud of how we’ve grown and matured as an organization, and in the year ahead we will take The BALSA Foundation to the next level,” says Matt Wyczalkowski, who was re-elected as Executive Director for a second term. “I’ve seen the life-changing impact our programs can have on entrepreneurs, particularly those from under-resourced communities, and we will work hard to share these inspiring stories. As we grow, we’re also building a strong foundation for this organization, to ensure The BALSA Foundation will be a respected presence in the community for years to come.”
MATT WYCZALKOWSKI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Matt is the Executive Director of The BALSA Foundation and a staff scientist at the Washington University School of Medicine, where he specializes in cancer genomics and data visualization. Born in communist Poland, Matt immigrated as a child to the US with his family and grew up in Pennsylvania. He attended Penn State University and the University of California at Berkeley before receiving his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University. With St. Louis as his home, Matt is passionate about helping make this a city where everyone has an opportunity to thrive. Matt consulted on a number of The BALSA Group projects and is the founder of SafeTGA, advocating for cyclists and pedestrians in St. Louis.
BRITTANY RIEHLMAN, OUTREACH DIRECTOR
After completing her Bachelor’s degree in New Media Design from SUNY Cortland, Brittany developed her entrepreneurship experience as a freelance graphic designer. Following a move from New York to St. Louis, she utilized those skills at a start-up boutique agency. Currently she is a graphic designer at Major Brands Premium Beverage Distributors, helping to develop their visual message. Brittany has been involved with The BALSA Foundation since January 2016, assisting with the development of events, idea support, and the Foundation's branding and identity.
THERESA O. OWUOR, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Theresa is a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University School of Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology researching the effects of obesity on uterine cancer risk. She received her BA from Prairie View A&M University and her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from Washington University. She participates in the Trans-disciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) program, working on an interdisciplinary research team toward a common goal. As an experienced consultant with The BALSA Group she particularly enjoyed projects in technology transfer for the Office of Technology Management. As the Program Director of The BALSA Foundation, she is sharing her experience in idea development to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Beyond the St. Louis community, she co-founded the Rehema Education Fund, which provides scholarships to Kenyan students from single-parent homes.
WYATT GUTIERREZ, FINANCE DIRECTOR
Wyatt is currently pursuing an MBA/JD joint degree at Washington University. He is thrilled to serve as the Foundation's Finance Director after becoming involved in The BALSA Foundation in May 2016. His chief goal is to keep the financial details under control so the Foundation’s operations run smoothly and efforts can be focused on assisting entrepreneurs and building and participating in the vibrant St. Louis start-up community. Outside of the Foundation, he is proud to work at the East St. Louis Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship across the river.
REYKA JAYASINGHE, TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR
Reyka is pursuing a PhD in Molecular Genetics and Genomics at Washington University. She has spent three years in leadership roles in the Young Scientist Program (YSP), a Washington University volunteer organization aimed at attracting students to scientific careers. As Director of YSP, she worked with administrators, members of the community and volunteers to develop new programming; maintained and identified new funding from granting sources; and effectively ran a completely volunteer based organization with over 100 active volunteers. Through this experience, she learned the importance of mentorship in supporting and educating young minds. She is now helping The BALSA Foundation provide resources and mentorship to first time entrepreneurs in St. Louis. As the Technology Director, she will strive to more effectively streamline the application process for the BALSA Grant and maintain a strong connection with the community through website development.
We are delighted to announce the Spanish Entrepreneur's Roadmap! This Spanish-language version of our popular Entrepreneur's Roadmap was developed in collaboration with the St. Louis Mosaic Project and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It will reach Spanish-speaking Saint Louis entrepreneurs, a highly-entrepreneurial population underserved by the local startup ecosystem due in part to language barriers. The Spanish-speaking Entrepreneur’s Roadmap will begin to fill this gap by providing Saint Louis-focused advice on business formation.
Read more about this initiative and other St. Louis Hispanic Heritage Month events in this press release.