The Gray Matter Experience (TGME) is a non profit and entrepreneurial experience program for high school students. Our mission is to expose youth to entrepreneurship and provide them access to the tools and resources necessary to build businesses that impact their communities. We believe that by allowing students to serve on the front lines of community growth and ownership, it will increase their self-worth and strengthen ties to their the communities in which they live.
We provide coaching, capital, curriculum, connections, and community to level the playing field for teens to enter the entrepreneurial space. Since 2016, we have supported 52 social entrepreneurs. Of our first three cohorts, 97% identified as people of color and 62% as women. We’ve invested over $50,000 in seed funding and pro bono services to our teen founders and worked with over 162 students across the city to expose them to entrepreneurship practices. We have been recognized by the Chicago Tribune, Essence Magazine and Fox32 Chicago for our work.
Our summer incubator is designed for teens who have business ideas and need more resources to execute the idea and teens who are already running businesses but need more support to grow their brand. Through our 9 week program, you'll be connected to the resources, coaches, curriculum and support you need to launch and grow your business. The selection is competitive and a maximum of 15 students/companies will be selected to participate. As a participant of the incubator, you will also receive startup capital to help support the growth of your business.
Program Start Date: June 25, 2019
Program Length: 9 weeks (Every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from 3:30pm - 6:30pm) with a mandatory 4 week startup job shadow.
Program End Date: Thursday, August 22, 2019
Program Location: TBD
Program Cost: $200. Scholarships available on a needs basis.
Transportation: Students are responsible for getting to and from the workshops
Application Opens: April 5, 2019
Application Deadline: June 7, 2019
Application Notification: June 15, 2019
There is a two-stage selection process: written application and virtual interview. Gray Matter is looking for smart, driven, team-oriented, resourceful, and entrepreneurial-spirited individuals. Most importantly, we are looking for dedicated students; The Gray Matter Experience Incubator is an intensive program that requires a 3-5 hour weekly commitment outside of the in-person weekend sessions and is strictly for those students who are currently serious about starting and running a business.
Application materials include your transcript, activities, a video, and answers to the questions below.
Sections of the application include:
The first section of the application asks for basic personal information. If you don’t see a fitting option, there is space provided for an open-ended response. Also please indicate if you will need financial assistance to participate. Your family’s financial status will not negatively impact your chances of acceptance in any way. This question allows us to assess the potential for an application fee waiver, and will let us know to send you a financial need application if admitted.
School Information & Transcripts—
In this section, you'll provide information about your school and performance. While your grades and transcripts not the most important part of the application, they provide some insight on your academic rigor and learning propensity.
Here, you'll tell us more about your passions, interests, and your ability to create real impact. We want to see that you are motivated and action-oriented in pursuing the things that matter to you. Show us that you are entrepreneurial—an ambitious and purpose-driven self-starter who rises to the challenge. Be brief!
Introduce yourself in a video of 90 seconds or less. Ensure you cover who you are, what you care about, why you are interested in entrepreneurship and the idea you'd like to develop. We want to see:
Self-awareness—Don’t just share facts about yourself, but elaborate on why these things matter
Personability—The best candidates are able to balance confidence and humility when introducing themselves
A strong business model
Passion—We love to see you’re are excited by what you do!
• Current high school freshman, sophomore, junior or senior
• Must attend each program workshop and meet all required deadlines
Upon submitting your application, you will receive an email to schedule an online interview with Gray Matter staff. Interviews are required in order to be accepted into the program.
Please note: All students of a venture team must attend each workshop. The in-person sessions involve a high level of group work, ideating, and mentor coaching sessions.