A discussion with Helena Zimmerman, Cofounder of TeensGive.org and semifinalist in the 2017 Diamond Challenge

Tell us about TeeensGive.org. How did you come up with your big idea?

TeensGive.org is a social enterprise that creates service opportunities for high school students who are looking for skill-based and rewarding ways to volunteer.  More specifically, we connect high school students with children attending Title 1 schools, both in-person and virtually. The inspiration for TeensGive came from our own frustration with the lack of options that exist today for teenage volunteers.

As a semifinalist, TeensGive’s business plan had to stand out among hundreds of submissions.  What advice can you give to the 2018 applicants?

First, take advantage of the Diamond Challenge online curriculum and the mentors it provides. My partner, Max and I followed Dan Freeman’s social venture videos that are posted on the website. It really helped us structure the problem and develop a solution. Second, keep it simple-but be thorough. The social impact canvas provides a great framework. Finally, and most importantly, don’t give up! It may seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth it.  We both felt a huge feeling of accomplishment and pride in what we created.

So, then you head to the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (YES!) at the University of Delaware for the semifinals? 

Yes, when we found out we made it to the semifinals we were ecstatic. We practiced our pitch over and over again until we had it down pat. While we did not ultimately win, the experience was absolutely amazing. We met high school students from around the world, some of which I’m still in touch with today.

How has the DC impacted you as a person?

Competing in the Diamond Challenge provided me so many valuable skills. The process honed my presentation skills and gave me an understanding of how businesses work.

It also sparked my passion for entrepreneurship and social change. In fact, it inspired to create my own entrepreneurship curriculum, Counting Cupcakes, a program for middle school students that teaches business and math skills as the children build a real life bakery.

Where is TeensGive today?

TeensGive.org has grown to over 3,000 members from 40 states across the U.S.. Our marketing has been funded by a generous grant from Google worth over $100,000 a year, which allows us to get the word out to volunteers, nonprofits and students that needs our help. The Counting Cupcakes program I created with the support of the E.E. Ford Foundation, is now being taught in several communities by TeensGive volunteers. Finally, I am most excited to have launched a virtual volunteering option. Thanks to a partnership with Learntobe.org and other nonprofits, we have launched the first virtual volunteer platform available to high school students.