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VOL. 128 | NO. 82 | Friday, April 26, 2013

New Venture Empowers Mentoring Programs

By Andy Meek

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Brittany Fitzpatrick recently left her job as communications coordinator for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis because she wants to devote herself full time to the venture she’s founded and to the problem she wants to help solve.

Fitzpatrick is the founder of Mentor Me, one of six startups participating in the current Seed Hatchery cohort. She’s also in the midst of using crowd-funding to raise $15,000 for her venture while at the same time taking her new company through Seed Hatchery, the LaunchYourCity program’s mentorship-driven seed accelerator.

That money would bolster a $15,000 investment from the Seed Hatchery program.

Fitzpatrick and her cofounder Sean Lissner are working to, as she put it, “change the world by empowering mentoring programs to change more lives.”

Feeding the need for a service like Mentor Me, Fitzpatrick believes, is a common mismatch in the mentor-mentee relationship.

“In Memphis, 36 percent of kids live at or below the poverty level,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s 13 percent higher than the national average. Children born into low-income families face many challenges. Only 50 percent of them will graduate high school. And only 10 percent of those will graduate college.

Mentor Me “creates more compatible matches between mentors and mentees through an intelligent matching system.”

–Brittany Fitzpatrick

“But students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, mentored youth also have a better chance of going on to higher education.”

According to her research, there are about 110,000 children in Memphis in need of mentors. The downside is she’s got data to show that most matches between mentors and mentees end within the first few months.

And it’s those shortened mentoring matches, she argues, that do more harm than no mentoring at all.

“Mentor Me solves this problem by providing mentoring programs with a cloud-based Web application,” she said. “It creates more compatible matches between mentors and mentees through an intelligent matching system and allows programs to measure their impact.”

Organizations can subscribe to the Mentor Me platform by paying a monthly fee based on the number of mentees in their programs. The venture also is offering companies the opportunity to sponsor Mentor Me for nonprofits.

Fitzpatrick graduated from Howard University in 2009 and moved to Memphis that August. She studied journalism and public relations at Howard, and at the University of Memphis she got to learn more about the social media aspect of PR and how it can be incorporated into branding and marketing strategies.

Mentorship is a concept that’s personal to her. She’s been mentoring for six years and was mentored in her youth. And she believes that, as important as those relationships have been to her, technology can be used to make it more effective and efficient for other people who pursue the same thing.

“I knew of a few startups that had gone through (Seed Hatchery), and I was amazed by how much they accomplished in just 90 days,” Fitzpatrick said. “I knew that Mentor Me could turn into something great, but I also knew that I had to give it my all and have the right support system around me to get there. Seed Hatchery provides that system of support through the LaunchYourCity staff, the members of the cohort, and the alumni.

“It really meant a lot to be accepted into the program. Someone believing in me enough to invest in me gave me the courage I needed to invest in myself by going all-in and leaving my job to do this full time.”

The fundraising deadline for Mentor Me is May 16, which is Seed Hatchery’s “Investor Day.” Mentoring programs can sign up for the Mentor Me beta at www.getmentorme.com.

A fundraising page also has been set up at www.gofundme.com/mentorme.

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