Community service and helping people have been what Brittany Fitzpatrick’s life’s work have been about. But what makes this Memphian even more amazing is that she left a position with one of the most prestigious, well known brands in the non-profit space, Ronald McDonald House Charities, to start something of her own, again in community service.
As the communications coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis, Brittany took the passion and drive she’s had since high school and through college at Howard University and Memphis University, and combined it with the tools available in recent day to double the groups social media reach. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis works with the most well known children’s research facility in the world, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Over the last six years, Brittany has been a mentor and helped other mentor’s in a variety of programs. Through her work with Ronald McDonald House Charities and other stops along the way, she found that mentorship was a great thing, but flawed in many ways.
(Brittany’s first pitch at 48 Hour Launch)
When she first pitched the idea for her startup “Mentor Me” back in December at a women focused 48 Hour Launch, she revealed that most mentor orgranizations spend more money re-placing mentors and mentees than they do setting up original pairs. Brittanny quickly realized if someone could fix the initial matching proces than these programs could focus on their original goals and save a lot of money.
That’s where her startup Mentor Me comes in. Mentor Me is a mentor and mentee online matching service that uses a variety of information given from both parties and an algorithm to make more successful matches. While Brittany is hesitant about using the verbage “e-harmony for mentor”, at the core that’s what it is and that’s why it’s going to be so successful.
(Here’s Brittany’s second pitch from 48 Hour Launch)
But the biggest factor in the success of Mentor Me is going to be a combination of the technology and the founder. Brittany is a dynamic young woman. Back in December, the prize for the 48 Hour Launch competition was a startup village booth at everywherelse.co. When Brittany came in second place she decided to crowdfund the people in the audience so that she too could have a booth for her startup. Within minutes her mission was successful.
We got to interview Brittany as she prepares for demo day at SeedHatchery, where she tells us about her latest venture into crowdfunding and what she’s learning at the Memphis startup accelerator:
So tell us what is Mentor Me?
There are 3 million kids in the U.S. being mentored. Yet, there are another 15 million waiting for mentors. Sadly, half of all matches between mentors and youth end within months – which does more harm than no mentoring at all. One of the top reasons for these pairs falling apart is poor matching.
Mentor Me provides cloud-based mentor matching and management tools that make mentoring more efficient and effective for both programs and mentors.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea came from my own experiences as a mentor. I’ve been mentoring for 6 years now and have been through the process of getting matched with a mentee several times. Through these experiences, I’ve learned just how much of an impact mentoring can have for both the kids who are being mentored and for the mentors themselves. But, as with any process, there are things that can be improved and there are ways to use technology to make the process better for everyone.
Who else is on the team?
My Co-Founder and CTO is Sean Lissner.
Sean has a Bachelor’s Degree in both Mathematical and Computer Science from the University of Memphis. Sean’s specialties include: mobile applications, web applications, web services, distributed computing, embedded systems, cloud architecture, machine learning, and wireless sensor networks.
Before joining the Mentor Me team, Sean worked with large-scale, enterprise level application development projects, including FedEx’s Android mobile application. In addition to his passion for improving communities, Sean brings more than a decade of coding experience and a usability-centered design focus to the Mentor Me team.
Our advisors are: Austin Baker, President and Chairman of the Board of HRO Partners and Co-Founder of the University of Memphis MILE Mentoring Program; Jenny Koltnow, Executive Director of the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation; Emily Yellin, Customer Experience Consultant
What made you decide to apply for an accelerator?
I knew that going through Seed Hatchery would give me the best chance for success. With accelerators, you’re given a strong network of support through the staff and through the network of entrepreneurs who have gone through the program before you. The support of one’s fellow cohort-members is also invaluable. And of course the fact that they are mentor-driven is also innately appealing to me.
What have been your three biggest take-aways so far from Seed Hatchery?
My three biggest take-aways from Seed Hatchery thus far have been:
The importance of investing in yourself: I left my job right before Seed Hatchery to go all-in on my startup
You have to practice how you play.
Iteration trumps perfection
While some accelerator startups just sit around and wait for investor day, you’re out there fundraising now, tell us a little bit about your crowdfunding?
We kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to match our $15,000 investment by May 16. We’re about 10% of the way there. Our crowdfunding page is at www.gofundme.com/MentorMe.
What’s the reaction to Mentor Me been so far?
The reaction thus far has been positive. We already have our first paying customer and we’re in the process of getting more organizations on board for our beta test this summer.
One thing you learned about yourself in the accelerator?
I’ve learned so much about myself through this process. I think above all I’ve learned how to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I actually look for those types of opportunities now.
What happens May 17th?
The grind continues. Investor Day is just the beginning.
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