For $1400, you could own a full 32-volume, hardcover-bound, brushed with crisp, gold embossing, print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The 244-year-old business once promised an unimaginable amount of knowledge at your fingertips. Yet, in today’s day and age, this 129-pound collection of information renders useless with the near-infinite capabilities of the internet—also at our fingertips.
Teenagers today seem to have the world in their jean, or for the fashion savvy: vibrant puffer coat, pockets—and they certainly know how to navigate it best, having come of age in the digital world. Aside from using the internet for knowledge, most teenagers likely use their smartphones to peer into the lives of others, most notably, the lives of the rich and successful. Whether they are supportively watching Instagram stories by their favorite SoundCloud artist or retweeting their favorite basketball player’s inspirational tweets, teens are consistently feeding themselves, and endlessly hungry for, romanticized images of success.
And while the internet can grant access to information to teens of nearly all classes of wealth, especially as smartphones become increasingly more affordable, only a privileged, minute fraction of these teens will receive mentorship and guidance on how to achieve the success they’ve been accustomed to following on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. This poses the danger of exacerbating the perils of the American wealth gap, where the median wealth of a white household is 13 times more than the median wealth of black households and seven times more than Hispanic households.
So, what is there to do when the Internet proves to be as fruitless for the future of American teens as encyclopedias? South Philadelphia High School sophomores Elimane Mamadou and Boubacar Traore envision a brighter future for themselves and their peers, and are working towards that with their job platform, TeenConnect.
TeenConnect “brings jobs to teens and teens to jobs,” providing teenagers opportunities to internships at corporations, teaching them professional skills and mentoring them in the workplace. This takes place on a website—much like other common jobsites but designed for teens—where teens can post resumes and browse open positions and companies can search applicants to match their needs. Through their platform, the student entrepreneurs hope to guide their peers on a path towards future employment opportunities in similar fields. This is especially important in cities with severe wealth gaps (Philadelphia ranked third in widest American income gaps in 2018) as most teens lack the opportunities and education about future careers, which negatively impacts the desire to stay in school and pursue post-secondary education.
For entrepreneurs Mamadou and Traore, TeenConnect was a personal solution. Elimane Mamdou was struggling to find a job, especially because he aspired to jobs beyond the corner store—he wanted exposure to corporate America and other career fields so he could better map his future path. Similarly, Boubacar Traore had never held a job before and was too struggling in finding a paid position. The two came together and recognized their job search obstacles were also felt by their peers. Calling themselves the Powerpuff Girls or the Two Stooges, the duo came up with the idea for TeenConnect and sought to make it a reality.
In May of 2019, TeenConnect won the Pitch Competition sponsored by FS Investments, winning a $1000 business investment as well as summer mentorship by Bridges to Wealth through their Youth Entrepreneurship Incubator program. Since completing Bridges to Wealth’s summer program, Mamadou and Traore have learned core lessons to materialize and grow their business, such as how to tailor pitches to different investors or how to successfully brand and market themselves.
While TeenConnect is still in its development phase, the company will be sponsoring their first 15 teens by placing them in groups at local Philadelphia corporations this upcoming summer of 2020. In addition, for another portion of the summer, these 15 teen pioneers will receive training at Wharton in subjects such as finance, entrepreneurship, and preparation for success in the workplace.
Furthermore, TeenConnect hopes to establish partnerships with government agencies along with a larger number of corporations to make this a staple in the Philadelphia community. If Elimane Mamadou and Boubacar Traore’s vision for a better future aligns with yours, please consider investing or partnering with TeenConnect by contacting Bridges to Wealth or TeenConnect!
Written by Trang Trinh