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The Challenge 

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Gray Matter Presents:

A social impact idea challenge 

Are you a #gmechanger?

Do you have a business idea to rebuild your community?

Here's your chance to win over $2,500 in prizes to get it started!

Applications are currently closed for this challenge


As Black communities navigate the impacts of COVID-19 and recent racial protests following the deaths of George Floyd and countless others, we all have a responsibility to not only create avenues for healing, but to use our collective resources to rebuild what’s been lost. 


The events of recent months have shaken the very fabric of our country and taken a toll on communities of color. News reports and social media posts serve as daily reminders that our current structure is flawed, but do little to offer solutions to the problems that exist. On top of that, the country is slowly re-opening for business and returning to “life as normal” despite reports of COVID-19 cases rising in many states.


The current state of affairs is overwhelming:


  • Black businesses that were already struggling to stay open in this economy have been damaged beyond repair and unable to open after the riots of early June

  • Police across the country are being held accountable for excess use of force towards Black people and communities of color

  • With increased racial tension across the country, hate speech & crimes targeting vulnerable groups is rising

  • Schools are severing their ties with the police force inside of schools, while others believe it’s necessary to keep peace

  • Despite the economic pressure to reopen, many states are still seeing a rise in COVID cases and death tolls

  • The health crisis is still negatively impacting Black and brown communities at a disproportionate rate, amplifying the disparities that already existed pre-COVID

  • Some US citizens have openly protested the mandate to wear masks in public, while others fear leaving their homes without protective coverings while there is still no vaccine 

  • Corporations are being challenged to create more inclusive work cultures that better support and promote Black employees

  • The US unemployment rate is higher than it’s been in 70 years 


Historically, in times like these, the youth voice has been the one that makes the largest impact. Now more than ever, we want to empower our youth to show up in meaningful ways and tap into the power, agency, and creativity they possess to build the foundation for a better future.

The Challenge:


Dream up a new (or unique modification to an existing) product, service, or technology that could serve as a solution to one or more of the crises that is currently affecting our country, Black communities & businesses.


Don’t be afraid to think big!


In a perfect world, how can we build solutions that help to reduce inequality, rebuild small business, redistribute power, and create space for marginalized voices?


In a perfect world, how can we prevent global health crises and protect vulnerable minority communities from negative effects?


Make sure you do the following in your pitch:

  • Describe the problem or challenge & how it’s related to current events

  • Explain your solution, and the social impact it will have 

  • Identify any resources you'll need to make it happen

  • Identify the "stakeholders" -- those who would have an interest in it, and can either affect or be affected by your solution

    • Who will benefit from the solution

    • Whose support and/or input you’ll need


$1,000 Cash toward college scholarship or seed funding to put your plan into action + Other Prizes to be announced.


Challenge finalists will also have the opportunity to work with Gray Matter’s network of mentors & entrepreneurs to build out their idea. 


This challenge is for anyone between the ages of 13 - 21 at the time of the submission deadline. Whether you identify as Black/African American or not -- it doesn’t matter! Black communities need the help of the collective to rebuild, reposition, restructure.

2020 Finalists

The 2020 Finalists

Check out our finalists and their winning ideas from our 2020 Social Impact Challenge.

The Challenge: 

Dream up a new (or unique modification to an existing) product, service, or technology that could serve as a solution to one or more of the crises that is currently affecting our country, Black communities & businesses.


TLSA - 1st Place 

Team TLSA: Alyiah Ellsworth, Dermyrius Lindsey-Lewis, and Justin Lindberg - were the first place winners of the challenge. Their social impact idea is TLSA which is the digital rebirth of Black Wall Street. With an e-commerce website and mobile app conceptually in between Amazon and a budgeting app, their goal is to increase the volume and retention of capital in the Black community.


Easyponics - 2nd Place 

Meet our 2nd place winner - Jacob Zhang. His social impact idea is Easyponics, which battles food insecurity by providing simple and affordable hydroponic gardening solutions to the community. By placing the hydroponic systems in community gardens and public spaces, Easyponics can diminish the number of food deserts in Chicago.


The Beginning Center - 3rd Place 

In 3rd place we had Nicholas Holden! His social impact idea is The Beginning center — a birthing and recovery center that cherishes Black mothers.

If you have any questions about this challenge, please email 

The Gray Matter Experience.

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