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Duke Student Venture Brings Entrepreneurship to Area Teens

Published: 2 months ago | 0 comments

Audacity Labs Team

Mitchell Sava, Anne Grimme, Audacity Labs Founder Quinci King, and Mia King

Born in Boise, Idaho, Quinci King ’20 moved with his family to University Place, Washington—then back to Idaho when he was a teenager, then back to Washington, giving him what he describes as a unique upbringing that exposed him to very different communities.

In his junior year he became involved in a Boise organization called One Stone, originally a teen-run nonprofit with divisions for an incubator, social impact, and multimedia consulting. King had done political and arts internships, but his involvement with One Stone was transformative, fueling his interest in the intersection of politics, business, and social mobility.

But when he returned to Washington in his senior year, he couldn’t find a comparable organization. And when he came to Duke, he couldn’t find one here either.

“There’s so much energy here and opportunity to do something greater with area high school students,” King says. “There’s so much disparity in who these resources are going to. There are more than enough universities and resources in the area to do a ton of good.”

He started on East Campus Counsel with a goal of getting each first-year dorm paired with an area nonprofit, but there wasn’t enough capacity to manage such a project. So he pivoted and began working with Durham Youth Works in efforts to strengthen their ties with the Duke alumni community, but he was frustrated by what he viewed as too much red tape and lack of expediency.

Then, in his Social Innovation class during spring of his sophomore year, guest speaker Mitchell Sava—Vice President for Innovation and Engagement at the Museum of Life and Science—came in to speak with students about the organization’s difficulties reaching children and teens from underserved communities, especially over the summer.

King saw an opportunity. He spoke with Sava about a program that would aspire to help all Triangle-area high school students develop their entrepreneurship skills.

“He was instantly interested and on board,” King says. “He just asked, ‘How do we do this?’”

Drawing on his experience at One Stone, and with an award from the Duke Incubation Fund—which supports early-stage projects with potential commercial value—King stayed in Durham to help shape his venture. He continued partnering with the Museum of Life & Science as well as with Duke I&E and American Underground to shape a program that could best serve Durham-area teens.

The result was Audacity Labs, an innovation incubator and co-working space for teens where teams of student entrepreneurs work together to conceive, develop, and launch new ventures. Audacity also provides connections, field trips, and a structured curriculum that integrates lean start-up, design thinking, and coding.

The pilot program, which ran from February to May of 2019, served a highly diverse group of 12 students from Hillside High School. Students worked with coaches and mentors to develop their products and services, culminating in them pitching to investors, professors, parents, and community members. The winning group, Culture Cup, is an app designed to break down cultural barriers by connecting students with resources for information about different traditions, values, and beliefs around the world. Audacity will continue to provide support to the Culture Cup team as they develop the app.

Audacity Labs Pitch Night

Audacity Labs Pitch Night

A major step in Audacity’s progress was finding a home—the organization has partnered with social impact hub ReCity Network, which will serve as Audacity’s physical headquarters and coworking space.

Entering its next phase of development, Audacity seeks to involve as many students as possible in its programs. “Every student should feel just as comfortable and supported here as any other student,” King says. Also included in plans for this phase are internship and job readiness resources, tutoring services, and expanded curriculum that includes SAT prep and physical and mental wellness.

The adapted curriculum and requirements also offer students more flexibility, thereby making programs more accessible. “Students can come in whenever they want on weekday evenings and weekends,” King says. “We treat them like adults.”

Audacity is currently seeking inspirational professional mentors and undergraduate coaches; mentors and coaches consult with teams once a week and provide career, educational, and personal insights and support.

Those interested in serving as mentors or coaches should learn more and apply by October 4.

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