Ashley Lamb-Sinclair is a self-declared rebel with a serious cause.
The 14-year veteran educator and 2016 Kentucky Teacher Of The Year says her motto, “teach like a rebel,” is not about rebellion for its own sake.
“Instead, it’s about owning your power of influence and expertise as an educator in order to make the best decisions for the students in front of you, even if that is counter to the status quo or what is being asked of you from the powers that be,” says Lamb-Sinclair.
That’s the kind of shake-things-up attitude that Uber and Girlboss support. And that’s why Lamb-Sinclair is the winner of Uber Pitch, taking $95,000 in funding plus access to incredible mentors to develop her startup Curio Learning, a social impact and mission-driven for-profit education technology company.
“Curio’s mission is to help educators discover new ideas for the classroom created and curated by other teachers,” says Lamb-Sinclair.
In challenging the status quo, Lamb-Sinclair has faced opposition. One example comes from when she taught 7th grade in a disadvantaged school with high poverty.
“Many of my students were struggling readers, and as a remedy for this problem, the district leadership at the time purchased an automated reading program,” she said.
“The articles were outdated and uninteresting. The books were moldy, dirty, and falling apart. I was told that I absolutely had to teach from the book and follow the program because the district spent money on it, and it was proven to work, they said.
“But it didn’t work. Not at all. What did work was when I created lessons designed with my students in mind.
“Some of my students loved fishing, so we read Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, ‘The Fish’, and had a master fisherman from the local sports store come analyze the poem with them. Many others loved drama, so we acted out stories and produced the first school play. My students were engaged and were improving as readers and thinkers.
“I was pressured from certain district leaders all year to get with the program, but I never did. I pushed back.”
“Every year, I have had to rethink my approach based on the human beings in front of me and what they need. And many teachers do this every day. That’s why I came up with Curio: Because I saw the invisible creative work I and my colleagues have been doing, and I wanted to make it visible.”
Lamb-Sinclair says that winning Uber Pitch “will be the moment we look back on and see as a turning point” for Curio Learning.
“I will keep hustling no matter the outcome and Curio will change the way educators are viewed, but seed funding from Girlboss and Uber has propelled us forward in a way that lets us keep moving toward a larger raise in the coming months to grow and thrive over the coming year.”
The first job Bilyana Freye landed after leaving college was in risk management. “It didn’t sound bad on paper, [but] I found it to be soul-destroying,” she says. But what she didn’t realize then was she was laying the groundwork for what would one day be her startup, Hoppin—which took home the second place, $65,000 prize at the Uber Pitch competition.
“About six months in [to my first job], I arranged to shadow a colleague from a completely different part of the company just to see what else is out there. I will always remember the day—sitting in and tasting the adrenaline on a client pitch, experiencing the buzz of a fast-paced environment.”
Freye moved into that team and thrived for five years. She changed jobs and industries another couple of times, moving into finance in London and then tech in New York.
“Throughout the process, I realized that not much has changed about how we discover jobs. I wanted to repeat that shadowing experience and really make sure I’m making the right decision but nothing like this existed across industries. So I decided to build it myself!”
Hoppin, a job shadowing marketplace that enables people to try different jobs and find a career they love, is a company 10 years in the making, with origins that go right back to Freye’s first job in risk management.
“Our mission is to close the gap between the expectations and reality of a job—enabling people to try different jobs and find a career they truly love.”
If you wanted to try a new job every day, Hoppin could make that happen. Start the week by stepping into the shoes of the founder & CEO of a tech company and see how they manage engineers across continents. End the week with a fashion influencer, modern calligrapher, or hip hop choreographer.
Freye says that to date, all of Hoppin’s shadowers have been women.
“We provide critical access to inspirational female role models and there’s a big demand to meet and learn directly from these amazing girl bosses.”
“I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference Uber Pitch makes,” Freye says.
“The prize will allow us to make our first full-time hire, meaning we can dramatically increase our impact in 2019. We’re aiming to up our shadowing matches from 2018 by 10 times.
“Most importantly though, it really validates our vision for the future of work and adds extra trust, which for an early-stage, disruptive idea is invaluable. It’s been the best year-end gift we could have wished for!”
What do you think when you see the word “nude?” Is it an actual color? A synonym for beige? After searching for nude products for herself, Jamela Acheampong concluded that “the concept of nude, or skin tone apparel and makeup, was designed by a person that had a beige/tan skin tone.” A little louder for those in the back!
That’s all changing now, thanks in no small way to Acheampong. Her startup, Kahmune, is the world’s first luxury marketplace for skin tone footwear and accessories, offering all its products in 10 skin tone hues in order to provide all women with a true nude option.
“The shoes are part of a larger message on the importance of diversity, representation, and inclusion,” says Kahmune. “Ten shades, one mission.”
“As a dark-skinned woman I count myself pretty lucky because I’ve always been surrounded by people that have made me feel comfortable with who I am. I can genuinely say that for the most part I’ve always been able to look in the mirror and find a reason to like what I see.
“There have been so many times where I’ve been in stores and not been able to find my foundation shade either because it’s not carried or the store only has brands that don’t even make them for my skin! I can remember noticing how tights worked for my white friends but made my legs look like they belonged to someone else’s body, how tan bras and panties were expected and accepted as one shade fits all. I’ve wondered for a long time about why Band-Aids, which are supposed to blend in with the skin, still only come in one color.
“Even though I haven’t let these experiences hold me back I’d be lying if I said they didn’t send a clear message to me from a very early age. For the fashion industry to be able to dictate what’s beautiful and preferred based off of the opinions of a few designers and executives is mind-boggling. They don’t get to decide what sizes are better or what skin tones are more beautiful when everyone is different and our differences are what we should be proud of.
“It’s a shame that so many women feel inadequate because they don’t see themselves represented in brands and campaigns. No one’s going to tell me not to be proud of who I am and what I look like.”
Uber and Girlboss think Kahmune is a game-changer for fashion. That’s why it’s a winner of Uber Pitch, taking $55,000 in funding.
“This win is huge for me,” says Acheampong. “I’ve been bootstrapping for the last two years while I’ve been working as a contractor in accounting. This win has allowed me to officially work on the brand full-time!
“The recognition and new eyes on the brand has been huge but the funds will allow me to scale the business the way I’ve imagined for so long. I hope to create my first formal campaign and get my first temporary retail/pop-up location, as well as an office!”