From soccer to tutoring to dance class to mentorship, many of today’s youth spend their after-school hours partaking in activities that will help them learn and develop new skills and build new relationships. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to after-school activities nor knows how to find specific programs of interest -- it’s an issue that Montana Butsch, Founder and CEO of Spotivity, frequently saw on the West and South sides of Chicago when running the Chicago Training Center ‘CTC’ – a non-profit he founded to bring rowing to inner city kids. Today, Montana is using his past experiences with CTC to help youth from all corners of the city find the activities that empower and inspire them. In this post, he talks about the need for greater education, the importance of community, and the significance of engagement.
Education is a fundamental element for any youth’s development, but, as most parents will tell you, what happens after-school is equally as important as what happens during class. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to key after school-resources -- just ask Montana Butsch, an entrepreneur and Chicago native who grew up around the Cabrini Green housing project.
“(Reflecting on Chicago Training Center) What you saw was that a lot of affluent families had the resources, the knowledge, and/or the access to send their kids to schools/programs that meet the needs of their children. It is a different story for the underserved inner-city family, where those schools/programs do not necessarily exist or are not organized well. A lot of youth from these communities also simply don’t know how to access key opportunities and that was one thing I wanted to change with CTC.”
That’s when Montana called upon his experience as a former rower at the University of Pennsylvania and Oxford University (UK). Leveraging his rowing proficiency and Chicago knowledge, Montana founded the Chicago Training Center in 2006, a nonprofit organization that offers free rowing mentorship to city youth.
“The Chicago Training Center was built to help underserved teens, mostly from the South and West Sides, with a healthy after-school activity. CTC is a platform to help low-income youth participate in a non-traditional sport where they can build their confidence, make new friends, compete, and learn key lessons that help prepare them for higher education.”
Montana is being modest here -- many of the Chicago Training Center’s rowers have gone on to receive college scholarships as a result of the program’s mentorships and tutelage. After seeing the impact the Chicago Training Center had on the involved teens, Montana realized just how much all youth could benefit from engaging in the right after-school activities. This led him to build Spotivity, a ubiquitous platform that help youth from any background find safe, organized, and interesting after-school opportunities.
“The statistics are obvious: each year, over 40 million American children and teenagers occupy non-school hours, but only half of that number are engaged with afterschool activity. In recent years, after-school programs have attracted new bursts of interest and funding. Families are increasingly looking to after-school providers for academic help or to compensate for cutbacks in arts, sports or other enrichment activities. In addition, the competition for laddering-up in society has supported an arms race for experience that many parents are willing to spend to address. However, there is a collective lack of information about what after-school activities are available and how to access them. Spotivity addresses this key need.”
Using the latest mobile technology, Spotivity allows users to search for relevant after-school programs by proximity, location, type of activity, or simply through keywords. All the after-school opportunities on Spotivity’s platform are open enrollment -- which is a win for parents. But, in addition to the general teen/parent user, Spotivity also provides benefits for program providers as well.
“Spotivity helps after-school programs grow and engage their participant base by streamlining access to reports, providing engagement platforms, and creating revenue streams. In short, Spotivity helps program providers to build their programs and improve their offerings.”
Spotivity is free for users and will soon offer a subscription model for after-school programs to become Premium Program Providers. Montana says his ultimate objective, which will be aided by his partnership with Utah State University, is to use Spotivity as a platform that can strengthen the user’s long-term prospects through future planned platform offerings.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to provide value for all users; the teens, their parents, the families, the programs they attend, and the communities in which they live.”
It’s a big task, but Montana is up to it -- and given his years of experience as an entrepreneur -- it’s a safe bet that he’s the right person for the job. In fact, if anybody is second-guessing Montana, it’s probably himself.
“As an entrepreneur, I’m always aware of my shortcomings. I think that all founders are generally intelligent people, but they can’t afford be blind to their own weaknesses. I’m not an expert at finance so I took every finance related workshop at 1871 to help build my model. I’m also not a technical founder but thanks to my experience at 1871 I was in a position to secure a Technical Partnership with Algoworks Solutions Inc, a global full service tec development agency. In addition to these supports, I have built important relationships with my alumni networks at the University of Pennsylvania and Oxford – not to mention Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and IEBrown. I believe one of the keys to becoming a well-rounded entrepreneur is to know your strengths and weaknesses and build an organization that maximizes those strengths and minimizes the weaknesses – networks are invaluable in that regard and here at 1871 it has all come together.”
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