10 Nonprofit Leaders Go to Boot Camp and Swim with Sharks for 3 Prizes Totaling $90K

New solutions for existing problems.

When I say boot camp, what comes to mind? For many people, it’s a combination of push-ups, camouflage, and drill sergeants. For ten local nonprofit leaders, boot camp marks the start of the Nonprofit Innovation Lab — a program that begins on January 13, lasts 23-weeks, and ends with a Shark Tank-like presentation in June where the five remaining finalists compete for three prizes, totaling $90,000.

Hosted by United Way of Rhode Island and the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, the Nonprofit Innovation Lab is designed to spark fresh solutions for existing social problems. Participants were chosen from two dozen applicants during an elevator pitch event in December.

“We’re very impressed with the innovation and quality of their proposals, there are some incredible [ideas] coming out of our state’s nonprofit community,” said Cortney Nicolato, President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. “We’re eager to help them hone their ideas to strengthen Rhode Island.”

Nonprofit Innovation Lab breakdown:
  • Boot Camp: For the first 6 weeks, participants receive intensive expert instruction, which includes two, four-hour sessions each week.
  • Milestone Accelerator: During the next 16 weeks, participants work with advisors from the hosting agencies’ networks in preparation for the final event.
  • Innovation Pitch Event: In June, the remaining five participants present their plans, competing for $90,000 in a presentation similar to NBC’S hit television show Shark Tank.
Nonprofit Innovation Lab participants:
  • Mario Bueno, Progreso Latino
  • Mike Chea, Dorcas International Institute of R.I.
  • Kate Corwin, Smith Hill CDC
  • Janice Falconer, Impact R.I.
  • Raul Figueroa, Fuerza Laboral
  • Dana Ginestet, College Crusade of R.I.
  • Laura Jaworski, House of Hope CDC
  • Jonathan Kabak, Oliver Hazard Perry R.I.
  • Rhonda Price, Man Up, Inc.
  • Joshua Riazi, Genesis Center

By Jason Boulay and Michael Cerio