Matching enthusiastic young people with volunteer opportunities that
both interest them and maximize their skills is the aim of Kathleen
End’s website, Sproutr.

“People are better when we help other people,” End said. “Sproutr gets
kids out to experience things they never have. It uses the double good
to help ourselves and other people and that is a win-win for everybody.”

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Sproutr, a name generated to reflect growth in youth, economy and
community, is a for-profit social platform used to jumpstart 13- through
24-year-olds’ career and college readiness through volunteering. The
website offers service opportunities, tracks and verifies hours, and
rewards hard work and mastery of workforce skills. In addition to
diminishing time-consuming paperwork and obstacles connecting students
to non-profits, End said “Sproutr reinforces the value of volunteering
and motivates students to give and grow.”

The company is testing different revenue streams, including charging a
subscription fee to users, and selling advertising on the site to
businesses and non-profits.

End founded Sproutr in November 2013 with the vision of merging
volunteerism with the needs of students, teachers, employers and the
community. Her idea stemmed from the problems she saw in her role as the
Milwaukee Public Schools community service coordinator and as the
founder of the non-profit “Outlet: Plugging People In.”

End’s experience keeps her in tune with Sproutr’s audience, helping her
to recognize trouble areas and create unique solutions. For teachers,
Sproutr needs to be quick and easy to learn, so that they can understand
and teach the technology effortlessly. Teachers who assign volunteer
work as part of their curriculum will be able to decrease the amount of
time they spend matching students to opportunities, as well as increase
the quality of volunteer placement for their students. The site will
also enable them to track students’ progress over distance and time,
regardless of graduation or school transfer.

For students, Sproutr aims to be stimulating and modern. The goal is to
reflect the already popular website LinkedIn, allowing students to
create a profile, post their resume and connect with other students,
non-profits, colleges, and employers. It gives students an easy way to
document all volunteer activity and progress in one location. Also, it
rewards students that achieve a certain number of service hours with a
sticker on their profile for colleges and employers to see. The site has
a built-in system where the skills and hours are validated by the
volunteer coordinators.

For non-profits and employers, Sproutr will publicize volunteer
opportunities, promote businesses, and offer validated and reliable
candidates. With access to student’s volunteer history, it allows
organizations to recruit qualified individuals.

Sproutr is seeking $110,000 in seed funding. In fall 2014, the pilot
website will focus on five schools in Milwaukee. If successful, End
plans to launch Sproutr across Wisconsin in January 2015 before
expanding the product nationwide.

Sproutr was selected as a semi-finalist in the Governor’s Business Plan
contest, which will culminate June 3-4 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’

— By Cassidy Wartenweiler, for Wartenweiler is a
graduate student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences