When Abraham Kwon and his three co-founders launched 12+, a nonprofit college prep program, in 2010, their mission seemed simple enough: Creating a “college going culture” in Philadelphia high schools by helping underserved students prepare for and attend college.
They launched with a staff of three in Kensington Health Sciences Academy. By last year, the organization had a staff of 15, and were providing 1,500 9th to 12th graders with free SAT and ACT test prep services, college readiness counseling, wrap-around services, workshops, and mentoring.
In 2013, it was clear to the executive team—all Penn alums—that they were having success with their students. What was less clear—as with other nonprofits—was how they were going to continue funding their work at 12+, whose $350,000 to $400,000 annual budget mostly came from foundations and private donations.
So the partners, already disruptors in the mostly elite field of college prep, started thinking about another disruptor, in another field: Tom’s Shoes, with its one-for-one business model that sends a pair of shoes to a person in need across the globe for every pair it sells.