BOOST: Crowdfunding a More Sustainable Chicago

Guest post by Hannah Slodounik, BOOST co-chair and Sustainability Coordinator, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Out of nearly 20 applicants, narrowed down to 5 contenders, only two will win seed funding through BOOST (Building Opportunity for Original and Sustainable Thinking) for their venture. Oh, and the audience decides their fate.

Octavia Hooks pitches her winning 2015 idea.

BOOST is a live, crowdfunded pitch fest and community-driven approach to financing social ventures. The event engages hundreds of people to directly invest in the future of Chicago and is hosted by the Delta Emerging Leaders, Delta Institute’s associate board. By attending, you get to vote for the organizations you want to receive the funding. This opportunity overcomes a funding barrier for local entrepreneurs and engages attendees to invest in our community.

Aside from being a fun-filled event, BOOST directly funds social innovation in Chicago, contributing over $36,000 in early-stage, unrestricted seed funding since the inaugural event in 2012. Past winners have cited BOOST funding as integral to the success of their organization.

Nicole Chavas, CEO and Co-Founder of Fresh Coast Capital LLC, discusses tree farms.

Fresh Coast Capital LLC, a certified B-corp and women-owned green infrastructure development company, won a BOOST grant in 2014. The funding allowed Fresh Coast Capital to work towards its first tree farm in Gary, Indiana. This venture has since blossomed into a wide portfolio of tree farms and green infrastructure projects across the Midwest, including a partnership with Delta Institute in Gary. These projects clean contaminants from soil and reduce urban flooding while providing job opportunities in green infrastructure construction and maintenance.

Gardeneers, another 2014 BOOST winner, used the funding to help quadruple its reach. The organization which eliminates food deserts through school garden programs, now serves 25 schools and reaches over 1,600 students in Chicago, of which 91 percent are identified as low-income students. Their motto is simple – “Every student should have access to a school garden program, no matter where they go to school.” The generous people who attended BOOST in 2014 are a part of their success.


Not only does BOOST propel sustainability-minded businesses in Chicago, it also provides a unique network and exposure. Past winners Bike a Bee (2016) and Urban Canopy (2013) both reside in former BOOST finalist Plant Chicago, located in the southwest side of Chicago in the Back of the Yards. These businesses work together to support a more sustainable community, environment, and economy.

This year’s finalists — Chicago Eco House, Great Lakes Yard, Mighty, Slow Roll Chicago, and Out Our Front Doorwill show you how they are supporting environment and economy in the Great Lakes region just like past winners.

We are proud to say that there is no other program like BOOST in Chicago. By attending and supporting BOOST, you support the sustainable community you want and Chicago needs.

We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, November 14th from 7-10PM at Chop Shop in Wicker Park. Get your tickets today and support the future you want to see.

BOOST 2017 is made possible by Clarke, the Patterson Family Foundation, Goose Island Beer Company, Clif Bar & Company, and Delta Institute. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact us at


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