Kinzie Harper is on a mission to tap into underappreciated and underutilized talent. The youth that she is working with to do work that matters inspires us and we think it’ll inspire you too. Keep reading to learn more about Kinzie Harper and the nonprofit she founded: Untapped Good.
Untapped Good is an Ohio nonprofit fiscally sponsored by Community Shares of Mid-Ohio, a 501c3 BBB accredited nonprofit. They’re on a mission to create a more resilient, inclusive social sector by uplifting diverse, young talent (16–24) through paid work that matters. They provide young people who may be excluded or disconnected from work or education with a platform to learn new skills, make a difference, and get paid. Pretty incredible!
Kinzie’s Startup Story
I am a born, raised, and educated second-generation Buckeye. Growing up, John and Annie Glenn were larger-than-life heroes to my family, so I had always wanted a career in public service and where better to do it than his namesake at OSU. I credit much of my access to and knowledge of fulfilling exciting roles in the public and social sectors to a series of unpaid internships I had, starting in high school and leading up to graduation.
A few short years later, I landed my first full-time job with the Columbus Partnership, specifically working on the Smart Columbus initiative. But I quickly observed this path was not accessible to or sustainable for all young people. So, I asked myself what untapped potential for good lies with those who cannot afford to go unpaid or underpaid?
The inspiration behind Untapped Good started with a few ah-ha moments while working at my first job, Smart Columbus. Through our education initiatives, I saw young people directly impacted by or living with the most wicked, complex societal challenges channel those hardships into ideas and solutions in a way that can’t be replicated or taught. I wanted to connect these students with opportunities to grow and blossom into our future policymakers, innovators, and teachers. At the time, I struggled to find anyone doing that work locally without requiring unpaid labor, which is inherently exclusive.
Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic, where a former intern of mine was struggling to make ends meet so much, so she had to pause her last year of college, which ultimately mobilized Untapped Good from just an idea to an opportunity to help. She wanted to work with organizations that aligned with her values but was being taken advantage of or having to get underpaid.
Since working with Untapped Good, we’ve been able to create dozens of opportunities for her to work with mission-driven clients and reach new professional goals with the support of our team.
– Kinzie Harper
Advice for Future Entrepreneurs
Some advice that has served Kinzie well on her entrepreneurial journey is to try not to be a hammer in search of a nail. She suggests getting close to the people you’re trying to serve and let go of any preconceived notions you have from the business model to the solution. You’ll find this may be challenging since we often go into a project with attachments to our own ideas. Grow intentionally by really listening to your potential customer and build everything with them in mind.
Working from home as an introvert over the last year, I thought I’d never go back to a traditional office setting. And while I am excited to collaborate and meet with folks in person, ultimately, choosing to return to an office by way of a coworking community was a boundary-setting exercise. I view coworking as an opportunity to have my cake and eat it too. I’m still a work in progress, but through joining Haven, I’ve been able to set those healthy work-life balance boundaries by creating a space and community I can go to outside of my home. – Kinzie Harper
This time last year, Untapped Good was still filing paperwork and trialing its first project with a young person. So, over the last year, they’ve been in learning mode. And what they’ve learned is that young people need more than what they, or any one organization alone, could provide through work experiences, even if they grow and expand at an exponential rate.
They’re stepping back and asking the right questions: how might Untapped Good extend and expand the impact of its work through partnerships with social service agencies, awareness-building, and advising other employers and decision-makers.
Untapped Good is also in the process of working on a project with IMPACT Community Action to serve young people through the Achieve More & Prosper program. In its pilot partnership, they worked with Roman, now a member of our talent network who loves to write, create, and share stories. Through their experience working with Untapped Good, they discovered an interest in journalism. Untapped Good created experiences for Roman to learn more about journalism and even interview a local journalist. They are now planning to take classes at Columbus State in journalism. For more about Roman, check this out.
“So far, my experience with Untapped Good has been truly amazing, to say the least. Working with this organization and Columbus State Community College has really helped me feel a sense of purpose that I never thought I would feel. Every day when I wake up, I feel excited to go to a place to work with people I feel genuinely care about me and my well-being, and what I have to say, and my opinions. Untapped Good and Columbus State give me opportunities to voice my thoughts, and they are always considered. During my time here so far, I’ve learned a lot about important work skills such as communication, computer skills, and people skills. I’m continuing to learn about things like collaboration skills, problem-solving skills, and time management. This job and this project have allowed me to connect with people and build a future for myself.”
– Roman Conley, Untapped Talent Network
Untapped Good wants to recreate experiences like Roman’s for other young people. To do so, they are looking to work with new clients who are committed to tangibly empowering young people and bringing diverse voices into their next project. Contact Untapped Good here if your organization might be a good fit.
The best part of building Untapped Good has been the people I have met and worked with throughout the process. Over the last year, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with potential partners, clients, and young people.
One conversation, in particular, captures what we are working to achieve through Untapped Good. Like many networking meetings, we connected through a shared colleague. As we talked, I shared our vision for pathways that encourage young people to channel their lived experiences to create a positive social impact while generating a stable, sustaining income. Specifically, we discussed a scenario where a young person experiencing housing insecurity could find paid, fulfilling work with a nonprofit shelter. Even over Zoom, I could see a shift in their demeanor, they paused, and I worried I had gotten carried away. They then shared they had been houseless growing up and taught to hide that part of their identity, especially when searching for a job or networking. When it came time for them to choose a career, at the time, they didn’t have the luxury of pursuing work that fed their soul. Their experience represents so many young people today, whose potential for doing good is often left untapped.
– Kinzie Harper
Like many mission-driven organizations, Kinzie hopes that there will not be a need for its services because society shifts and the economy prioritizes and values young voices, skills, and experiences. She wants to create space for young folks to be active participants in the decisions that will impact their futures.
On a Side Note
When Kinzie is off the clock, you can find her traveling in her camper van, playing with her puppy Obi-Wan, listening to the Whirlybirds’ latest track, or thrifting with her Nana.
To get to know Kinzie and fellow Haven Collective members, even more, join us today. We can’t wait to meet you!