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Last week, Sir Richard Branson publicly stated how we need to reform the education system and bring the human element back into education. And that’s exactly what founder Jasmine Edwards is doing with i-Subz.
In the US, there are 56,000 schools and 21 million students with Title 1 designation, serving low-income communities. Teachers are absent an average of 10 days annually — amounting to almost 6.7M substitutes working each year to fill teaching positions. The majority of these 6.7M substitute teachers wait up to two weeks to get a single paycheck. And while waiting for two weeks to get paid may not be a big problem if you work in corporate America, it can often feel nearly impossible to make ends meet if you are a substitute teacher.
“I remember the pain I felt from having my lights turned off multiple times because I didn’t have the money in my bank account to pay the bill, also stopping me from feeding my family a warm meal,” said Edwards. “As a substitute teacher, I always had to wait two weeks for my paycheck.”
Feeling frustrated by the lag time in getting paid, Edwards launched i-Subz, a marketplace platform that links substitute teachers with schools serving low-income students, facilitating immediate hiring and same day pay.
While companies like Uber, Lyft, and Task Rabbit have taken the lead at making same day pay more efficient through the use of payment apps, Edwards recognized how much instant payments could shake up the education sector and be used as an incentive to recruit much needed, qualified substitute teachers.
“It is important for substitute teachers to get the same day because they have families to feed and immediate necessities to take care of,” said Edwards. “There are substitutes like me who live on or below minimum wage at $28,270 annually. When you are living at the bare minimum, most days you are living week to week, sometimes day to day.”
Over 40% of the families at the schools Edwards was working in were also struggling. The students had problems at home: many were homeless, took care of younger siblings, and some didn’t have any parental supervision. “But, what was most honorable, most brave, is that most still showed up the next day. Showing up, I have learned is the first step toward winning half the battle” said Edwards.
On her first day as a substitute teacher, Edwards felt the effects of inconsistency and the lack of passion previous teachers held for these students. “I will never forget how one student shouted ‘I don’t have to listen to you, you’re not gonna be here long…You’re our 3rd teacher this year.’” This was an incentive for Edwards to demonstrate that she was there to help the kids succeed by showing them respect and expecting the same in return. It took 3.5 months of consistently showing up, showing compassion, implementing planned curriculum, and being present for the students to trust her.
Through it all, and impacting 1,000 classrooms and over 20,000 students in low income communities, Edwards refused to accept defeat, and has been on a mission to fix the broken system through i-Subz. “My vision is to ensure that no school, student, or substitute is left behind.”
But Edwards isn’t just trying to fix a broken education system, she’s also determined to shatter the barriers many women founders face raising capital.
“As a Black female founder I face intersectional challenges through race, sex, and economic levels. According ProjectDiane, a biennial demographic study produced by digitalundivided, ‘Black women lead only 4% of startups in the technology space and have raised .0006% of the $424.7 billion in total tech venture funding raised since 2009…Additionally, the average amount raised by Black women is $42,000.’ I have felt the effects of all of these.”
Edwards remembers going to technology events when she first started out in the tech sector and being the only Black woman in the room. “I wasn’t spoken to, and when I tried to make conversation with others in the space, I was brushed off very quickly and not taken seriously. Over time, I have had to learn how to stand in and own my agency as a Black woman in technology. It is not easy, but it is rewarding.”
Solving Big Problems is a series featuring ten game-changing startups that just happen to be led by women.
i-Subz will be pitching at the Women Startup Challenge at Google in New York City.
May 7, 2019 at 09:23AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs