- Karim Abouelnaga, 26
Raised by a single mother on government aid and having attended a struggling New York City public school, Karim Abouelnaga, 26, saw higher education as the ticket to a better life. He didn't have the scores to enter a prestigious college the first time around, but a mentor encouraged him to try again. He did--and successfully transferred to Cornell his sophomore year. Abouelnaga wanted to find a way to give back to kids with a similar background. So he gathered his friends to help launch a pilot summer school program at his high school, where the six-year graduation rate was 55 percent. At the end of the summer, Abouelnaga decided to turn the program into a business. Declining a Wall Street offer and instead raising funding from students, professors, and a handful of business pitch competitions, he founded his company Practice Makes Perfect in 2015.
Practice Makes Perfect provides summer academic enrichment programs for inner-city K-12 schools across New York City--serving over 1,300 students. But it's not just summer school. Abouelnaga aims to make the connections meaningful: The company trains students to be mentors and pairs mentors and students in the same neighborhood to help with social and emotional development. "Without the relationship piece, your attendance falters because you don't have the opportunity to build relationship with kids," he says. The company, which has 31 paying customers, charges schools based on the number of classes and duration of programs, allowing students to attend for free. About 89 percent of students successfully graduate from their summer program, Abouelnaga says. Practice Makes Perfect, which has eight full-time employees, hit $1.79 million in revenue in 2017. --Michelle Cheng