Red Bull Baltimore


Red Bull Academy for Social Entrepreneurs Comes to Baltimore

Anne Field | April 12, 2017


More and more successful companies are giving back by helping fledgling entrepreneurs get their ventures off the ground.  Boston Beer (aka Sam Adams) offers loans and mentoring through its Brewing the American Dream program. Yogurt superstar Chobani runs an incubator for food startups. Now Red Bull is the latest to join the party.

The energy drink seller is bringing its Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, a bootcamp for social entrepreneurs, to Baltimore. The academy was launched in South Africa in 2014 and has also been held in Brazil.

Amaphiko means “wings” in Zulu. That’s clearly connected to Red Bull’s own logo and brand, as well as the company’s track record of backing innovators. “They see social entrepreneurs as extraordinary individuals in the social change space,” says Michelle Geiss, executive director and co-founder of Impact Hub Baltimore, a co-working and community space that is working with Red Bull.

The academy will launch in August with a 10-day residency program in Baltimore (all expenses covered) for 15 to 20 for-profit and nonprofit social entrepreneurs. That will be followed by an 18-month post-academy development period, during which participants return home but continue to work with mentors and specialists who can offer advice about marketing, design or other issues that arise.

Red Bull Baltimore
Rodney Foxworth (Photo credit: Jean Hill Studios)

“The goal is to ensure that people increase the impact they have on their communities and stay connected through a network,” says Rodney Foxworth, co-founder of Impact Hub Baltimore. Social entrepreneurs have until April 30 to apply.

The social enterprises that have participated in previous academies run the gamut. For example, the most recent South African academy included Lady Liberty, a Johannesburg venture that travels to poor and remote communities providing pro bono legal information and services to women; Aeon Power Bag in Midrand, which has a product that converts telecom signals into electricity to power mobile devices of rural schoolchildren; and Senso, a Pretoria enterprise with a technology that uses vibration and LED lights allowing deaf people to detect sounds that are essential in daily life.

The Red Bull program is the latest development in Baltimore’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Red Bull chose Baltimore as its first U.S. site for the academy after one of its mentors in South Africa who is a Baltimore native suggested the city as good place to locate, according to Geiss. So in 2015 the company talked to the people behind Impact Hub, which was just starting up, to explore the area. “They responded to the energy of the people here,” says Geiss.

Besides Impact Hub, other notable social entrepreneurial  activities in Baltimore include Invested Impact, a consulting firm, think tank and intermediary focusing on economic development, venture philanthropy and social innovation started by Foxworth in 2015. Last year, it also worked with Calvert Foundation and other partners to launch the Ours To Own campaign, a local impact investing initiative in which individuals and institutions could make place-based investments of as little as $20 through a special note earning 3% interest over 10 years. It’s raised $4.2 million.

There’s also the Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University, which provides funding, mentorship and resources to social entrepreneurs and others.

The Obama administration invested more than $20 million in Baltimore through grants, projects and funding to increase small businesses, build infrastructure and create jobs for youth. Since that’s not likely to continue under the new administration, the Red Bull academy may be coming in the nick of time.

Related: A New Accelerator Sets Black Business Owners up for Success

New Startup Accelerator Seeking Climate Change Ventures

Anne Field is a New York-based journalist who writes about social enterprise and impact investing. A version of this article originally appeared on her Not Only For Profit blog on


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