FostaParty Team Wins Grant to Expand Concept and Offer Free Birthday Parties to Foster Children | College of Fine Arts | Wender Mind Kids

by Alicia Dietrich

In recent years, a group of female students came up with an idea for a business that would also help support their community. FostaParty creates kits to help families throw a free birthday party for a foster child in their family. Thanks to the generosity of a donor, the team can now expand their idea and offer more parties for foster families.

Khira Patel, a psychology and business administration student at UT, drew on her experience mentoring a foster child when she was in high school to come up with the idea. Children who are in the foster care system are less likely to have a positive childhood experience because of trauma in their life that led to placement in the foster care system. Patel decided to focus on how to build a positive experience for these children to create more positive memories and she landed on the idea of ​​a birthday party and providing free birthday parties to foster families.

She had been working on the concept for two semesters, but things really started to fall into place when she took the Women in Entrepreneurship course at the College of Fine Arts in the fall of 2020. The course was created by Jan Ryan, executive director of the Center for Creative Entrepreneurship at the College of Fine Arts, and was taught jointly by Ryan and practice professor Kendra Scott in the fall. The course is offered by the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute.

“FostaParty is a great example of the power of diversity in teams when it comes to entrepreneurship,” said Jan Ryan. “Her rapid progress in the classroom was due to her ability to collaborate and integrate the strengths of each team member. It was their collective creativity and passion for this problem that quickly brought the idea to life.”

Patel was placed in class with other women who became her new teammates and business partners: Alaine Cooney and Isabella Droz, arts and entertainment technology students, Malyne Wilkins, studio arts major, and Ayla Musharrif, psychology major. Patel’s roommate Chloe Rice, a McCombs School of Business student, also joined the team the next semester.

“Every one of these women has something that is so unique and that they are really passionate about or an expert on,” Patel said. “Every time we talk I learn something new and I can apply what they teach me not only to FostaParty but also in my life.”

A Studio Art major, Wilkins brought some of her investigative investigative skills from her creative practice to use in her role as the team’s nurturing relationships and partnerships coordinator. In her role, she has conducted many interviews with foster families, caseworkers and other stakeholders to better understand what foster parents need from outside the foster community.

“For me, I think I’m on the investigative side and I’m asking these questions and I understand where we fit in? Where can solutions come from?” said Wilkins. “I think that’s something I’m constantly learning about as an artist and constantly finding out about as I make my art. Mastering these skills at FostaParty has also allowed me to think more deeply about my ideas as an artist and the things I want to explore.”

In the Women in Entrepreneurship course, the team participated in a pitch showcase where they had to create a pitch deck with a tight elevator pitch and a clear value proposition and business model. They pitched their idea to a panel that included Ryan and Scott and other key entrepreneurs and community leaders. The feedback they received helped them refine their idea, and they took the concept further in Spring 2021 through UT’s Social Entrepreneurship Learning Lab, where they received funding.

Longer term, the team hopes to build a business where families buy a birthday party for their own families and with every kit paid for, a second kit is donated to a foster family. At the moment the team is focused on raising funds to organize as many birthday parties for foster children as possible.

Thanks to donor David Burke, the team was recently the first recipient of a $5,000 grant to support its next steps. Burke established the David and Tabitha Burke Endowment for Female Entrepreneurship for the College of Fine Arts’ Center for Creative Entrepreneurship to support entrepreneurial projects for female students in the arts. Led by Ryan, the center connects art students with training, resources, mentors and more to help them realize their creative business ideas.

“It’s very exciting to see young artists and young people in general looking at the world and saying, ‘We can solve this problem through entrepreneurship,'” Burke said. “What FostaParty is doing is incredibly valuable. It brings happiness and joy to children who deserve it in ways others have never thought of.”

The FostaParty team has recently been recognized as a 501C3 Non-Profit Organization and the grant will help cover the costs of this application process. They will also use the money to shore up their inventory of party supplies.

“Any extra money we get is money that we can put right back into foster care,” Rice said. “A lot of this will go straight to birthday parties that bring positive memories to foster children. But then we will also be able to use some of these funds to invest in a warehouse of supplies and materials for our future parties. We haven’t managed to do that yet because we finance it on a party-by-party basis. Having a warehouse to draw from for parties will help streamline our processes.”

While the FostaParty team were unable to attend any of the FostaParty birthday parties due to the pandemic, they saw the impact of their work in video provided by a foster father after a birthday party box was sent to a girl named Maryah.

“The FostaParty kit absolutely brought the whole family together,” said Rice. “Everyone enjoyed it and you can see the light on Maryah’s face and how happy she was. I also found it adorable how much the whole family was into it. Not only did we have a positive impact on this little girl, but this is a shared family memory. Everyone will remember it and it will be a good one.”