Emely Ramirez, MPH ’20, grew up in a bilingual household and understood the value of being multilingual from a young age. Her parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, so both English and Spanish were spoken at home. Throughout her life, she met many other children of immigrants who weren't multilingual and wished they could speak their parents’ native language. Hoping to break down these language barriers and build stronger familial relationships for other children in a similar situation, Ramirez came up with the idea for Bilingüe, an interactive language learning app designed to break down language, cultural, and generational gaps.
She focused Bilingüe on helping kids, primarily ages one through seven, to learn multiple languages using digital and physical toys, like letters, numbers and figurines. These toys provide real-time translations and tangible learning tools for kids to interact with their families.
“The goal of Bilingüe is to provide language learning tools on a more meaningful level to a child than a traditional textbook can offer,” says Ramirez.
While pursuing her Masters of Public Health at the College of Public Health at Temple University, Ramirez was introduced to the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) and the Changemaker Challenge. The annual Changemaker Challenge competition provides mentoring, educational resources and seed funding to ventures dedicated to making a positive change in the world. After reviewing the competition requirements, and realizing all she needed to enter was an executive summary and brief business plan, she submitted Bilingüe to the competition.
As a finalist, Ramirez and Bilingüe received feedback from external reviewers, coaching from experienced mentors, and she pitched her venture to a panel of VIP judges. And although she didn’t finish the competition as a winner, she used the experience and feedback to make improvements to her pitch, and get ready to submit for another funding opportunity offered through the IEI.
Bilingüe’s innovative approach to learning a second language catapulted her to the finals of the Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund, where she was selected to receive a $10,000 non-diluted seed-funding grant. The Lori H. Bush Fund was created by Lori Bush, MBA’85, in honor of her father, to provide funding opportunities for women-founded ventures from within the Temple University community.
“Building that initial capital is very hard because you are essentially asking someone to invest thousands of dollars into just an idea,” says Ramirez. “The mentors I was able to connect with through the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute helped me put all of the pieces together to create a winning solution.”
She credits her mentors and the support from the IEI to helping her refine her pitch, receive additional seed funding, increase her network of mentors and entrepreneurial friends, and become better prepared to compete in additional pitch competitions.
“Having this network provided by the IEI is an invaluable resource. I now have a place to go to when I run into issues, or have questions about something,” says Ramirez.
The future of Bilingüe includes building a multitude of prototypes based on her research. So far, she has conducted research through two different surveys for parents and non-parents in second language development. She and her team use this data to build the app and its curriculum.
Learn more about Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute on our website and the Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund here.