Meet the Founder of Skate 4 Africa, David Kobrosky

This 17-year-old social entrepreneur is determined to make the world a better place through business – and skateboards.

High schoolers have many responsibilities. With a packed schedule including schoolwork, extracurricular activities, a social life and perhaps earning some pocket money, who has the time to turn a homegrown business into an organization which will impact young adults on other continents? David Kobrosky does.

An avid skateboarder and born entrepreneur, David started out selling trendy skateboards a few years ago. This venture was succeeding as a side business, but he wanted more – he wanted to connect his passion with a purpose.

All it took was reading a simple statistic: “The UN predicts that the under-18 population in Africa will rise to 1 billion by 2050.” He realized something needed to be done to give positive outlets to the growing population of boys and girls.

The stated mission of the organization is “to teach perseverance, creativity, and community building through the means of skating.” David raises funds through a few strategies; he hosts fundraising concerts, formal dances, and skateboard events that go toward the construction of parks and the distribution of skateboards in Africa.

After he was introduced to a tight-knit skating community in Ethiopia, its impact struck David. “My eyes welled up with tears when I saw that none of the children had helmets and few wore shoes, yet their faces gleamed with the same excitement I felt when I began to work on my love-hate relationship with gravity.”

So, you must be wondering: You’re in school. You are also extremely passionate about skateboarding, or Minecraft or posting mac-n-cheese photos on Instagram. How do you channel your creative energies and help make the world a better place? Just keep reading.

1. What is your background?

I grew up in the beach town of Rockport, MA, an hour north of Boston. I always had a passion for skating and I remember my first time stepping on a board. Earth never felt more solid than when I was on wheels, but to other kids at the skateboard park, ignoring the laws of physics seemed like an equally effortless task. Wanting to join them in their gravitational defiance, I challenged them to skateboard competitions, but failed miserably time after time.

I practiced; with each fall came a deeper need to succeed. Soon I realized the improvement didn’t have to be limited to skill, but rather to the board itself. I began unscrewing bolts and tinkering with different board setups, aiming to return to the park better than before.

It was this drive that helped me in school, sports, and achieving my goals. Eventually, my love for skating and my insight to the power of skating allowed me to start Skate 4 Africa.

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2. What sparked your interest in entrepreneurship and Skate 4 Africa?

Taking apart and combining my first grade action figures to sell as “limited edition” on EBay and starting a screen-printing project in fifth grade to bring my basketball team’s logo and my friends’ custom designs to life offered fulfillment. I always had a desire to create, which naturally lead to entrepreneurship.

Hence I began a skateboard company and started selling boards at events around New England. Yet as time went on, I wanted to create something with a purpose. After research, I found that the UN predicts that the under 18 population of Africa will rise to one billion by the year 2050. The population boom offers a need to establish youth programs and create the necessary outlets for children, which are enjoyable, productive and safe. Thus, the concept of Skate 4 Africa was sparked.

3. Please tell us a bit about Skate 4 Africa – what is its history and what is it currently achieving?

Skate 4 Africa has successfully operated in Uganda and Ethiopia (with plans to work in Zambia) using both small and large-scale construction, community programs, and skateboard distribution focused on creating a fun, supportive, and safe environment. In Ethiopia, we helped fundraise for the country’s first public skateboard park and plan to partner with the organizations Skate Aid, Make Life Skate Life, and Ethiopia Skate, a government affiliated non-profit.

This past summer we visited Ethiopia and were able to distribute skateboards donated from 17 skate shops around the United States to benefit a “Loaner Program” so children can learn how to skateboard from the older community members. Construction of skate parks has been led by professional skatepark builders, volunteers, and locally hired construction companies, which offers an economic benefit to the community as well.

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4. How can our readers get involved with Skate 4 Africa?

Anyone can help by starting a Skate 4 Africa chapter, hosting a fundraiser, or donating to our cause! Check out https://skate4africa.org/pages/getting-involved.

5. What would you tell a young teen looking to start an organization to further a cause they are passionate about?

I would tell them the following 5 key concepts:

  1. It’s easier than it looks. If you set your mind to that midterm paper, you can set your mind to starting a social benefit company.
  2. Everything takes more time and more money than you expect. Plan ahead for this!
  3. Look it up! The internet is a wonderful resource where you can find sites like GlamSalad.com to get you kick-started.
  4. Find a mentor. Nothing works better than an elder or someone more experienced than you to offer advice and encourage your own development.
  5. Make time for it. No, you cannot run a company and be a three sport athlete. If you are, then you are not devoting yourself to either one of those enough.

6. What does a day in your life look like?

Each (weekday) morning I rise at 6:45, head to the gym, and get back before school. I find that this routine wakes me up and allows me to get the most out of my day. Furthermore, I try to meditate at least a few days every week and while school takes up the bulk of my time, I always set aside a couple hours daily for Skate 4 Africa and other projects. Working at the Cambridge Innovation Center’s co-working space in the afternoon also allows for ample space to remain innovative and creative.

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7. What are some things you’re excited about right now?

Like most people, I have no idea where I’ll be next weekend let alone 10 years, but I’m excited to graduate high school, head off to The University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and begin my life of independence. I work with a few startups including Equity Owl, Easy Board Company, and High Serve. Equity Owl allows for young entrepreneurs to partner with freelancers for equity as opposed to cash. Easy Board Company is my for-profit skateboard company that manufactures downhill skateboards and apparel. High Serve digitizes the community service process. I love working with these companies and I look forward to learning more from them!

8) What do you envision for yourself and Skate 4 Africa in the future?

Since completion, Ethiopia’s first public skateboard park has been expanding skateboarding throughout Addis Ababa. From the trip to Ethiopia this past summer, a volunteer videographer and I are releasing a 30-minute Skate 4 Africa Documentary in 2017, which will depict the influence skating has on local communities.

Through a fundraising campaign based off of our documentary and theater showings, we plan to start construction on Ethiopia’s second public skateboard park by May of 2017. I plan to establish Government contracts with the Ethiopian and Zambian Governments by September 2017 for further development.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our organization and the sport of skating.

To stay up to date, feel free to contact me at david@skate4africa.org

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Some facts about David:

  • The best advice he ever received is: “The Risk of Insult is The Price of Clarity and the best way to complain is to make things.”
  • Who is a social entrepreneur he admires? “When it comes to people you look up to, it’s best to ask yourself, ‘Who is the third person you think of?’ This is primarily because the first person is always the most famous, the second is often the wealthiest and the third is someone who truly embodies your values and who you aim to model your own life after. Therefore, the third person I look up to would be Bill Gross, founder of Idea Lab (https://www.idealab.com/). He is a serial entrepreneur who continues to create companies that benefit the world.”
  • When is he happiest? “I don’t rush, but I’m always moving. If you can get into the “flow” where you’re able to continuously push forward in the task at hand, satisfaction will come. When I skateboard or play basketball however, I experience a similar state of flow.”
  • One thing that will always be funny to him is “Tom Brady Shaking Goodell’s hand after the Super Bowl win (I’m a Boston sports fan).”
  • His thoughts on personal style are: “In business, you must always look the part. For guys, at least have one nice pair of shoes, one business casual, and always keep some sneakers in the car. With that said, I consider myself a Marshalls guy, as expensive doesn’t always mean quality!”

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