the team

Ameer Baksh


Ameer is a junior at the Academy for Software Engineering high school. He was one of the four high school students at the Hackathon and this is his first taste of being an entrepreneur.

Kirk Curry

Co-Founder & Certified Master Gardener

Kirk graduated from West Virginia University in 1998 with a degree in Environmental Protection. After 12 years in the Environmental Consulting field, he then moved on to become an entrepreneur. Kirk is a videographer, video editor, and the co-founder of Healthy Kids Inc., an online meal planner. In 2015, Kirk received his Master Gardener certification through the West Virginia Extension Service-Putnam County.

Mandy Curry

Co-Founder & Director of Operations and Outreach

Mandy is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Healthy Kids Inc., a healthy online meal planner. Mandy is passionate about changing the health of families across the U.S. She hosts cooking classes, is a blogger, speaker, and served as on-air talent for Mandy sits on numerous boards throughout the State of WV, spearheads the state-wide outreach project, Healthy Kids, Healthy WV, and speaks to classrooms throughout the state about healthy eating. She has been featured as a Wave Maker, named WV State Journal’s Top 40 under 40, and was featured as one of West Virginia’s “Wonder Women” by the WV Focus Magazine.

Nicole Mercer

Co-Founder & UI/UX Design Lead

Nicole is a UI/UX designer, entrepreneur, front end developer, and health enthusiast. She studied Industrial Design at RISD, and went on to found Thryve; an iPhone app that lets you track what you eat and how you feel, which has received a few honors and awards.

The Seed

Start-A-Garden was created at a hackathon hosted by The Feast in March 2014. It was a place where many people from all walks of life came together to try and provide a solution to the following challenges:

• To help teachers empower students to make healthy choices about the food they consume, whether at home or at school

• To create an information avenue that shows families the healthy food options and physical activity opportunities available locally

After The Feast presented these challenges to everyone they left the teams to their own devices. It was up to the teams to break into their own groups and come up with possible solutions to these challenges. It was here when Team SAG(Start-A-Garden) first met. Compared to the other groups consisting of 5-7 people Team SAG was a micro cohort with just 4 people, Nicole Mercer, Mandy Curry, Kirk Curry and Ameer Baksh.

We began with an idea of a website which would help teachers give children the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices.

After hours of brainstorming our ideas on a whiteboard and trying to make those ideas come to life we came up with something more than just an information avenue. We came up with something that allowed the children to actively engage in making healthy decisions rather than just read words off of the screen. Our product, Start-A-Garden, an online platform designed to help teachers create quick, easy, and inexpensive classroom gardens.

At the end of the hackathon every team presented their ideas to a panel of judges which included:

Julie Moreno (Public Health Advisor for Childhood Obesity at the White House)

Bill Dietz (Director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the CDC)

Larry Soler (President and CEO of PHA)

Adam Dole (Presidential Innovation Fellow at the White House)

There were many amazing ideas, and as The Feast said, “Every team presented with such passion, and we were consistently blown away by the thoughtfulness, clever UX design, thorough research, effective use of data, and innovative playfulness that came of a single weekend”. However, only 2 teams could win and those teams would compete for the audience choice award at the PHA Summit. The winning teams were, Team Superfuel and Team Start-A-Garden.

“A special congratulations to the two winning hackathon teams who will take the stage in front of 1,000 industry leaders at the PHA Summit!”- The Feast

Team Start-A-Garden and Team Superfuel then traveled to the PHA Summit in Washington, D.C. where each team got on stage in front of 1,000 leaders. The presentations were creative, thoughtful and innovative and the competition was fierce. After hours of networking and seeing bright new ideas, the votes were in, and Team Start-A-Garden had won the Audience Choice Award!