BetterHires seeks to build job connections between students, businesses in Des Moines
From left: BetterHires team members Wheaten Mather, Kiki Levy, Jessica Duffy and Mia Levy at the 2018 Startup Weekend Iowa City. Contributed photo

Winning the top slot at Startup Weekend Iowa City this month wasn’t on Kiki Levy’s mind when the Roosevelt High School student pitched her concept to the crowd. Levy, 16, was thinking more about her friend, who had recently taken a summer job in retail.

“I realized when I looked at my friend and his search for a job, that it wasn’t necessarily because they want to do that job, it was because it was an easy way of making money,” Levy, a rising high school junior, said. “He was looking for a job where he could apply his talents or get insights into a different career … but it’s very difficult to find something like that for high schoolers.”

Like the post-school business world, it’s about connections.

“I really just want to even the playing field,” Levy added.

Levy and her team developed the concept for BetterHires, an app and web portal that matches high school students with local businesses advertising internships, part-time jobs, job shadow opportunities or mentor luncheons.

At Startup Weekend, Levy’s idea won over the support of her sister Mia, 15, as well as software developer Jessica Duffy and business advisor/marketer Wheaten Mather. By the end of the weekend, judges ranked BetterHires as first place out of five teams, and co-competitors awarded the concept the Crowd Choice Award.

“It really came down to, we were all really passionate about our idea, and we really want to see it go on further,” Levy said. (Levy is the daughter of local developer Frank Levy and business coach Kerty Levy.)

After one weekend, Levy’s focus for the rest of the summer shifted. Levy is building a list of students and 50 to 100 businesses interested in trying out the platform, which Duffy is developing in her free time. For now, Levy has a list of 15 businesses and 30 students interested in the product, and plans to incorporate BetterHires in 2018.

By Aug. 23 – Levy’s first day of classes – “I want them to have an idea of what is coming and how it can really benefit our community,” Levy said.

Students who sign up through BetterHires will create a profile of skills they have or are interested in learning, with the ability of upload documents or videos. Students will check a home feed to see the most recent postings, and could narrow the search down with filters to select paid opportunities, or opportunities in certain fields.

Businesses advertising an opening will pay per posting – for now, estimated at $25, Levy said – with the ability to ask applicants additional questions through the portal, or require a video introduction or application. The platform could also recommend students that match well to a business posting, Levy said.

“The business can really make it however detailed they want to be. And students really like that approach, because in high school resumes are kind of just a waste, because no one really has a ton of experience. It’s all about getting out there,” Levy said.

The team expects to apply for grants and travel to pitch competitions as they begin to build funding and launch a beta app, although a launch date has not been set yet.

Levy already has plans forming to build in markets similar to Des Moines in BetterHires’ second or third year. She’ll continue working on the business weekly during a scheduled class free period – as she continues involvement with the cross country team, ultimate frisbee, Best Buddies International and her role as treasurer for Roosevelt’s student council. She also works as an office assistant at Elizabeth Weinstein & Associates.

“I think time management will be something I’ll definitely work on this year,” Levy noted.

As the top team at Startup Weekend, BetterHires won six months of business coaching with consultant Marlo Higgins, who Levy will meet with every other week.

“We’re really excited to work with her, and we’re really grateful that the Startup Weekend program provides such amazing sponsors and prizes,” Levy said.

The team is seeking a new member to join the project, as Mia Levy returns to the Andover Phillips Academy in Massachusetts for the school year. Businesses, students or potential team members can contact Kiki Levy at

“Next summer, we really want to expand,” Levy said. “It’s something we’re all pretty passionate about, and are really excited to see where it takes us.”

“Being in high school and having this experience is pretty cool so far. I’m really enjoying it,” she added.

Friday, 8 a.m.: This story has been updated with a new email address for BetterHires.