In a ceremony today at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem, NC, Creative Startups announced the winners of $50,000 in funding for three creative entrepreneurs. Embodied Labs from Chicago took the top prize of $25,000; The Feeling Friends, from Winston-Salem, NC, received $15,000; and Muddy Creek Café & Music Hall, Winston-Salem, received $10,000.
“Winston-Salem was the perfect place to host this program,” said Winston-Salem Mayor, Allen Joines, who declared the week from Sept. 25 to 30 as Creative Startups Week. “The creative economies have grown more than 17 percent in the past five years. The work these companies are doing will pay great dividends in the future.”
Creative Startups is an eight-week world-class program that educates startups on business model development and affords access to venture funding. The initiative was hosted by the Center for Creative Economy in Winston-Salem to get creative businesses beyond launch stage to customer acquisition and profitability.
More than 100 applications were received for the program from 19 countries and 21 states, including Washington, DC. The selection process involved reviews by a panel 14 judges, from business leaders and angel investors, to experts from Creative Startups and the Center for Creative Economy. Nine finalist companies were chosen to participate in the intensive eight-week education program; culminating in pitches this week to secure funding for their creative enterprises.
When Carrie Shaw, Erin Washington, Ryan Lebar and Thomas Leahy created Embodied Labs, they recognized and built a company around immersive, interactive, virtual reality experiences for health training. “Our goal is to help healthcare providers understand what it is like to see with vision impairment and hear with high frequency hearing loss” said Shaw, who is originally from Winston-Salem and dedicated the award to her mother, a champion of creativity. “In the same way that being part of Creative Startups opened our eyes to our business possibilities, we are working to help healthcare open its eyes to better care for vulnerable patient populations.”
Karen Cuthrell created The Feeling Friends to produce content to guide parents, caregivers, educators, and clinicians in teaching children how to identify, express and manage their feelings. “I have learned so much about all aspects of my business, from finance and accounting to marketing,” said Cuthrell. “The mentors were able to offer us excellent advice because they have been in our positions. I am so grateful for this experience.”
Muddy Creek Café & Music Hall is a cafe and music venue with an emphasis on hearty food, great conversation, and live music. Started by Shana Whitehead and Bill Heath, they have a strong community of musicians and music lovers who consider the Café to be the “Cheers” of music. Funding will allow the company to expand its offerings and look towards a future with multiple locations.
Investors traveling to Winston-Salem for the Accelerator included Shuyi Mo, President Business Development, Infinite Film Studios in Singapore; Kevin Johnson, President of Johnson Media in Atlanta and Ted Zoller, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School andLena Ramfelt, Ph.D., Professor at Stanford University and Co-Founder of Gear-up Ventures in Sweden;.
Mentors who participated in the program include Alice Loy, cofounder of Creative Startups; Nathan Battle, cofounder, Grins Enterprises; Mary Ardrey Stough Kimbrough chair of Business and Economics at Salem College; Mary Ann Hauser, business coach, ActionCOACH and Marcia Wofford, associate dean of Student Affairs, Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Among the prestigious guest faculty were Jay Bigelow, Director of Entrepreneurship, Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), Wendy Castleman, Innovation Leader and Design Thinking Strategist at Intuit; Jon Obermeyer, Chief Content Officer at Apogii; Toni Sikes, CEO of CODAworx, Lizzy Hazeltine, Venture Associate, The Startup Factory.
“The implications of this program have global ramifications,” said Corey Madden, executive director of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts, a major sponsor of Creative Startups. “These inspiring companies are getting their start here; but their work will impact many people all over the world.” Other major partners included the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, the City of Winston-Salem, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and numerous private businesses and community leaders.
Other companies that participated in the Southeastern Accelerator included:
- Alan Henderson Studio, Winston-Salem, a modern stationer, pressman, and designer.
- Bodhe, Kernersville, NC, develops therapeutic medical apparel.
- Devoted Human, Asheville NC, offers handcrafted, artist- and craftsman-made goods for cats, dogs; and the people who love them.
- M.I.D. Goods, Nashville, TN, produces silkscreened prints and goods inspired by their home state.
- Partnr, Atlanta, links creative resources in everything from app development to film, digital design, music, photography, product design and more.
- Redress Raleigh, Raleigh, NC, supports independent eco-conscious designers to grow the market for responsibly-produced fashion.
- Taller Nu, Mexico City, Mexico, explores the boundaries between art and fashion while training and employing inmates for a life outside of prison.