The celebrating began long before the London Creator Awards were over. About two-thirds of the way through, Eliza Rutherford and Anna Gross literally started dancing in the aisle. They were soon joined by a huge crowd that didn’t disperse for the rest of the evening.

Best friends back at Oxford University, Rutherford and Gross didn’t even know the other was a finalist until the day before the ceremony. They hoped that one of them would win, but both of their newly launched nonprofits impressed the judges. Rutherford brought home $18,000 for GetGrief, which helps young people deal with the loss of a loved one. For Project Access, an organization to level the playing field for college admissions, Gross won $72,000.

“I laughed out loud that we were both finalists,” said Rutherford. “Things just keep bringing us together, which is amazing.”

Sponsored by WeWork, the Creator Awards gave out well over £1 million — that’s more than $1.3 million — to 19 companies that are, in the words of WeWork Cofounder Adam Neumann, “changing the world.”

“We’re all a part of something greater than ourselves,” Neumann said to the crowd of 2,600 people that gathered on September 14. “When you have that feeling, nothing can stop you.”

The £1 million pounds awarded at the Creator Awards doesn’t include the $18,000 that went to three different WeWork members who won a special Giving Award. Abigail Barnes of Master Your Time, Samuel Knight of Pollen8, and Josh Fletcher of HISKIND had no idea they were going to win until they were called onto the stage to be honored for their community spirit.

“Just do what you love,” said Barnes, visibly shaken by the attention. “When you die, you’ll ask: ‘Did I live? Did I love Did I do what I was here to do?’”

The party continued long after the awards ceremony was over. The crowd rushed the stage for a performance by the outrageous House of Revlon, then danced until 1 a.m. to DJ sets by Benji B and Annie Mac. The event took place in the middle of Battersea Park, but you could still hear the music more than half a mile away at Chelsea Bridge.

Over the course of the year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million in cities spanning the globe. Coming up next are events in Berlin, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv. The top winners in each region will come together to compete against at the Global Creator Awards in New York City.

There were three categories of Creator Awards, including the Incubate Awards for great ideas or specific projects that need funding. Winners in this category pocketed $18,000.

Besides GetGrief, the other winners of Incubate Awards included ThinAirWaterTeardusk, Conservation Guide, The Hard Yard, Wayword, Fat Macy’s, nibs etc., and Androdes, all based in London. Also taking home prizes in the category were Exyo, based in Sheffield, and the Stendhal Festival, based in Limavady, Ireland.

Frankie Bennett, cofounder of The Hard Yard, said her goal is a pop-up version of her exercise startup that employees people who’ve been through the criminal justice system as trainers.

“We’d love to use the money to build a space that embodies what we do,” said Bennett. “That’s a bit of a stretch project for us, but really want to make it happen in London.”

The other categories were the Launch Awards (for young businesses and organizations needing a little help getting off the ground) and the Scale Awards (for more established operations aiming to get to the next level). The morning of the competition, finalists in these categories gave their best five-minute pitch before the judges.

Things got even more intense in the evening when a smaller group was asked to give one-minute pitches in front of the crowd. Then the judges peppered them with tough questions about their business models.

In the Launch category, Project Access was a $72,000 winner, along with Chatterbox, Joto, and MURO.

“This will have a big impact financially, but more importantly to me personally is the validation that comes with an award,” said Jeremy Bond, whose company makes a modular activity board for kids. “Having taken a leap of faith six months ago and working on MURO by myself since, it’s a massive indicator that I’m doing something right.”

The top winner in the category was bio-bean, a clean technology startup that recycles coffee grounds into useable products. Founder Tom Bage brought home a $130,000 award.

The biggest prizes of the evening were in the Scale category. Airlite, which makes a paint that purifies the air, and Andiamo, which creates high-tech orthotic devices for children, both won $180,000.

“We have a waiting list of over 120 children,” said Andiamo Cofounder Naveed R. Parvez. “We will be able to hire a short-term clinic space to start treating them immediately. Whilst we are doing this, we will be able to secure a long-term space so we can start treating children more regularly.”

The top winner in the Scale category was Simprints, a nonprofit tech company that has developed low-cost fingerprint scanners that will help aid workers in developing regions. It won $360,000 to further develop its product.

“I’m a scientist, a researcher, but above all, a builder,” said Alexandra Grigore, product developer of Simprints. “I want to build technology that works for the poor, not in 20 to 30 years, but right now. My colleagues and I at the University of Cambridge founded Simprints for that purpose: to create a world equipped with the tools necessary to stop preventable suffering.”

Photos by Oscar May

“Ten years ago most people here did not know what this brown paste was,” says Anthony Brahimsha of the chickpea dip that is now nearly ubiquitous on menus in the U.S..

Born to Syrian parents, Brahimsha knew that hummus in the Middle East is much better than that found in American grocery stores. With the help of Mike McCloskey, owner of Select Milk Producers, the sixth largest dairy cooperative in the country, he developed a hummus called Prommus that is higher in protein –– three times that of other dips. It preserves the traditional flavor by using cold pressure, rather than heat, in the kitchen.

“What Halo Top is to ice cream and Chobani is to yogurt, we are to hummus,” Brahimsha says, by way of explaining that Prommus is also changing the industry.

The company name is a combination of the words “protein” and “hummus,” but is also a play on the word “promise.” With 1 percent of sales benefitting the World Food Program to fight global hunger, Brahimsha hopes that the product can have a significant effect on ending hunger and making nutritious foods available wherever they are needed.

Prommus cofounder Anthony Brahimsha, who has spent a lot of time on humanitarian missions, believes his hummus could help feed the world.

While the initial idea was born out of his humanitarian work in refugee camps along the Turkish/Syrian border, Brahimsha has even bigger dreams. The world needs to find more ways to make nutritious foods for people who are going hungry, and he thinks Prommus and its innovative production process are part of the solution. Two patents are currently pending.

The company’s four varieties (original, red pepper, olive, and avocado) are sold in the Midwest, primarily in Illinois and Michigan. These flavors were taste-tested by Brahimsha’s fellow members at Chicago’s WeWork River North, a community that he says has been invaluable to the startup.

“There are a lot of co-working spaces, but not everywhere is a community of social entrepreneurs who are rooting for their peers,” he says.

A winner in the business venture category at the Nashville Creator Awards, he says he’ll be able to start the next stage of expansion for his company, primarily by adding staff.

“As soon as you win this award, all the blood sweat and tears that you put into the company comes together,” he says. “Everything that you have been doing, the people that were with you along the way, finally, it feels like an affirmation that you were doing the right thing.”

 

Melanie Faye grew up in Nashville, but she doesn’t credit Music City with her success. She credits Guitar Hero. Yes, that Guitar Hero, the video game that allows players to mimic the sounds and moves of their favorite stars. For Faye, it was Michael Jackson.

“I don’t think growing up in Nashville introduced me to guitar players,” Faye says. “My parents were chemists. I was not able to go to bars and see local shows. Guitar Hero introduced me to all this music I was not exposed to. Guitar Hero looked really cool. It made me feel empowered.”

So, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Faye, now 20, has found fame via YouTube. After dropping out of college three semesters in to pursue her music career, Faye posted videos of herself sitting in her bedroom and playing covers of John Mayer and Mariah Carey.

“Guitar Hero introduced me to all this music I was not exposed to,” says Melanie Faye. “Guitar Hero looked really cool. It made me feel empowered.”

She also used the platform to debut some of her original work, which she describes as a mixture of R&B, hip hop, and pop. Her voice, serious guitar-playing chops, and friendly demeanor propelled those videos to more than 10 million views. She was so popular that the guitar company Fender tapped her to demo a new line of the instrument.

“I thought, ‘This is it! I’m viral. I made it!’ But it does not work that way,” she says. Faye makes ends meet by working at a local doughnut shop and teaches guitar. She also keeps working on her music the old-fashioned way, having been tapped to be the opening act for musicians like Noname and Mac Demarco. Her most recent gig was at the Nashville Creator Awards.

She is working on her first album, which she hopes will be out by the year’s end. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Faye has been working on Homophone for years.

“If I had known it was going to take this long,” she says, “I wouldn’t have told people it was going to be out soon.”

Faye is also working to relieve the jitters that come with performing live, rather than in front of a camera. A recent show at the Hollywood Palladium was a game changer.

“I typically am really shy and inhibited on stage. But I felt so much support and positive energy, I just let loose,” she remembers. “I think to an extent you just have to have fake confidence at first. I walked up and had a confident demeanor and once I heard crowd cheering, then I was confident.”

“It happens overnight,” Maria Vertkin says. “An immigrant moves to the U.S. and goes from being a surgeon to washing toilets.”

College degrees and professional experience from their home country don’t always mean as much as they should when an immigrant starts a new life abroad, says Vertkin. She knows from experience: She spent her childhood in Russia and Israel before immigrating to the United States. But she realized that they have one thing that will always be of use to them: their language skills.

“It doesn’t make sense if you have something as valuable as a second language to not use it,” says Vertkin, who speaks English, Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Vertkin, a Boston-based social worker, wanted to help train women to use their multilingual skills to their advantage. She saw a need that they could fill in the medical field. Hospitals in Massachusetts struggled to find interpreters for their patients who aren’t native English speakers. Without interpreters, expensive and even potentially fatal medical errors are possible.

A Found in Translation graduate shows off her diploma.

“The jobs are plentiful and the demographics are shifting,” says Vertkin. “Not only do they serve the local population, but medical tourists come from other countries and they need interpreters.”

The idea was a hit with the judges of WeWork’s Nashville Creator Awards. Found in Translation took home a $72,000 prize in the nonprofit category.

In 2011, Vertkin started Found in Translation to help homeless and low-income women achieve economic security by making their language skills an asset, rather than a liability. Within a few weeks of announcing the first class, she had 200 applications.

The nonprofit offers medical interpreter certificate training as well as other interpreter programs. And the training includes more than the core curriculum — childcare, transportation, job placement, and access to mentors for professional development are also part of the program.

The 186 graduates of Found in Translation classes between 2012 and 2017 earned approximately $1.86 million cumulatively more per year than they did before enrollment. That’s about $10,000 more per person annually. She says that if she wins in the nonprofit category at the Nashville Creator Awards, she can expand the program.

Classes currently take place in Boston, where Vertkin estimates they could easily double in size with the right funding. Every city in the U.S., she says, has the potential for success with Found in Translation.

“There is opportunity and need and we are connecting them,” Vertkin says. “The biggest risk is for employers not hiring multilingual employees.”

If Janett Liriano has her way, you won’t be using your FitBit much longer.

Liriano is CEO of Loomia, a New York-based firm at the intersection of tech and fashion. The company creates “intelligent drapeable circuits” that are soft enough to be embedded into textiles and can be safely washed and dried. Instead of wearing a step tracker on your wrist, it could be embedded into your running shoes.

That’s just the beginning of what these circuits can do. Those shoes might not just track your steps, but can also measure the pressure on your feet, giving you information on how you should adjust your gait. They might heat up and keep your feet warm in winter. And a light might keep you safer on a nighttime jog.

Loomia’s CEO Janett Liriano and founder Maddy Maxey

Liriano has two patents for her product and others in the pipeline for the smart fabric-enabling circuits. Her team is working with more than 80 brands on how they can integrate the smart technology into their designs. The current emphasis is on clothing, but the flexibility of the circuit opens the door to other products in the future.

“We are category agnostic,” Liriano says. “If you can make a washable circuit, you can put it on the floor. You can put it in wallpaper.”

Liriano, who took home third place in the business ventures category at the Nashville Creator Awards, sees potential in fields ranging from medicine to transportation.

Not only can Loomia transform the ways smart devices are used, it can also change what happens to all that data once it is collected. The company is looking at ways that consumers can sell their data to interested parties — or choose not to share it.

Liriano, a “born-and-bred New Yorker,” thinks the city is the right place for the firm. It’s one of the country’s great fashion hubs, but it also has a strong startup scene.

New Yorkers are inherently scrappy and resourceful,” she says. “For a business that is not super capitalized, that’s a good network. We are hard-core hustlers.”