The Creator Awards arrived in San Francisco on May 10, transforming the Palace of Fine Arts into a grand celebration of innovation, creativity, and grit. WeWork gave out $742,000 to five entrepreneurs and artists from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austin to take their life’s work to the next level.
An estimated 1,500 attendees filled the building to watch entrepreneurs pitch their projects Shark Tank style to judges including former vice-chair of General Electric Beth Comstock and MoviePass co-founder Hamet Watt. They also came to mingle with recruiters, buy handmade wares, take in wisdom from famous creatives, and dance to the music of St. Vincent and DJ Daddy Kat. Former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth (she’s the one responsible for the magazine’s wokeness) and WeWork CEO Adam Neumann’s sister, model Adi Neumann, co-hosted.
Because, as WeWork says, “big ideas deserve big celebrations.”
These were the biggest, best, and most inspiring moments:
Most encouraging advice for entrepreneurs: “As long as you’ve got an Internet connection, there’s no reason you cannot be building an empire from your laptop,” Natalie Ellis, CEO of Boss Babe, a community of female entrepreneurs, told the audience at a master class about disruption. She urged aspiring business owners not to obsess about trademarks, logos, or how many social media followers they have — just take action.
Most surprising revelation: Queer Eye style expert Tan France (a British Muslim) lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his Mormon husband. He also runs his ladies’ apparel business from there. He told starstruck fans at the “Designing a BIG Life” master class the decision was pragmatic. “If I’m going to have a warehouse, it better be economical,” France said. More importantly, that’s where his husband is based –– “and I really don’t fancy divorces.”
Why we all want to work for Kevin Rose now: The serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and self-described “biohacker/longevity freak” is working on a way to give employees bonuses for sleeping more (because while it may be a badge of honor to pull all-nighters in Silicon Valley, the research is pretty clear that sleep deprivation is cognitively akin to being drunk). More evidence Rose is serious about taking care of his staff outside the office: He told master class attendees he also gives his staff subsidies to buy their families flowers and to take Ubers for a night on the town.
Top prize: Medinas Health, a Berkeley business helping hospitals sell surplus medical supplies to small clinics and nursing homes, took the $360,000 award for an established business venture. Since April 1, they’ve started relationships with seven hospitals and closed $60,000 in sales. Chloe Alpert, the 26-year-old founder, said the WeWork money will pay for additional staff to work on solving other supply-chain challenges hospitals have identified.
Sweetest founder story: Amin Bahari, a founder of “performance protein donut” maker Elite Sweets, told the judges he was partly inspired by his own weight-loss journey to redefine how people see baked goods. The audience cheered when he shared that he lost 140 pounds in college, and that the high-protein donuts are made with almond flour, whey protein, and fiber and naturally sweetened with Stevia “so my mother and grandmother could enjoy it.” The judges were won over: The Austin, Texas, company garnered $180,000, which will allow them to move out of Bahari’s parents house and into a commercial kitchen.
Best news for women in the food industry: Mission District incubator kitchen La Cocina, in partnership with the city of San Francisco, will open the country’s first all-women food hall in the Tenderloin next year. La Cocina, which helps low-income and immigrant women open restaurants, won the $130,000 nonprofit award. Jessica Mataka, La Cocina’s development and communications manager, said the money will go toward a $4 million capital campaign to turn a shuttered post office into the food market.
Most likely to make LGBTQ history: Mason Funk, an L.A. filmmaker building a video archive of LGBTQ pioneers and elders across America called Outwords, won $36,000 as the Community Giver recipient. Funk, 59, choked up while accepting the award, which will pay for another round of interviews (so far, his team has captured the stories of 129 pioneers in 25 states) and begin to lay the groundwork for a searchable, digital platform. “The queer community has our own Greatest Generation,” Funk said. “I was seized by the passionate urgent desire to capture these stories while they’re still alive to preserve them forever and share them with the world.”
Best birthday present: Winning the Performing Artist audience choice award. Lalen St. Juste, lead singer and lyricist with Bay Area electro-soul band The Seshen, turned 34 on Thursday. With the $36,000 award, the six-piece band will be able to buy a van to do their first national tour, timed to their third album set to release in early 2019. “We’ve just been at this for a while,” she said, crying backstage after winning. “It just feels like it’s the universe saying, ‘Keep going. Keep going.’”