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20171115 Creator Awards NYC – Master Class – JB -5

“How many New Yorkers do we have here tonight?” Georges Clement of Justfix.NYC said from the stage at the New York City Creator Awards as the crowd cheered wildly. “And how many of you have had a terrible landlord?” he asked, eliciting an even more thunderous response.

Raised in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, Clement worked his home-court advantage Thursday night as he made the case for Justfix.NYC, a free service which helps low-income residents file claims against landlords when facing issues such as mold or infestations in their homes. His appeal won over the crowd and, more lucratively, the judges, who awarded him $180,000.

Launch winner JustFix.NYC
Georges Clement of JustFix.NYC

“Five months ago, our bank account was at zero,” Clement said. It’s been a pretty good week for the 27-year-old entrepreneur, including making the cut into Forbes’ Law and Policy 30 Under 30 and meeting fellow Creator Awards winner LeVar Burton. “Now, we’ve reached an inflection point. Now people have bought in to our vision.”

Clement and 23 other creators took home more than $1.5 million at the seventh regional Creator Awards event.

The event was a homecoming of sorts for the Creator Awards. The global competition, which started this year when New York City-based WeWork committed more than $20 million to fund innovative projects around the world, will culminate in a Global Finals in January 2018, also happening in New York City. Innovators of all kinds competed at three levels: Incubate, Launch, and Scale, with prizes ranging from $18,000 up to $360,000. Host Adi Neumann pointed out that this breaks down to more than $50,000 a minute.

“We found that there weren’t many people looking out for the creators of the world that didn’t follow the typical business model,” said WeWork Co-founder Miguel McKelvey

“Tonight’s a very special night,” WeWork Co-founder Miguel McKelvey said at the start of the ceremony. “We’re here at home where we started. The Creator Awards has connected us to incredible communities. Bringing this community together was something we’d dreamed about, but now we get to feel it in real life.” (Watch McKelvey’s whole speech about #IRL dreams at the 10:15 mark in the livestream below.)

To make the night even more special, McKelvey and the other Scale judges decided to hand out two more $180,000 prizes to finalists than they had originally planned. The big winner of $360,000 in that category, Karim Abouelnaga of Practice Makes Perfect, is also a native New Yorker solving a very local problem.

Behind the scenes, Abouelnaga and Clement had been cheering each other on, as they’re both part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers New York group. While Clement tackles housing, Abouelnaga focuses on education by bringing near-peer summer tutoring to underserved schools. For example, his very first summer program had ninth graders teaching fourth graders. The younger kids got lessons to keep them from falling further behind; the older kids get great summer jobs.

“I was the first person in my family to go to college,” Abouelnaga said in his 45-second pitch. “And I left a career in investment banking to make sure I wasn’t the last.”

Last summer, Practice Makes Perfect brought summer learning to 31 schools in New York, and in 2018, they’ll push it up to 50.

“With this money, I’ll experiment with cutting our price point to schools this year to saturate the market more this year and reach more kids,” he said.

Denimrush at Creator Market in New York CityThe full house of 2,500 who gathered at Skylight Clarkson Square in New York’s SoHo neighborhood wore their creativity on their sleeves, sometimes quite literally. Incubate category winner Laurén Bienvenue could be seen weaving through the party in her signature hand-painted leather jacket adorned with palm leaves. At the Creator Market, Denimrush was doing live drip painting on denim jackets.

Many of the artists represented had women founders or women-driven missions, as did many of the finalists who spoke on stage. Karen Young, founder of women-focused shaving brand Oui Shave and now a winner of $180,000 said the vision of the Creator Awards spoke to her.

“The Creator Awards is the first funding medium that just asks, ‘What are you passionate about?’” she said. “Many times, women are creating products for an audience they know intimately. But quite often if you’re talking to male investors, that’s not something they really understand immediately.”

After the awards ceremony, the dance floor filled up, matched in enthusiasm only by the line for New York-style hot dogs. Just before 11 p.m., the music stopped abruptly for a few moments, giving just enough time to let the shock of T-Pain standing at the DJ booth sink in—and for the cell phones to come out—before he launched into his hit “Bartender.” T-Pain announced that his new album was dropping at midnight, but he’d still stick to the hits for his surprise appearance. The crowd tightened up and unified for the moment. It was just another inspired night in the best city on earth.

Winners of the 2017 New York Creator Awards

Scale
Practice Makes Perfect (for profit) – $360,000

Eat Offbeat (for profit) – $180,000

LeVar Burton Kids (for profit) – $180,000

Oui Shave (for profit) – $180,000

Swipe Out Hunger (nonprofit) – $180,000

Launch
JustFix.NYC (nonprofit) – $180,000

Girls Health Champions (nonprofit) – $72,000

Inclusion (nonprofit) – $72,000

Integrated Medical Sensors (for profit) – $72,000

Seeds of Collaboration (for profit) – $72,000

Incubate
Adisa (for profit) – $18,000

ATOMIC by Design (for profit) – $18,000

Blossom-Project (nonprofit) – $18,000

Cave Theatre Co. (artist) – $18,000

Dialogue Theory (artist) – $18,000

Discover Outdoors Foundation (nonprofit) – $18,000

Girls on the Run NYC (nonprofit) – $18,000

Jae Jin Music (artist) – $18,000

Langston League (for profit) – $18,000

Once Upon A Laurén (artist) – $18,000

Purpose Driven Passports (nonprofit) – $18,000

Community Giver Award
ShareBite: Dilip Rao, Mohsin Mehmon, and Jason Ayala

Photos by Katelyn Perry

Your child’s daycare is closing. Your car needs a new carburetor. Your elderly father is suffering from a terminal illness. Your home improvement project has morphed into a money pit. The relentless news cycle makes you want to pull the covers over your head and stay there until Saturday.

Yet even as these types of ongoing stresses are occurring in your life, you must still go to work and try to perform at your best. While pulling that off isn’t easy, it is possible. Those who work in the mental health field say there are tools that help a person stay productive at work even when their personal life threatens to dominate their thoughts.

A main component, they say, is being honest with yourself and others about the stresses and your personal needs.

“Anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high,” says Poppy Jamie, the 28-year-old founder of the meditation app Happy Not Perfect. “We all understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed.”

Jamie, a member of the board of advisors for UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, says that if those stresses are personal ones, they can spill over into work performance if time isn’t taken to acknowledge and process them.

“When you suppress emotions, you activate the emotional center of your brain,” Jamie says. It’s the opposite of what many are hoping for at work, where maintaining a calm and rational demeanor is often helpful to make the best decisions.

Earlier this year, Jamie’s app debuted a five-minute exercise called Refresh that uses science-backed steps to help you approach your day in a more centered way. The app asks how you are feeling, with choices ranging from “sad,” “heartbroken,” and “anxious” to “excited” and even “magical.” The program then moves through a breathing exercise, noting when you should inhale and exhale.

On World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health, Jamie led a breathing exercise at London’s WeWork 138 Holborn. She discussed how people aren’t stuck with the way their mind works—it’s possible to be less stressed if you retrain yourself to handle it better.

But Jamie’s approach is about more than breathing. On her app you can vent by typing in what’s on your mind and then “burn” the whole screen in a symbolic manner to let go of negative thoughts. You are prompted to list things you are grateful for, doodle on the screen, or pass along a compliment to a friend.

In times of high stress, Jamie says, it’s paramount to identify what will help you relax. This “radical self care,” as she calls it, includes basics like proper sleep and hydration, but also requires that you consider things that specifically calm you down and then commit to doing whatever that might be. It can be as simple as drinking more hot tea or leaving a few minutes early to make a yoga class.

“When we are struggling, we forget what we need to feel better,” Jamie says.

If something beyond the simple stresses of daily life is weighing you down, Jamie says you should not hesitate to seek professional help or take some time off. If you have personal days, it’s wise to take advantage of them.

“Allowing yourself to recover is really important,” she says. “And being able to then, when you’re recovered, go back to work [at] full steam. You wouldn’t keep training on a sprained ankle—you’d take a couple of days off to make it rest.”

Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, co-founders of Shine, send an inspirational text daily to their 2 million community members across the globe. They advise that when stress becomes something that impacts your work, it needs to be brought up to a supervisor.

“A good rule of thumb is if you feel your struggles are impacting your ability to get the job done, flagging that to your boss will hopefully get you the proactive support you need,” says the 35-year-old Hirabayashi, who works from Brooklyn’s WeWork Dumbo Heights. “What we always find helpful in that scenario: Come with a few ideas or solutions for how they can best support you, not just the problem, for the most productive conversation.”

Jack Jones, founder of Australia’s The Banksia Project, which works with men to develop practices to implement positive mental health strategies, says putting in the time to build a positive office environment will pay off when stress threatens to impact work performance.

“When outside stressors are significant, we have to put on a facade as to how we really feel when we get to work,” says Jones, who is based at Sydney’s WeWork 333 George Street. “We therefore spend the majority of our day pretending we are okay, when at times, we aren’t. It is extremely important to create relationships with people in your workplace that allow you to be honest, open, and vulnerable.”

That means sharing struggles with colleagues and doing the same for them.

“We need to feel comfortable to talk to our colleagues about life’s challenges and know that they will also be willing to show vulnerability towards us in return,” says Jones, 25. “In order to safely do this, people need to be willing to listen honestly and openly after they ask a question like ‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you okay?’”

Taking time during the day to enjoy the simple pleasures can also improve your mood and lower stress.

“We need to slow down and stop to enjoy the first sip of our coffee,” says Jones. “Enjoy the beauty of someone deciding to wear a bright scarf on a rainy, miserable day.”

Jamie agrees with Jones that being positive affects everyone around you.

“Looking after your mental well-being is a priority not only because it’s beneficial to yourself, it’s also hugely beneficial to the business environment,” she says.

As the weather cools down, shoppers review their closets, looking to fill any gaps in their own wardrobes and preparing their children to go back to school. Direct-to-consumer apparel companies — which bypass traditional bricks-and-mortar stores — evaluate trends in shopping habits and find a way to make tasks easier on consumers.

Three startups are using technology and integrating customer feedback to do just that. One helps men buy unique, perfectly fitting shirts; another looks to easily fill what may be a guy’s most important (and most ignored) drawer; and a third assists parents in properly sizing their kids’ feet to make online shoe-shopping easier.

Every great outfit starts with what goes under it, but Laura and Michael Dweck (29 and 31, respectively) know that most men don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort shopping for socks and underwear. So in 2015, after a post-honeymoon fight over Michael’s overstuffed underwear drawer, they started Basic Outfitters, “an online destination for men to refresh their basics drawer in under two minutes,” says Laura, the creative director. For $60, customers can select a pack of socks, a pack of underwear, a pack of T-shirts and a “wildcard basic” — jogger-style pants or an extra set of socks, underwear, or tees. (The success of the company — it now has a team of 10 working out of its office at WeWork 135 Madison Avenue — landed the founders on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.)

“All couples have the same complaint about a significant other’s drawer,” says Laura Dweck of Basic Outfitters.

Basic Outfitters quickly learned customers couldn’t be grouped into “basic” or “fashion” categories, so the wares come in a variety of styles. Even if a guy initially chooses plain socks, Laura said, he’ll often go for a bonus pack of the popular “micro-conversational” prints for socks or boxers, which feature prints like motorcycles or palm trees. And sometimes male stereotypes do turn out to be correct: Basic Outfitters’ customers can’t get enough blue, but yellow regularly remains on their virtual shelves.

Laura has learned perhaps more than she ever expected to about men’s underwear preferences — Basic Outfitters followed early feedback requesting boxer briefs with a fly opening, and their popularity persuaded the company to develop more such styles.

Taking fashion risks

Woodies Clothing, which sells custom button-down shirts (starting at $85) and chinos (starting at $98) from its website, also discovered that men are willing to take fashion risks, even with  collared shirts. While Woodies’ bestsellers include straightforward no-iron blue and white button-downs, a flamingo-print shirt sold out in its first run. “That’s something we were not expecting,” says founder Jacob Wood, who works from 175 Varick Street in Lower Manhattan. Since moving into WeWork in 2014, Woodies has expanded to a staff of five.

Customers may be pleasantly surprised by how extensively Woodies has streamlined its process of ordering a custom shirt, which involves a dizzying number of options for collars, cuffs, and pockets. When Wood, a former buyer at Macy’s, founded his company in 2014, early iterations of the site suggested that customers use a tape measure and watch videos to take their measurements. Needless to say, that idea didn’t fly.

With height, weight, and average shirt size, we can extract all your measurements and send you perfect-fitting shirts,” says Jacob Wood of Woodies.

Now, the 31-year-old entrepreneur says, “we have an algorithm: With height, weight, and average shirt size, we can extract all your measurements and send you perfect-fitting shirts.” Pant sizes can similarly be determined when the customer provides his waist size.

Kicking around an idea

One startup is trying to make shopping for kids’ shoes easier for parents. Growing kids’ sizes are always changing, and it can be difficult to get those growing kids to cooperate in a brick-and-mortar store. So Jenzy‘s app directs customers to snap a picture of a child’s foot next to a credit-card-sized card (preferably one that doesn’t show financial information, like a library or store loyalty card). The app, which serves kids up to 6 years old (there are plans to extend the age range), then recommends the best sizes for the child in various brands and styles, including those from well-known manufacturers like Keen and Pediped.

“We’ve been live in the App Store for about two months and have about 1,500 downloads,” says Carolyn Horner, who co-founded the company with Eve Ackerley. The two are very pleased with their return rate.

It was not the most obvious path for the two child-free 20-somethings, but as they thought about starting their own clothing company, they kept hearing from friends who were frustrated with buying children’s shoes online. They realized that they could simplify the process.

Development of the app involved a lot of trial and error for Horner and Ackerley, who met teaching in China after college and are now based at WeWork 1601 Market in Philadelphia. Well before they were ready to send it to mommy bloggers for review, they found a surefire way to entice fellow WeWork members to test-drive the app in the building’s common areas. “We’d bring doughnuts to the beta test,” says Horner. Not only did they meet parents who offered suggestions, they got acquainted with a graphic designer who ended up doing the UX for their site.

The founders of Basic Outfitters also picked up tips from the WeWork community. One particularly lucky break, Laura Dweck says, was meeting a video producer in the WeWork building who agreed to shoot a series for social media to build buzz. “He put together some incredible footage, taking influencers around the city to film people going through their life wearing our basics,” she says.

The experienced producer, who’s done work for brands such as Bravo and Chevrolet, simply believed in the product. Laura says she recalls him saying, “I’ll do this for you guys — let’s have some fun.”

Dweck says the producer gathered some social-media influencers and filmed them going about their days in Basic Outfitters attire. Soon the company was getting notes from people who loved the clothing, including some women who wanted it to expand its product line.

“All couples have the same complaint about a significant other’s drawer,” says Laura. “We started the company to help out men, but now the demand for a women’s drawer is off the charts.”

“I’ve always worked in dusty, old, unsexy industries,” says 35-year-old entrepreneur Omri Stern, who dreamed about starting his own company in a more exciting field.

So what’s he doing in insurance, one of the least sexy fields imaginable?

It turned out that when he needed business insurance, Stern tried unsuccessfully to buy a policy on five different websites from 10 different brokers. If consumers could quickly and easily buy car or life insurance online, Stern asked himself, why couldn’t small businesses take advantage of the same technology?

Omri Stern says investors have taken notice, giving Jones a hefty amount of early stage funding.

This realization led Stern and partner Michael Rudman to found Jones, an app that offers pay-as-you-go liability insurance to independent contractors. It currently focuses on construction and real estate companies, but will be moving into related industries in the future.

Jones has been flying under the radar so far, getting a few brief mentions in the business media. But investors have taken notice, giving the company a hefty amount of early stage funding.

Where they’re based: Stern and two other staffers operate out of WeWork Soho West, while the other seven employees work in Tel Aviv. That’s where Stern is from and where the company’s research and development house is located.  

Their inspiration: Stern got a broker’s license just to understand the ins and outs of the overly complicated system. “When you’re actually faced with needing insurance, it’s really expensive,” says Stern. “It takes weeks, and your client wants it by tomorrow.”

Their first big success: Even though it just opened its app to the public, Jones is already offering policies to a handful of clients through insurers like Chubb and Atlas General Services.

Their early investors: Jones has already raised $2.8 million in funding. Their investors include JLL, the second-largest commercial real estate brokerage firm in the world.

What makes them different from other companies: Because insurance is so expensive, it doesn’t make sense for most contractors to buy insurance for an entire year if they only need it part of the time. But Stern says Jones can save them a significant amount of money by turning on their insurance when a project starts and off when it’s over.

Photos by Frank Mullaney

If you think a nonprofit called Everybody Dance Now! is all about shaking your booty, you’d be right. But you’d also be wrong.

The New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

“But dance is not the goal,” says executive director Olakunle Oladehin. “The goal is reshaping what is the way to properly educate. Hip-hop dance culture can inspire and uplift. I think that’s really what we are doing.”

Oladehin and his colleagues say the loss of dance and music education in many public schools has been a tragedy.  “We have done a disservice becoming a test-focused educational system,” he says. The impact, he adds, is felt disproportionately among low-income populations and communities of color.

This New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

The programming from Oladehin’s organization includes professionally taught dance classes, dance-off competitions, and full-scale performances. It’s essentially the movie Step Up playing out in elementary and middle schools across the country.

If all this sounds like something a kid would love, that’s probably because it was started by one. Jackie Rotman was 14 when she launched the organization in 2005. She still serves on the board but is currently concentrating on getting master’s degrees from both the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Oladehin has always loved dance but didn’t discover hip hop until college. Up until that point he was planning to attend medical school, but he took a little time off and decided to enter public health. Then he heard about the opening at Everybody Dance Now! and thought the position was a perfect way to merge his personal and professional interests.

Winning at the Nashville Creator Awards will help with for organization-wide expansion. Everybody Dance Now! currently serves 3,500 students in New York, Portland, Houston, and other cities. Oladehin has four new cities “ready to go” to help make that expansion a reality.