After more than 6,000 applicants and 152 regional winners, it’s now down to just seven for the Creator Awards Global Finals, happening Jan. 17 in New York City.

Over the last year, WeWork has given out millions of dollars with the Creator Awards, a global competition ringing out its inaugural year. The awards celebrate ideas with impact in cities spanning the globe, from Austin to Tel Aviv. The start of year two will follow closely behind, with the first regional event of 2018 taking place in Mexico City on Feb. 1.

So who are the lucky few who have made it through a year of nail-biting pitches? Get to know them a bit better and see what’s at stake for their organizations:

Creator Awards Global Finalist EyeControlEyeControl
Or Retzkin, CEO
Tel Aviv winner

What they do: Produce a wearable, affordable communication device that will enable “locked in” patients with diseases like ALS to communicate easily with those around them

How will you use the prize money? The money that we received from the Tel Aviv Creator Awards will go toward our first launch outside of Israel. The first thing that we will do (with the Global Finals prize money) is invest in expanding our team to include marketing, sales, and product support. Winning the Global Finals will assist us to launch the EyeControl and change the lives of millions by giving a voice back to the “locked-in” community.

Creator Awards Global Finalist re:3dre:3D
Samantha Snabes, Co-founder
Austin winner

What they do: Drive social change through accessible 3D printing with their Gigabot, the most affordable large-scale 3D printer on the market

How have you used your regional award prize so far? With Wework’s support we were able to establish an outpost in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last August when we joined Parallel 18. What we hadn’t anticipated were the multiple hurricanes we would endure in the following quarter, that, without the regional Creator Award, could have bankrupted our company. We’ve stayed on the island to explore opportunities to leverage Gigabot for the hurricane recovery effort. 

What are you doing to prepare for the Global Finals?
We can’t wait to share the modified Gigabot we developed using the Regional Creator Award grant at the Global Finals. Currently we are heads down making place to demonstrate this milestone live, and developing educational materials around the potential for impact. We have also begun releasing our progress with the community for feedback and input, as we plan to take the printer to Puerto Rico from NYC on Jan. 17.

Creator Awards Global Finalist Bunker LabsBunker Labs
Becca Keaty, Chief Development Officer
Detroit winner

What they do: Empower veterans, their spouses, and active duty service members with the entrepreneurial tools to start and grow their own businesses

How are you preparing for the finals? Lots of deep breathing and dance parties to shake out the nerves! And lots of focus and attention on developing our three-year strategy so we can build and scale the tribes of veterans we’ve already cultivated. We know our impact model works, and we have demand from multiple cities in all 50 states for our programs and services

Now that we’ve had time to plan and prepare for what might happen at the Global Finals, we feel more relaxed and eager, with a healthy dose of nerves too, of course, but ready to tell the world about how we impact the lives of veterans every day.

“If we are fortunate enough to win the big prize, we will turn around and challenge the business community to match it—doubling the impact.”

How will you use the prize money? If we are fortunate enough to win the big prize, we will turn around and challenge the business community to match it—doubling the impact. With WeWork’s initial prize money as well as the additional matching funds, our plan is to activate our 50-state strategy to ensure there are military veteran entrepreneurship tribes all across the US that have the access to the community and resources they need to start small businesses and live out their next American dream.

AndiamoCreator Awards Global Finalist Andiamo
Naveed Parvez, Co-founder and CEO
London winner

What they do: Combine clinical data, biomechanics, and 3D printing to deliver affordable and effective custom medical braces, splints, casts, and external body supports, with a focus on children

How are you feeling in the lead up to the finals? I’ve been dreaming of pitching since I heard we are in the finals.

How will you use the prize money? We’ll move from our temporary clinic space to a permanent one so we can start treating more kids faster.

What kind of connections have you made with other Creator Awards winners? We’ve started talking to LeVar Burton Kids about using Skybrary in our clinic. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again in New York City.

Creator Awards Global Finalist Byte BackByte Back
Elizabeth Lindsey, Executive Director
Washington, DC winner

What they do: Provide multi-level computer training and career preparation to underserved Washington, DC metro area residents

“I can’t believe how taking the risk to submit an application back in March has changed Byte Back’s trajectory forever.”

How has the regional Creator Award changed things at your organization? The regional Creator Award has been transformative for Byte Back. Since winning the award, we expanded for the first time in Byte Back’s 20 year history to teaching courses outside of DC. Thanks to this support, we are now reaching high-need communities in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The award has also given us additional flexibility in hiring key staff. We now have a data coordinator on our team, and a case manager to help our students with barriers that they face in completing their training.

I can’t believe how taking the risk to submit an application back in March has changed Byte Back’s trajectory forever.

Creator Awards Global Finalist Eat OffbeatEat Offbeat
Manal Kahi, Founder
New York City Winner

What they do: Authentic home-style meals conceived and prepared by refugees who now call NYC home

How will you use the prize money? The very first thing will be to throw a big party for our team and friends! Our entire team has been working non-stop for the past two years, and we all deserve a moment to breathe and celebrate.

On a more serious note, if we win the big prize, we will immediately start looking for a new home for Eat Offbeat — a beautiful, optimized, flagship kitchen with a storefront. The space would be a living monument to the vision and values that Eat Offbeat represents, a place where cultures meet and bridges are built around food, where New Yorkers can have meaningful culinary journeys and build stronger bonds with our chefs, and where we can all learn what it means to be a New Yorker.

Creator Awards Global Finalist CadusCadus
Sebastian Jünemann, Co-founder
Berlin Winner

What they do: Mobile hospital solutions in high-risk areas

What’s been your impact so far? Everyone said it wasn’t possible to put a mobile hospital two kilometers from the frontlines in Mosul. We showed them it is possible. Each month, we have more than 1,000 patients. And 300 people who would be dead now if we hadn’t been there.

How will you use the money? Our aim is to develop a blueprint for mobile hospitals for small, medium, and large nonprofits in poor countries.

But it doesn’t end with the magnificent seven. An eighth contender will also enter the ring—one determined by the live audience. The six semifinalists vying for that wildcard spot are:

Learn more about their stories and RSVP for the event here.

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.