After leading her nonprofit for a decade, Cristi Hegranes had perfected her pitch. She knew just how to describe her organization’s work to the boards of some of the world’s most prominent foundations.
“We’re trying out some new language, new description, new slides—basically everything,” says the member at Washington D.C.’s WeWork Manhattan Laundry. “This is not the typical foundation types we’re used to pitching to. It’s exciting, and a little bit nerve-wracking.”
Hegranes says the Creator Awards, launched by WeWork to “recognize and reward the creators of the world,” are different because she won’t be pitching to a roomful of people in business suits.
“This will be more like talking with peers,” she says, “people who understand how difficult it is to raise the funding to take your organization to the next level.”
Over the course of a year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million at a series of events taking place in cities spanning the globe. The first Creator Awards competition will take place Tuesday at Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Subsequent Creator Awards events will take place in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Winners from each event will come together for the global finals, to be held in New York City on November 30.
Creator Awards finalist Shaun Masavage, cofounder of Edge Tech Labs, is also avoiding the usual type of pitch. His plan for introducing Fret Zeppelin, an eye-catching device that uses LED lights to help you learn guitar, is pretty unusual.
“I think our pitch is going to be pretty good,” says the member of Arlington, VA’s WeWork 2221 S Clark St. “We’ll try to get one of the judges to come up on stage and teach them guitar in 60 seconds.”
And finalist Thomas Doochin, one of the founders of Daymaker, says he hasn’t even had time to think about his pitch. His company, which helps kids give to others who are less fortunate, was going to relaunch his company on Wednesday with a completely new name, website, and branding.
“First we heard that we were finalists in the Creator Awards,” says the member at Washington, D.C.’s WeWork Dupont Circle. “But the event was on Tuesday, the day before our relaunch. So I told the team we had to get everything ready a day early.”
They worked through this past weekend to get the new website up and running by the time Doochin steps on the stage at Mellon Auditorium.
There are three categories of Creator Awards, including the Incubate Award for great ideas or specific projects that need funding, and the Launch Award for young businesses and organizations that need a little help getting off the ground. Arion Long is competing for the Scale Award, which is for more established operations aiming to get to the next level.
Long, founder of a monthly subscription box for feminine health products called Femly Box, says she was visiting family in North Carolina when she heard about the competition. She shot her 90-second video after everyone went to bed.
“I made it at about 2 in the morning,” Long says, laughing. “I was standing in front of a curtain. I had to do several takes, because someone was coughing in the background.”
Long, who had a cervical tumor when she was 26, says she’s excited to share her idea of sending chemical-free products designed to keep women healthier and happier straight to their door.
Santos Jaime Gonzalez, cofounder of an on-demand beauty and makeup service called ManeStreem, says he was “humbled” when he found out that he was a finalist.
“Normally when I get exciting news I send it to the team right away,” says Gonzales, a member at Philadelphia’s WeWork 1900 Market St. “I got an email at about 5 in the afternoon, but I needed some time by myself to process the news. At 6 the next morning, I finally sent it out to the team. Of course everyone was jumping around, going crazy.”
What will Gonzalez do if he wins a Creator Award? He says the money will help his company scale quickly, increasing the number of beauty consultants to about 100,000 over the next 12 months.
“We’ve disrupted the beauty industry by making it on demand,” he says. “Now the true disruption happens.”
Darius Baxter is a cofounder of the nonprofit GOOD Projects, which pairs young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods with inspirational mentors. The organization currently works with teenagers who’ve gone through the criminal justice system. He wants to help others as well.
“We don’t want to wait for kids to be locked up to provide them with services,” says Baxter. “This would go a long way in helping us achieve that goal.”
And Kevin White, executive director of Global Vision 2020, says winning would allow him to start a pilot program to provide eyeglasses to high school students in Mozambique.
“Injection molds are expensive, but winning the Creator Awards would mean that we could purchase them and immediately start producing eyeglasses,” says White. “Imagine providing glasses to all the students in an entire country. It would be amazing.”