Two Forsyth County startup businesses and one with local ties will share $50,000 in investment funding as part of Creative Startups’ newest Southeastern Accelerator program in Winston-Salem.

The winners were announced Friday before a group of about 80 people at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel downtown.

Embodied Labs, based in Chicago, was the first-place winner and will receive $25,000. One of the company’s four co-founders is a graduate of the UNC School of the Arts’ college program and another is a graduate of the school’s high school program. Two of them grew up in Winston-Salem.

The Feeling Friends in Winston-Salem placed second, and Muddy Creek Cafe& Music Hall in Bethania took third place. The two companies will receive $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said the creative economies industry has grown more than 17 percent over the past five years.

“On behalf of our 241,000 citizens here in Winston-Salem and our 1.6 million in the metro area, we’re delighted to have this program in Winston-Salem,” Joines said of the Southeastern Accelerator program during the presentation. “We’re firmly behind it and I believe it will continue to pay great dividends for our community.”

Creative Startups, which is based in Albuquerque, N.M., focuses solely on the teaching and mentoring of the creative industries, such as design, film and education technology. Its programs are run in regions throughout the world.

The Southeastern Accelerator program is hosted by Creative Startups and the Center for Creative Economy in Winston-Salem to get creative businesses beyond launch stage to customer acquisition and profitability. More than 100 applications were received from 19 countries and 21 states.

“We’re developing you and hope that you become seasoned business leaders, and really take this knowledge and put it into your business models,” said Margaret Collins, the executive director of the Center for Creative Economy. “Go to market, launch your companies and grow your businesses.”

The program started Aug. 8 with a six-week online course using Creative Startups’ entrepreneurship curriculum. From Sept. 25–30, the companies arrived in Winston-Salem for a “Deep Dive” in which the teams worked one-on-one with global visionary and creative leaders.

Demo Night was held Wednesday, giving the creative entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their companies to the media, business leaders and potential investors. On Thursday, nine of 10 competing teams pitched their business concepts to angel and venture-capital funding leaders.

Embodied Labs was created around custom-immersive, interactive, health-education curricula to help health-care providers better care for and understand the perspective of vulnerable patient populations. The founders are Carrie Shaw, Erin Washington, Ryan Lebar and Thomas Leahy.

The Feeling Friends, started by Karen Cuthrell, produces content to guide parents, caregivers, educators and clinicians in teaching children how to identify, express and manage their feelings.

Muddy Creek, started by Shana Whitehead and Bill Heath, is a cafe and music venue with an emphasis on hearty food, conversation and live music.

More participants

The other companies that participated in the Southeastern Accelerator program were:

Alan Henderson Studio of Winston-Salem, a modern stationer, pressman and designer.

Bodhe of Kernersville, founded by Greg Ellington, develops therapeutic medical apparel.

Devoted Human of Asheville, developed by Meredith Bennett, offered handcrafted, artist- and craftsman-made goods for cats and dogs, and the people who love them.

M.I.D. Goods of Nashville, Tenn., was founded by Alicia Waters Binkley and Drew Binkley, produces silk-screened prints and goods inspired by their home state.

Partner of Atlanta links creative resources in everything from app development to film, digital design, music, photography and product design. The founders are Amanda Sabreah and David Paull.

Redress of Raleigh, created by Beth Stewart, supports independent eco-conscious designers to increase the market for responsibly-produced fashion.

Taller Nu of Mexico City, Mexico, explores the boundaries between art and fashion while training and employing inmates for a life outside of prison.

Now and next year

Plans are to have a Southeastern Accelerator program in Winston-Salem next year. The application process will begin in May or June 2017.

Alice Loy, a co-founder of Creative Startups, said in an interview that this year’s program surpassed her expectations.

“The Center for the Creative Economy has been exceptional in pulling together city leaders, business leaders, higher education and galvanizing an entire tidal wave of creative talent and support for them,” Loy said. “Winston-Salem is ideal for this because it’s the City of Arts and Innovation. The creative economy is in its DNA.”

Originally published in the Winston-Salem Journal. You can view the original article and a video of the event here.

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