Last week, the Johns Hopkins University’s Social Innovation Lab (SIL) graduated this year’s group of ten impact-focused ventures. The winner of the 2020-21 $25,000 cohort prize, as voted by their peers, was Dyslexia Advocation Inc., founded by Winifred Winston. As the youngest venture in this year’s group, Winston’s ability to learn and execute over the course of the program made her stand out, and inspired that vote of confidence among her peers.
“I feel like my cohort members want me to scale and get where they are,” said Winston. “They really believed in the work and they saw me doing the work and executing.”
Winston founded Dyslexia Advocation Inc. to offset the thousands of dollars in costs that burden parents when they find out their child has dyslexia or is otherwise neurodivergent. Once a parent finds out their child is eligible for an individual education plan and initiates the special education process, there are a lot of unknowns that lead to exorbitant fees. Northeast Baltimore-based Dyslexia Advocation Inc. wants to fill that knowledge gap for parents.
Through the customer discovery portion of the accelerator, SIL helped Winston identify that Dyslexia Advocation Inc. could also fill that knowledge gap on neurodivergent people for businesses. The company provides workplace solutions to ensure businesses are legally compliant and able to integrate them into the workplace.
“Everybody’s a business coach if you’re online. They present you with the ‘what’ but they don’t tell you ‘how,'” said Winston. “The folks who showed up for this accelerator program, they provided ‘the what’ and ‘the how.’ They were very generous with their information and their professional skillset. And I really, really appreciated that part.”
Winston also put learnings from accelerator programming into action during the six-month program. After learning skills from a story coach in SIL to perfect her pitch, Winston went and won $500 dollars in a pitch competition on the audio chat app Clubhouse. She also workshopped an idea for a dyslexia advocacy podcast in SIL with her cohort. Not too long after, she won a Walmart community grant and applied to Morgan State University’s Morgan Cares program to fund the podcast, which will launch in July. Winston consistently made progress and her fellow entrepreneurs saw and rewarded that.
“It was one big accountability group,” Winston said of SIL. She feels the program has taken her business to the next level.
“You cannot run a business and be successful alone. You need accountability partners, structure and help. On the days where you’re like, oh my gosh, it’s not working out, you’ll get on a call or learn something and say, oh my god, this is how I’ll figure that out.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.-30-