This week’s Well City Expo marked the culmination of several months of work and business development for five Philly startups.
Through a partnership between The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Independence Blue Cross, the five companies were selected from over 100 applicants to participate in the Well City Challenge, a social impact incubator in which they took part in planning, market research and pitch competitions. Health and wellness —two things of immense value throughout the pandemic — were a common link between the five startups.
During Wednesday’s virtual event, they showcased their startups via virtual booths, and during a panel moderated by Economy League Impact Labs Program Manager Chelsey Lowe.
The five finalists are as follows:
- Hey, Auntie! Founder Nicole Kenney designed a wellness tech platform for Black women of various ages to facilitate intentional connections via conversation, volunteering and more. The digital tool’s purpose is to provide a safe space for Black women to share and find solutions for their respective experiences.
- Strides: City Fit Girls founder Takia McClendon created the running-based fitness community app. It encourages physical fitness and mental wellness. Members of the community can use the app to connect and organize workout sessions.
- Freedom Greens & Gardens Project: Founder Jiana Murdic is improving West Philly’s Malcolm X Park and its nearby blocks by making them more conducive for local residents’ wellness. With her plant-based cooking classes and subscription boxes of produce available from a community garden, she wants to support healthier eating habits for families and the community.
- Let’s Talk Philly Conversation Circles: Working in partnership with The Welcome Center, Let’s Talk Philly Conversation Circles gives immigrant millennials a safe space to hone their English conversation skills, develop social capital, and increase their understanding about by sharing their stories, breaking stereotypes and more.
- Shear Balance: McKenzie Nash used her experience in hair salons and barbershops to start a project designed to provide mental health training within the community hubs. As a result of the training, barbers and stylists can gain a better handle of how to support their patrons in maintaining mental health.
Following the panel discussion, Independence Blue Cross CEO Gregory Deavens and Economy League managing director Nick Frontino announced Hey Auntie! as the winner of a $50,000 prize.
“In creating Hey Auntie, Nicole Kenney has followed through on an idea that can have a huge impact on millennial health,” Deavens said. “Hey Auntie’s virtual delivery platform provides growth potential, scalability and flexibility.”
Kenney sees the value of Hey Auntie! as a platform that can help Black women find community and build mutually beneficial bonds.
“Adulting is hard,” she said. “I’m very Type A and a planner. Having more seasoned women around me has been a powerful way for me to navigate life. If someone’s going to be generous and kind enough…to give me insight and say stay away from that, I wanted to create a system to make this more accessible to regular folks. Hey Auntie is multi-directional.”
Michael Butler 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 Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-