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Announcing 10 Finalists for Velocity Creative Accelerator

2020 Velocity Creative Accelerator

Winston-Salem, NC (August 11, 2020) – The Center for Creative Economy has selected 10 creative entrepreneurs to participate in the organization’s fifth creative accelerator. Velocity is an intensive high impact program that helps creative entrepreneurs discover their target customers, develop business models, and develop a go-to-market strategy. Top startups in this 9-week program will split a pool of $50,000 in seed-stage funding. 

40 startups from 11 U.S. states and 11 countries globally applied to participate in this year’s accelerator. Of the 10 startups chosen for the program, 50% are run by women entrepreneurs and 50% are founded by people of color.

Velocity will be in session July 28 to October 2 and engages a curriculum developed by Professor of Practice at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Chris Mumford. This rigorous, street-smart curriculum is organized around the themes of Create, Tell, Sell, and Run, focusing on customer development, financial forecasting, business model, and product-market fit. Startups will also work with professional mentors to guide them through the program.

Due to COVID-19, the entire program is being offered online for those not able to meet in person. CCE will continue with its in-person components, which began with Kick-Off Weekend in Winston-Salem, August 7th through the 9th. Six startups joined CCE for the opening event to jumpstart the program, introduce the cohort and mentors, and catalyze their workflow. 

Participants are invited back to Winston-Salem for Velocity Week taking place September 27th through October 2nd. Post Velocity, startups have the opportunity to continue to work with their mentors and showcase their business to prospective funders. 

Since its inception in 2016, CCE’s creative accelerator has launched 40 companies, with 90% still in business, having made $8.1 million in revenue, raising $7.4 million in investments, and having created 177 jobs. “Our startups have made huge strides each year. We are proud of their great work serving customers and growing their businesses. The 2020 cohort is no exception, and I’m sure will do very well in the marketplace,” says, Margaret Collins, CCE’s Founding Executive Director.  

This year’s cohort is using their creative talents to bring innovation to their industries:

  • 2923 Comics (Kansas City, MO): Creates comic books that show the abuse of power in underserved communities, and how to overcome it. Founder Jauquan Herron showcases a wide representation of diverse urban communities within the stories. 
  • The Agent Accelerator (Winston-Salem, NC): A real estate franchise model and community that provides training and coaching for new real estate agents to thrive.
  • FELOH (Cleveland, OH): A social marketplace for hair care and beauty. Social activity within the platform allows users to earn cash to go towards purchases within the FELOH store. Brands have the ability to post products for purchase.
  • LiveMo (Seattle, WA): a concert live-streaming platform focused on high-quality audio, that makes it easy for artists to share and monetize their content.
  • M1ND 6YM (Winston-Salem, NC): Strengthening mental fitness through uniquely themed interactive, immersive, and engaging brain game adventures both online and in-person.
  • Mobiiuz (Lyon, France): A patented add-on for standing desks that encourage users to naturally maintain a healthy posture and expend energy without fatigue while working.
  • OWOGAME (Malaga, Spain): A wireless suit that allows players to feel over 30 different sensations in real-time while playing video games, and controlled through a mobile application, which allows users to increase or decrease the intensity of the sensations.
  • Upshots (Winston-Salem, NC): A line of premium alcoholic desserts and savory shots in individual servings available through bars, restaurants, and caterers.
  • Wavelength (Philadelphia, PA): A creative agency that helps musicians build their brand and enhance their creative direction by connecting them with a global network of creatives.
  • Y’all Company, Inc. (Winston-Salem, NC): Uniting people through food and Y’all Sauce, southern charm in a bottle.
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Velocity’s Top Winner Interviewed by Furniture Today

Furniture Today’s Associate Editor, Anne Flynn Ear interviewed Preet Singh, Founder of Live Furnish. Preet is a member of the 2019 cohort of CCE’s Velocity Creative Accelerator.

Live Furnish has reinvented how home furnishings and textile companies bring their products to life in photographs. Preet founded his company in New Delhi, India but since completing Velocity, he has relocated to Winston-Salem, NC.

Read Preet’s interview on Furniture Today.


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Creative Technology Help Startups Win Velocity

Winston Salem, NC – December 9, 2019 – Three startups have earned the top seed-stage investment awards for creative uses of technology in the Center for Creative Economy’s Velocity Creative Accelerator.

In the organization’s fourth annual education and seed funding program, ten creative entrepreneurs completed a 9-week entrepreneur education program that refined their business plans and pitches to investors to be one of the top three startups to split a pool of $50,000 in seed-stage investment.

Live Furnish, Winston-Salem, NC, andNew Delhi, India,a technology innovation company that has reinvented how home furnishings and textile companies bring their products to life in photographs, took the top award of $25,000, presented by INMAR CEO, David Mounts. “Our technology has been in development for two years, so Velocity came along at just the right time to help us refine our presentations, allow us to work with mentors in our core industries, and kick-start our discussions with investors,” said the company’s CEO, Preet Singh. Started two years ago in India, Live Furnish was invited by Director Betsy Brown into Winston Starts Explore Program, a startup incubator that provides office space and supportive services to Winston-Salem entrepreneurs. They also received a $5,000 technology services award presented by CFO and Co-Founder, Balint Gaspar from Sightsource, a cutting-edge custom software development and consulting company in Winston-Salem. 

Tokyn from Winston-Salem gamed their way to the second award of $15,000 with their startup that empowers board gamers to discover new games at wholesale prices and connects local like-minded players through the company’s app. The company’s co-founders, CEO Evan Kline and CFO, managing partner, Houston Goodwin, were active participants in Velocity. “This was a valuable program that helped us fine-tune our business concept and plan. We gave our final pitch to the investors and to over 200 people who came to Demo Night. We are looking forward to also joining Winston Starts.” Tokyn also received an award for legal counsel from Kilpatrick Townsend that provides pro bono legal services to all the Velocity seed funding winners. They also received a software development package for $2,000 from Sightsource to develop their app.

Running third, receiving $10,000, was Elevate, founded by Mike Schmid in Winston-Salem. The company helps orthotic practitioners provide the best care by using data, software and 3D printing to create hyper-customized orthotics that fit and keep athletes in the game. Elevate will also join the Winston Starts Explore Program.

Daryl Shaw with Royalty Marketing presented a marketing and social media award for $2,500 to Winston-Salem’s AstraHive, a cloud-based “dashboard app for bizzy creatives” that aggregates information and data from third-party applications into a platform that allows crafty creators to manage key statistics about their businesses.

Winston Starts also welcomed iScribble (Raleigh, NC) into the Explore Program to help relaunch its universal online drawing software where artists collaborate with one another in real time. This means the iScribble team will regularly work in Winston-Salem during the eight-week program. The company also received a $3,000 award from Sightsource to accelerate its development efforts.

42 companies from 11 countries applied to participate in this year’s program. Of the 10 companies selected for the program, 70 percent were run by female entrepreneurs and half of the teams have people of color in their leadership. The other companies that completed the Velocity program included:

  • Audiciones Latinas (Mexico City, Mexico): A professional web-based service for music and entertainment artists where users can cast and contact the artists they need.
  • Bloom Collective (Winston-Salem, NC): Promotes economic opportunity through environmentally and culturally sustainable handmade products that cultivate social good.
  • The GINA Project (Columbia, MO): Developers of a gamified platform to help individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders lead empowered and balanced lives.
  • Momtography Club (Lovettsville, VA): A community for moms who want to learn how to use photography and their creative skills to capture what matters and create a life they love.
  • The Nexus Center (San Francisco, CA, Portland, OR): Offers an integrated approach to “fitness,” and provides classes that help manage stress, craft meaningful purpose in your life, and create authentic connections with others.

With the 2019 Velocity cohort, 40 companies have now participated in CCE’s accelerators and 87 percent are still thriving. “Our startups have raised $3.3 million in funding and generated $3.6 million in revenues” added CCE Director, Margaret Collins. “Our accelerator has proven its success in creating more than 66 jobs and helping creative entrepreneurs succeed. We’re especially proud of the fact that 70 percent of the founders of the companies in our program are women- or minority-owned.”

The Center for Creative Economy is a non-profit organization that helps launch, grow, and accelerate creative businesses.  

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Melissa Capps + AstraHive

Melissa Capps is on a mission to make data fun and efficient for creative entrepreneurs who keep track of their business online. She is the founder of AstraHive, a dashboard for creatives that allows business owners to see data and key metrics in one place.

Melissa is a part of our 2019 Velocity Creative Accelerator cohort. She was encouraged to apply by colleagues at SightSource, a software development firm in Winston-Salem, NC. CCE’s mission of helping creatives immediately resonated with her.

She and her husband moved to Winston-Salem a year ago and wanted to make new connections. Being part of the Velocity cohort gives her the opportunity to be part of the creative community in the place she now calls home while giving her startup the time and attention she feels it deserves. 

Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Melissa. “I’ve always been creative and I love to learn and teach. I ran side hustles throughout high school and always had several jobs since I was a teenager”, says Melissa.

Before AstraHive, Melissa started a women’s clothing line. In 2010, she read something that made her decide to become an entrepreneur. She began asking herself what her strengths were and after realizing she has been sewing since she was a child, the women’s clothing line came alive. 

“Entrepreneurship has always been a part of me – it was always inevitable.”

Often creatives don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs. “It’s not that creatives don’t take themselves seriously – they’re passionate about what they do”, says Melissa, “sometimes creatives feel like they just make things and sell them”.

Melissa feels like creatives don’t realize that their skill set and their creations are valuable to the economy and contribute to the community. She said, “creatives take the skills and resources they have to solve a small problem in their community — and that’s important”.

Melissa Capps, Founder of AstraHive | Velocity Creative Accelerator
Melissa with Jason Drass, Velocity Creative Accelerator mentor and Co-Founder Bull & Beard.

After seeing a hole in the market for creatives to understand and track key metrics and trends in their businesses, Melissa decided that becoming a software developer could enable her to create a tool to help creatives like herself. 

To her, success is learning, teaching, and helping others, while bringing people on a journey with her. It’s the reason why she became a software developer. It’s why she wanted to build AstraHive before it even had a name. 

Looking at data and metrics can be daunting and overwhelming for the creative who just wants to make things and sell it. With AstraHive serving as a central hub for key metrics for businesses, Melissa hopes to make data fun and efficient, not just dissemination of information. 

“Brené Brown said, “stories are just data with a soul” and that’s what AstraHive is. It’s the story behind the data”, says Melissa.

Melissa shared that success for AstraHive would be employing people and helping them develop their skill set as software developers. In the long-term, AstraHive plans on implementing machine learning and big data to better present key insights to everyday business owners who may not have the resources to do so otherwise.

Outside of wanting to help people, Melissa’s family and friends are what keep her going, especially when things don’t seem to be going right. She shared that her husband often asks her, “what is the worst that can happen?” and that saying has become a mantra for her. Lately, Melissa’s been asking herself “what is the best that can happen? How can this failure turn out to be a success?” Melissa believes that not all failures are permanent, and that good things can come out of them.

See Melissa and the Velocity startups in action on Demo Night on September 26. Explore demo tables and hear each team’s pitch. This is your chance to discover the next big thing in creative entrepreneurship!

Demo Night is presented in collaboration with Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and  Venture Cafe Winston-Salem

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Meet Destinee Charles

We are extremely thrilled to have Destinee Charles join us as an intern this summer!

Here’s a hello from Destinee:

My name is Destinee Charles and I am from Lincolnton, North Carolina. I am senior at UNC Greensboro double majoring in Music and Arts Administration and minoring in Entrepreneurship.

Although I am still trying to figure out my dream job, I do want to start an organization that provides arts opportunities for youth in places that do not provide or significantly support the arts.

In my free time I like to watch movies, spend time with my family, make and listen to music, and write poetry. Regarding my internship with CCE, I am looking forward to working with the CCE staff, working on and bringing Velocity and other programs to life, and learning as much as I can while enhancing as many skills as possible.

Welcome to the team, Destinee! If you see her around, be sure to say hello – she’d love to meet more of our community!

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Velocity: A New Creative Accelerator

Applications open on April 9 for the Center for Creative Economy’s fourth annual Creative Accelerator, an education and seed funding program that helps creative entrepreneurs develop business models and identify resources for growth.


Hosted by the Center for Creative Economy in Winston-Salem, NC, participants complete a 9-week virtual program, now titled “Velocity,in which the top three startups split a pool of $50,000 in seed-stage investment. Companies throughout the world can apply. Go to to apply by June 2, 2019.

Running from July 30 to September 27, “Velocity” uses a rigorous educational curriculum developed by Professor of Practice at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Chris Mumford. His program, titled “Joe Startup,” uses a street-smart entrepreneurial education portal organized around the themes of Create, Tell, Sell and Run. Participants interact with whiteboard animations, a startup plan builder, and a social network to create an immersive learning experience for creative entrepreneurs. “Chris and CCE have collaborated to deliver this revitalized curriculum which combines the startup experience of both parties,’” said CCE Director, Margaret Collins.

Velocity Winston-SalemTen teams will complete 24 modules and case studies over nine weeks, working with professional mentors to guide them through the program. New in 2019 is an in-person kick-off weekend, August 9-11 in Winston-Salem, for participants to jump-start the program and work with their mentors/peers. The five-day DEEP DIVE, from September 22-27, lets teams work with directly global visionaries and creative leaders. The ever-popular DEMO NIGHT returns on September 26 where teams showcase their innovations to funding prospects, businesses, and the media. The Final Pitch Competition will be held on September 26, when the $50,000 in seed-stage funding will be awarded.

According to the 2018 Creative Startups Impact Report issued by CCE, 30 companies have participated in the program and 87 percent are still thriving.Our startups have raised $3.1 million in funding and generated $3.4 million in revenuesadded Collins. We are a program with proven success in creating more than 50 jobs and helping creative entrepreneurs succeed. We’re especially proud of the fact that 70 percent of the founders of the companies in our program are women- or minority-owned.”

Learn more about Velocity and how to apply:

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Meet Joanna Haboon and Liz Simmons

We are all extremely thrilled to have two interns at CCE this spring! Both are driven young women that have contributed to many different tasks in CCE. Whether it is researching new ideas or prepping for our events they are always willing to lend a helping hand. Additionally, their passion for the visual arts is hands on and reflected in their personalities. Please read a little more about each of our interns below, and thank you Joanna and Liz for joining our team!

Joanna Haboon is the new marketing intern at the Center for Creative Economy. She is a student attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), and studies both Arts Administration and Studio Art. She is a second-generation immigrant with three siblings and has relatives all over the United States. Her older sisters taught her how to draw when she was young, and from there she has explored different mediums, both digitally and traditionally, to make art.

A goal that she hopes to achieve in her education includes learning about marketing and its relationship to the creative community. Furthermore, she wishes to learn more about new technologies and how to use them in art. She hopes that her future career will involve providing artists with the opportunities they need to continue working from their passion.

Additionally, conversations in animation, game development and sequential art are areas of interest for her and she intends to place them in the canon of art history. Some inspirations for her personal art include the subjects above, as well as music, architecture, and fashion.


Liz Simmons is the new operations intern for the Center for Creative Economy. She is currently a junior at Salem College majoring in Art History and Economics. Liz is interested in the intersection of art and business and is particularly interested in the global art market

At Salem, Liz currently serves as the secretary and treasurer for her campus activities board where she coordinates events for students in and around Winston. In her free time, she enjoys painting, watercolor is her preferred medium, scouring Mega Thrift and Snob for good deals, and eating Korean BBQ pork tacos at Quiet Pint. While interning for the Center for Creative Economy, she is excited to meet Winston creatives and learn about businesses’ evolution in the Triad.


When you see them around be sure to say hello they would love to meet more of our community!

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Welcome 2019 | Meet the CCE Team

Happy New Year! The Center for Creative Economy is looking forward to another great year in 2019.

For those who have attended some of our most recent events, you may have noticed some very exciting changes to our organization. In the past six months, we’ve introduced two new team members to the CCE family!

We invite you to read on and learn a little more about the CCE team and what makes each member unique and a great resource to the organization and the creatives we serve! Please feel free to reach out anytime and be sure to introduce yourself next time you are at a Swerve event.

Let’s meet the team!

Margaret Collins CCE

Margaret Collins, Founding Executive Director

Margaret Collins, is the Founding Executive Director of the Center for Creative Economy (CCE).

Margaret was recently named a Triad Power Player by the Triad Business Journal and serves on the Board of Directors of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. Nationally, she served on the board of the National Creativity Network and was a co-founder of the National Creative Economy Coalition. Originally from Shelby, NC, Collins attended Wake Forest University and UNC School of the Arts receiving a B. A. in music from WFU studying trombone and piano. In Washington DC, she received an M.A. from The American University in Performing Arts: Arts Management. Margaret enjoys playing in the Winston-Salem Community Band. She and her husband, Ray, have a son, Michael, currently at UNC-Chapel Hill.


Margaret’s Fun Facts:

  1. I am a big fan of hot yoga! On most Saturday mornings you can find me at the Robinhood YMCA stretching and sweating.  It’s a great stress reliever and I get some of my best ideas in class!


  1. I love books on tape and usually have one going in my car.  Right now I’m reading Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” which is really intense.  During the holidays I took a break and watched a few Hallmark’s TV movies. So romantic, sweet, and festive!


  1. I also love travel and this month headed to Singapore and Indonesia.  Ray and I are visiting with CCE board member, Shuyi Mo, and having a blast exploring Southeast Asia including Bali.   

Taryn Jerez Marketing

Taryn Jerez, Marketing and Events Coordinator

Taryn Jerez was added to the team in June of 2018 as CCE’s Marketing and Events Coordinator.  Taryn is a Florida transplant and has called North Carolina home for the last four years. She obtained her B.F.A in Fashion Design and Marketing from the International Academy of Design & Technology in Tampa, FL. Taryn is a creative professional with experience working for Fortune 500 companies and diverse brands both big and small, which has allowed her to receive extensive experience in everything from branding and content marketing to product development, vendor relations, and more. She is passionate about small and women-owned business and her favorite thing about her role is organizing and facilitating monthly Swerve events. When she isn’t working, you can find her watching Netflix on the couch with her husband, cat, and two dogs or doing a craft project.


Taryn’s Fun Facts:

  1. I am actually a small business owner myself. I’m a creative business coach and the founder of One Crafty Miss, LLC, an online space created for female entrepreneurs to fuel the heart behind their hustle. I love working with female makers and creatives to help them make more money, doing what they love.


  1. I am married to my “high school sweetheart”. We actually met at band camp when we were fifteen years old and have been together ever since.


  1. I have a huge love for sea turtles and am really passionate about sea turtle conservation! Every year, I support the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida and one of my goals in the future is to volunteer with them at a sea turtle release.


Kayla Norris Operations

Kayla Norris, Operations and Community Development Coordinator

Kayla Norris is the newest team member with CCE and is the Operations and Community Development Coordinator. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management of Nonprofit Organizations from Johnson University in Knoxville, TN. Passionate about strategic planning, implementing systems and community development, her favorite part about her role at CCE is getting to connect with individual creatives and learn about their unique skills and passions. Kayla grew up in Winston-Salem and moved back here from Knoxville in 2018 to pursue a career in the nonprofit industry. In her free time, Kayla likes to explore downtown Winston-Salem with her husband, Adam, and golden retriever, Ruby.


Kayla’s Fun Facts:

  1. I was born in Colorado and have lived in Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee, but  will always consider North Carolina my home! I lived in Winston-Salem from age 9 until I left for college. After 6 years in gorgeous Knoxville, TN, my husband and I had Carolina on our minds once again and decided to move back home in the spring of 2018.


  1. My creative outlet is writing! I enjoy journaling, writing poetry and writing short stories. I won a newspaper essay contest, was on a radio show, and spoke in front of a group of 1,500 people all before age 15.


  1. My dream for later in life is to run a bed & breakfast out of a historic farmhouse with lots of land for raising golden retrievers. I love nothing more than creating the perfect environment for people to feel comfortable, important, and loved.  

Center for Creative EconomyThe CCE team is often referred to as “small but mighty”, and we think it couldn’t be more fitting!

While each member of the team comes from different backgrounds and experiences, together there is an abundant amount of passion for creative entrepreneurs and the impact that can be made in the creative community. As we enter 2019, know that our team is here to serve and we look forward to a wonderful year ahead!

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Center for Creative Economy Announced as Grantee of the 2018 NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM Grant

NC idea Grantee

“NC IDEA, a private foundation committed to supporting entrepreneurial ambition and economic advancement in North Carolina, announced today that the organization is awarding thirteen grants, totaling over $1.5 million to organizations throughout the state that support the Foundation’s vision to empower North Carolinians to achieve their entrepreneurial potential.

“Today’s announcement is the Foundation’s largest single funding to date, bringing our total in ECOSYSTEM grants to nearly $3 million to 24 organizations over the past two years,” said Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA. “By partnering with these organizations, we create greater opportunity for the statewide exchange of ideas, experiences and connections,” Ruhe added.”

Read the full article here.


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Three Creative Startups Are Winners of $50,000 From The Center For Creative Economy

Center for Creative Economy Winners 2018

 The 2018 Creative Startups Winston-Salem Winners Margot and Trevor Toppen of Edumotion, Wendy Hickey of ArtPop Street Gallery, and Kevin Clark of Point Motion


“During the past two months, ten creative enterprises completed an 8-week business educational program and came to Winston-Salem, NC, to compete for a split of $50,000 in seed stage investment offered by the Center for Creative Economy as part of the world-class Creative Startups Southeast Accelerator program. In North Carolina alone, creative industries generate $14 billion in wages, salaries and benefits and are a driver of the state’s economic future.”

Read the full press release here.

Recent news articles:

Yes! Weekly – Three Creative Startups Are Winners of $50,000 From The Center For Creative Economy


Want to learn more about Creative Startups Winston-Salem? Learn More here. 

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