Winning pitches are a literary arts center for writers and a design-based approach to addressing racial inequities in St. Louis

The Arts and Education Council has named two winners in the first-ever stARTup Competition for arts entrepreneurs, launched in January in partnership with the PNC Foundation. The Competition was created to encourage new ideas for community change through the arts. The winners are Creative Reaction Lab, founded in 2014 by Antionette Carroll, and Flow, the brainchild of Amanda Wells.

Founded in 2014, Creative Reaction Lab educates, trains, and challenges cities to co-design solutions with traditionally underrepresented communities to make one’s city healthier and more inclusive through creative problem solving, civic engagement and entrepreneurship.

Flow is the brainchild and decade-long dream of Amanda Wells, a local writer with a degree in writing communities and urban studies. She aims to create a central haven for the region’s writers – a place where writers, could-be writers and artists who want to work with writers converge to learn from each other, collaborate and call home.

“The stARTup Competition was created to nurture innovative ideas from arts entrepreneurs so that these organizations can have the biggest possible impact across our community,” said Cynthia A. Prost, A&E president and CEO. “When I see what these two women have accomplished and the passion and creativity behind their ideas, I’m eager to help the community see the value in what they are doing.”

“The best entrepreneurs are powered by a well-founded belief in what they can achieve,” said Michael Scully, PNC Bank regional president for St. Louis. “PNC is committed to supporting entrepreneurial ideas. We are confident the top competitors will become successful business owners who help fuel future economic growth across the region.”

The winners, who were among six finalists from a pool of 31 applicants, will be awarded $10,000 in seed funding, one year of incubation support and space in A&E’s Centene Center for the Arts as well as professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities.

“We are thrilled that both winners are women-led companies,” said Jason Hall, competition panelist and Arch to Park Collaborative managing director. “Considering that only 17% of all US venture-backed startups have a female founder, we think this speaks volumes for the role that women play in the St. Louis entrepreneurship ecosystem and this inaugural competition.”

The winners were determined by a diverse group of seasoned entrepreneurs and community development professionals including: Sarah Rouland Bowman, PNC; Sheila Burkett, Spry Digital; Chris Dornfeld, Bonfyre; Jason Hall, Arch to Park Collaborative; Matt Homann, Filament; Debbie Marshall, PNC; Susan Stith, Express Scripts, Inc.; and Noah Vasquez, Competitive Range Solutions.

For more information, visit KeepArtHappening.org/stARTup-Competition. To view the release announcing the competition, click here.

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