4 Winston-Salem Startups That Are Shaking up Their Industries
Innovation comes alive through creative collaboration in this North Carolina city.
The startup scene in Winston-Salem is robust, thanks largely to the network of support systems that encourage and support entrepreneurship. Representatives from four businesses that put down roots in Winston-Salem weigh in on why they chose the region and how they're shaking up their respective industries:
1. Unbox the Dress
Wedding dresses are cherished garments but often not practical beyond the Big Day. Challenging this norm, Unbox the Dress founder Grace Rojek wants brides to think outside the box.
"Instead of a garment that they only get to wear once, brides can make the sustainable choice and trust our team to preserve and transform their wedding gown into new designs to celebrate life's most special moments," Grace says.
Those designs include upcycled dresses, tops, nightgowns and even christening gowns for babies.
Unbox the Dress started in 2017 with Grace and her mom attending local wedding shows near their home in Northeast Ohio. As the idea, and the company, grew – Grace took the leap to Winston-Salem in 2020 to locate her company amid the robust startup ecosystem and garment manufacturing industry here.
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According to Rojek, her company has thrived here because Winston-Salem offers the resources of a bigger city with the tight-knit community and accessibility of a small town.
"I highly recommend the Winston Starts accelerator to anyone who's looking to take their startup to the next level," she says.
Grace says talent is also easy to find in Winston-Salem. Four members of the company's design team are graduates of the UNC School of the Arts costume design program.
So, where are Grace and her team headed next?
"Unbox the Dress is on the fast track to major growth! We plan to be a household name within three years – and want every woman with a wedding dress to know she can choose to do something more emotionally rewarding with the dress than just store it in a box in the closet. We love playing a part in our clients' most special life events – that's the magic behind what we're building!"
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2. Sneez LLC
The Sneez app, launched in 2016, was developed by local pediatricians and uses diagnosis data from physicians and urgent care facilities to create heat maps of illnesses by zip code, informing users of what's going around in their area and helping them to stay healthy. Because they already had a strong digital platform in place, Sneez was able to launch SneezSafe in June 2020 to help businesses and universities track COVID-19.
CEO Danielle Lamphier says SneezSafe was used by dozens of companies at over 50 locations, as well as four COVID-19 Community Research Partnership research study locations and surpassed 2.7 million completions.
Health care and life sciences are the leading industry in Winston-Salem, allowing the startup company to benefit from collaborations and partnerships in the health care ecosystem. Speaking of partnerships, Lamphier says the company has benefited from the vibrancy of the entrepreneurial scene. "Winston-Salem has such a tremendous entrepreneurial energy and startup ecosystem that provides support, mentorship and inspiration to young startups. It is also a very livable city with so much to offer – great food, art, music, outdoor spaces and many other creative minds with which to collaborate."
Sneez is continuing to scale. The company is in a fundraising round, seeking to raise $1 million to fund product development, sales and marketing initiatives, and additional staffing.
3. Beam Dynamics
Beam Dynamics is a startup software company on a mission to help film and production companies automate their equipment management.
CEO David Kaszycki says the company chose to locate in Winston-Salem after launching in Atlanta because it is a city ripe for growth within the innovation sector where both their business and their families could thrive.
"The programs and support systems are being put in place to help founders succeed, a strong workforce is available, and the quality of life and affordability make it a great city for us to attract even more talent. We feel like Winston is on the cusp of major growth in innovation and we're excited to add to the momentum. We feel like we're at the ground level of something special."
Beam Dynamics aims to take their first product, BeamON, to market in October 2021. It is currently in several pilot tests with regional and national TV studios. In parallel to the R&D work, the company is building strategic partnerships with key industry manufacturers and associations, continuing to bring talent on board, and developing its go-to-market plan.
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4. Point Motion
With its suite of interactive content, Point Motion is changing how health care providers track patients' progress. Point Motion's content is powered by motion capture technology that uses music to engage patients. It offers real-time tracking of motor and cognitive functions over time and helps doctors improve patient care.
Kevin Clark and his wife, Iman, launched the company in Boston in 2017 before moving to Winston-Salem and getting plugged in to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Now four years into the venture, Clark is excited about what the future might mean for his company. And the region's assets will no doubt shape its trajectory.
"As a company that innovates in the intersection of art, science and technology, we'd love to be part of a city of art and innovation and that's allocating resources to recruit talent that has a dream of solving problems and bringing value to the world," he says.
For Kevin, it's all about thinking globally and acting locally. With major health care ecosystems, university systems, and emerging startups acting together in Winston-Salem, there is an opportunity to change the future.