Meet Our 2023 Class of Innovation Fund Fellows

by Jeshua John, on July 20, 2023 at 9:10 AM

The Workers Lab is thrilled to announce its 2023 Class of Innovation Fund Fellows. These six ideas were selected from a pool of more than 400 applicants based on a rigorous stakeholder review process that included input from past Innovation Fund winners, worker leaders, industry experts, organizational partners, and our own team. 

This cycle of the Innovation Fund started with a call for applications late last year when The Workers Lab announced it was seeking innovators with early-stage ideas centered around making the ways our country serves workers more modern and inclusive. In our outreach, we placed an emphasis on entrepreneurs of color and women who historically receive only a tiny fraction of the early investment enjoyed by others. We received 415 applications from innovators across 47 states and the District of Columbia. This year’s pool also included 91% new applicants and 78% are led by people of color. 

Meet Our 2023 Fellows

Trunk of My Car Cooperative is a Black-woman led cooperative that aims to disrupt the self-publishing industry by providing more profits to the authors, editors, and cover art designers, while also supporting smaller, more sustainable printing presses. 

Starlight is run by Asian co-founders seeking new ways to help struggling working families more easily access government benefits. As a company, they leverage technology to offer streamlined access to unclaimed government benefits that working families qualify to receive.

OmniScale is an Asian and Latino-led business that helps underrepresented e-commerce entrepreneurs expand into new revenue channels (wholesale, retail, business-to-business), increase overall profitability, and reduce their reliance on paid marketing.

NurseBridge* is a Black-woman run business-to-business, data-driven medical staffing platform that aims to address the nursing shortage crisis that disproportionately impacts rural communities. 

Just Decisions is a Black-woman led platform that is organizing ready-to-work talent with previous conviction histories and matching them with employers in need of qualified talent.

Care Forest is a doula-owned platform, led by women of color, that seeks to create mutual aid and support for doulas and other birth workers in all aspects of their work. 

This cohort tells a story of urgent and emerging needs for workers, such as the increasing gap in demand for healthcare workers, as well as the provision of culturally relevant and equitable care; the need for more and better systems of restorative justice and equity for returning citizens; non-extractive spaces for entrepreneurs and small businesses; guaranteed dignity for gig and flexible workers; better support systems and service delivery for America's working poor; and a stronger foundation for the publishing ecosystem, especially at a time where books and their authors are under attack. The majority of our Innovation Fund fellows are working with low-wage workers which are 44% of all U.S. workers, earning a median of $10.22 per hour, with the majority being Black and Hispanic/Latino.

From here, these six fellows will participate in a four-month program designed to provide training, mentorship, and customized support that brings their ideas to life and sets them up for larger-scale investments. They will receive a stipend of $5,000 per month and will participate in programming for 8-10 hours per month. At the end of the four-month fellowship, at least one and up to three final Innovation Fund winners will be selected to receive a larger investment of up to $200,000 in their idea, as well as another full year of mentorship and support.

We will be following these innovators throughout their fellowship, so stay tuned for updates and to learn more about who the 2023 Innovation Fund winners are. 

To support our work and the ability to find and resource these amazing innovations, please click here to donate to The Workers Lab.

*NurseBridge is not affiliated in any way with Healthcare Strike Staffing which was previously named Nurse Bridge.

Topics: Learning Hub