Last week, Winston-Salem State University’s (WSSU) Innovations Festival brought together students, staff, alumni, entrepreneurs, funders, investors and creatives to catalyze the brilliance of Black and Brown communities and to create the next generation of game-changers. While the event primarily took place on WSSU’s campus, it kicked off in the Innovation Quarter.
Among the inaugural events on Monday was an innovation panel powered by Agile City and hosted at Sparq. It wasn’t just the start of the Innovations Festival, though. It marked the launch of host organization Brilliance Lab—WSSU’s innovation lab designed to promote economic mobility, promising businesses and venture-backed start-ups to establish Winston-Salem as a national entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The panel consisted of entrepreneurial leaders from Battery Xchange, Black Pearl Investments, Zane Venture Fund and The Historic Magnolia House. Speakers provided an overview of the new Brilliance Lab program while voicing their knowledge on how Black and Brown entrepreneurs can—and must—be supported and uplifted.
Given Sparq’s versatile space, diverse environment and commitment to supporting Black and Brown entrepreneurs, hosting the commencement panel was a natural fit. Sparq Community Development Director Damiqa Golden said she hopes it marks the beginning of a relationship with the new program:
“Sparq’s mission is to connect diverse innovators and entrepreneurs with the unique assets and resources of the Innovation Quarter and healthtech sector through an accessible, inclusive community,” Golden said. “[We’re] hoping for the opportunity to partner with the entrepreneurship program at WSSU for future events and to support their entrepreneurs by providing space and resources.”
Whether that’s providing space for programming or mentoring connections for the young entrepreneurs that are part of the Lab, Golden said that she’s sure that there will be opportunities for the Brilliance Lab and Sparq to work together to support young entrepreneurs.
“Sparq’s mission is to connect diverse innovators and entrepreneurs with the unique assets and resources of the Innovation Quarter and healthtech sector through an accessible, inclusive community.”
The four days following the panel kick-off event were full of networking, presentations and events designed to bring people together to support Black and Brown entrepreneurs through access to resources and investment opportunities. Events like these that foster such an inclusive and welcoming environment are prime for Sparq’s upcoming docket.
“I hope that the Black and Brown community picks up on that energy and continues to want to host events within the Innovation Quarter,” Golden said. “These events are so important to show that we are uplifting the Black and Brown community and will continue to foster this community of inclusivity.”