Meet the Entrepreneurs Behind Innovation Quarter Signature Events

7 Minute Read

Placemaking—the act of making better places and spaces for entire communities—is part science, part art.

To strengthen the connection between people and the places we share here in the Innovation Quarter, we offer free “signature” events that reshape our public realm and maximize its shared value, scientifically speaking.

And behind these signature events are entrepreneurs working to invigorate and inspire our community as well. Their determination, creativity and passion define the Innovation Quarter. They are the artists who make our science work.

These small business owners drive economic growth while building a vibrant community—our singular mission here in the Innovation Quarter! We’re honored to share our places and spaces with all of them.

Get to know the entrepreneurs behind Innovation Quarter signature events:

Innovation & Cinema

Lawren Desai serves popcorn at Innovation & Cinema.

Lawren Desai is the executive director and curator of a/perture cinema, the Camel City’s only arthouse theater. Located in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, it showcases independent, foreign, documentary, local and festival films.

Upon opening in 2010, a/perture cinema revived the theatrical experience in Winston-Salem, becoming a space to enjoy and celebrate the art of film while fostering shared experiences. From there, a collaboration with the Innovation Quarter was an organic and natural one, and our signature event Innovation & Cinema was born.

“Innovation & Cinema is an extension of what we do at a/perture, and a way for us to screen films at no cost to the audience, bringing people from different parts of the community together.”
—Lawren Desai, executive director, a/perture cinema

Initially, I&C was curated to get people excited about science as part of Alfred P. Sloan’s nationwide Science on Screen program, introducing Innovation Quarter cornerstones like—you guessed it—innovation to the public by exploring the intersections of art and science. Yet, it has blossomed into a community event carefully curated to appeal to an inclusive audience, inviting all to enjoy Bailey Park and the facilities that thrive here.

Desai believes in the importance of representation in film. She carefully selects the films for each Innovation & Cinema season to include inclusive and diverse movies, making sure directors, producers, actors and more are women and people of color. This year, Innovation & Cinema features girls and women on the big screen.

She looks forward to hosting more community events because of newly acquired equipment. She notes: “We recently received a grant to secure an outdoor projection screen that will allow us to show movies on the bottom lawn of Bailey Park. This screen enables us to host a larger audience than previously possible in the iQ—and hold even more events across our entire community. The iQ will always be at the heart of what we do, and we hope to continue to serve the city through the art of film by providing this communal cinematic experience in Bailey Park for years to come.”

Add this season of Innovation & Cinema to your calendar.

Sunset Salutations

Chloë & Neil Craver, owners of Lotus Yoga Academy, at Bailey Park.

Lotus Yoga Academy, located in 525@Vine in the Innovation Quarter, focuses on helping our community establish a sacred yoga practice through impactful and proven methods. Founded by Chloë & Neil Craver, Lotus believes practicing yoga is more than “physicality and sweat.” It is a ritual that is about “the heart, the essence of self-expression, the reflection of pure love and the deep understanding” that our community is guiding one another home. With offerings beyond yoga, like meditations, running clubs and wellness seminars, Lotus strives to advance our community’s total wellbeing.

Since 2016, the Innovation Quarter has hosted a free monthly yoga signature event throughout the summer and into the fall. Sunset Salutations at Bailey Park brings together a community of diverse people who connect to their own bodies, minds, and breath throughout an outdoor practice while simultaneously connecting to those around them—whether friends or strangers.

To Chloë & Neil Craver, the Sunset Salutations event “offers an experience that breaks down many of the barriers people face when stepping into something unfamiliar. We talk to many different people about yoga every day, both in the studio and out in the greater community, and a common thread is that the unexpected often holds people back from even trying.”

“We want to show everyone that there is no expectation outside of the ones we put on ourselves—and help people realize their unlimited potential. An open invitation yoga in the park vibe allows many to come as they are, no commitments, and have fun while unlocking a sense of freedom.
It’s truly a wonderful thing to witness, and from that, a lot of journeys begins.” —Chloë & Neil Craver, owners Lotus Yoga Academy

Lotus Yoga Academy, along with other local yoga teachers like Ashley Robinson of 2B Yoga, strengthens our community by showing us how nature and togetherness can restore our health and wellbeing.

Add our outdoor yoga practice to your healthcare regimen.

Food Truck Friday

Who would have thought that a mobile form of food vending could bring together so many people? In recent years, food trucks have proven to be an asset for cities by attracting more than delicious and diverse cuisine to an area. Food trucks bring energy, attract people and stimulate business activity too.

On Food Truck Friday, our tastiest signature event, we welcome a variety of culinary entrepreneurs to Bailey Park, from mainstays like Urban Street Grill, Zekos 2 Go and WutyaSay to newer iQ vendors like Rockin Moroccan and Fresh Catch Seafood Shack. As a cherry on top, we always book a dessert truck and a local entertainer for this event—and have recently started providing pop-up retail space.

“Food Truck Friday is a great way to bring different types of food and people together in one welcoming, beautiful place. As the coordinator of FTF, I’ve seen trucks that are just starting out gain a huge following—and that is so rewarding.
My goal has always been to expand the food trucks that serve the community while supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.” —Samantha Bentley, Conference & Events Coordinator, Cushman & Wakefield

From an economic development standpoint, food trucks are often promoted as a comparatively low-cost business startup opportunity and a transitional business to help food entrepreneurs grow into brick-and-mortar restaurants.

In the Innovation Quarter, we want budding entrepreneurs to know that we are here to help create and support all entrepreneurial cultures—whether you’re a medical professional, techie or foodie!

Plan your lunch hour now.

iQ Fitness Fridays

Krissy Peters, head trainer & studio manager of F45 Fitness Winston-Salem with Dee Duggan, owner.

As an entrepreneur, Dee Duggan, owner of F45 Fitness Winston-Salem, has a passion for helping others become their best through community and exercise. Duggan believes that fitness—and simply the ability to move—is a gift we should all take advantage of and the key to health, both physically and mentally. In today’s climate, all of us need an outlet to deal with and release stress. Community workouts allow for social interaction and stress reduction, which has been at the center of F45 WSNC’s mission from its inception.

iQ Fitness Fridays at Bailey Power Plant’s Coal Pit is a signature event where the local community comes together to exercise under the Winston-Salem skyline. With energetic trainers and a DJ who spins tunes to keep that energy alive, everyone has a good sweat. Duggan believes all people should move, and iQ Fitness Friday is the perfect way to combine community, fitness and, most importantly, fun.

“I love iQ Fitness Fridays! It energizes me, and I always look forward to seeing the impact it makes on everyone who attends. It is often the beginning of an F45 journey, and we love seeing that story unfold.” —Dee Duggan, owner F45 Fitness Winston-Salem

Afterward is the time to socialize as a community, as participants and coaches head over to Incendiary Brewing for a (complimentary) drink, Cugino Forno for a slice or Black Mountain Chocolate for a sweet treat, all while enjoying time together.

Register for the next iQ Fitness Friday.

iQ Community Bike Ride

Greg Waddell, owner of Cycle Your City

Our newest iQ signature event is our iQ Community Bike Ride, an event sponsored by Cycle Your City, WS Cycling Advocacy Network and National Cycling Center

We’ve learned more about the foundational importance of public spaces—and particularly green spaces—to our health during the pandemic. The unequal distribution of parks and trails have become particularly apparent, as simply going for a walk has become a lifeline for mental wellness and exercise.

“Our main goal with the iQ Community Bike Ride is to have fun!  We also want to help connect people within our community, raise awareness of our public spaces, develop stewardship for their future, and raise our community’s activity level collectively.” —Greg Waddell, owner Cycle Your City

Amid the cycling boom created by the pandemic, everyone is invited to this community event, open to all levels, which starts at Bailey Park and winds its way to Quarry Park and back, utilizing the Long Branch Trail and Winston-Salem’s greenways along the way. No cyclist will be left behind!

Join an iQ Community Bike Ride.


Check out our events calendar or submit events held in Innovation Quarter to our calendar.