Jewish Federation selects eight innovators for accelerator program

Top row, from left: Anna Altman, Andy Brown, Shelley Dean and Carla Feuer. Second row, from left: Sam Freedman, Nina Levine, Nancy Nix-Rice and Paul Sorenson.

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis has selected eight St. Louis ventures for a spot in the 2017 cohort of JFACE (Jewish Federation of St. Louis Accelerating Community Entrepreneurs) Accelerator Innovators. JFACE assists social entrepreneurs in the development of their original ventures aimed at solving challenges facing the St. Louis community.  

In July, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis launched its partnership with global Jewish accelerator group PresenTense to form JFACE. This six-month-long, St. Louis-based JFACE accelerator program aims to find ways to overcome challenges identified in the Jewish Federation of St. Louis 2014 community study:

• Common elements cause a significant portion of the local Jewish community to struggle financially; 

• A geographic divide among more and less engaged Jewish households; 

• The Jewish community’s need to better engage young families.  

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JFACE accepted applications from individuals who already had an idea to launch new Jewish ventures or were in the early stages of development, as well as to innovators who did not have an idea yet but who wanted to work on issues identified by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis as key challenges facing the local Jewish community.

The 2017 JFACE innovators are:

Anna Altman – Train Your Inner Warrior: Seeking to spread a positive message of beauty and fitness to Jewish women and girls through an understanding of how exercise and food affect their mind, body and spirit, as well as group workouts, appropriate supplemental food, coaching and education, as well as creating clothing suitable for them.

• Andy Brown – Camp Nadav: The 25-year veteran Jewish summer camping professional and an owner of Camp Manitowa, an independent coed overnight summer camp and outdoor retreat center in Rend Lake, Ill., plans to offer an affordable, one-week Jewish camp that enables all children to have the chance to experience residential summer camp. Camp Nadav will feature an Israel Day, tikkun olam projects, Jewish song sessions, Shabbat services and kosher-style meals. 

Shelley Dean –  Rhythm ‘N’ Ruach: A mother of four young children, Dean’s mission is to bring joyful Judaism to the St. Louis Jewish community and across the nation through music and other means so that people of all ages can increase their Jewish involvement. Her venture, Rhythm ‘N’ Ruach, is an energetic, parent-child musical program that seeks to introduce the joy of Judaism into the souls of children and families. 

Carla Feuer –  The Corner Office: Feuer, a longtime marketing and communications professional and author of “Talking a Good Game: A Guide to Sports Talk in the U.S. Workplace,” plans to offer a chain of suburban business lounges that provide convenient, affordable meeting, work and collaboration space for established professionals who currently use coffee shops as temporary offices. 

• Sam Freedman – Community Engagement: Freedman is a young professional with a financial background who grew up in University City and is an active leader with Agudas Israel, Jewish Federation and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. He is also a graduate of the 2015 class of Millstone Fellows. His venture aims to find ways to help with the continuity and unification of the St. Louis Jewish Community through community-based programs that spur camaraderie among young families in St. Louis.

• Nina Levine – Community Engagement: Levine is a young professional from St. Louis with more than 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including food service, event coordination and customer service. Levine is passionate about working with the Jewish community.

• Nancy Nix-Rice – Components Clothing System (CCS):  Nix-Rice is the author of “Looking Good…Every Day,” helping women reinvent their wardrobes. Her venture produces and sells made-to-order women’s career and business-casual clothing to take the stress out of shopping for busy women.  Garments will be sewn in a local start-up factory in the T-REx incubator in downtown St. Louis, training and employing previously-incarcerated women.

• Paul Sorenson – Jewish Neighborhood Center:  Sorenson is the Director of Strategic Planning at Grace Hill Settlement House, where he works on community development efforts in north and south St. Louis City. As a social entrepreneur, Sorenson founded GoodMap to help nonprofits connect to each other online.  He is also a current FOCUS St. Louis Impact Fellow focused on racial equity in the region.  His venture aims to establish a sustainable Jewish Neighborhood Center in the City of St. Louis with a focus on equality, diversity and cross-community exchange.

Over the next six months, the entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to participate in JFACE seminars, one-on-one coaching and mentorship, as well as apply for a small amount of prototype funding. They also will have the opportunity to share a collaborative working office space in St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation Community. The JFACE program will culminate with a launch night event in June 2017.

To find out more about the winners and the program, go to JFedSTL.org/JFACE.

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