SPRINGFIELD — Twelve area startups won a total of $252,000 at last night’s Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) Accelerator Awards, led by Celia Grace, whose founder, Marcelia Muehlke, calls her company a fair-trade, ethical wedding-dress seller that gives back and empowers women around the world.
Muehlke, who won $50,000 at the ceremony at the MassMutual Center, launched the company several years ago after searching, fruitlessly, for a maker of fair-trade wedding dresses. Sensing both a need and an opportunity, she set about creating such a company. She traveled to Asia and set up a supply chain that could create high-quality garments that she and her clients could feel good about. She then began working with a group of women in a sewing group in Cambodia, contracted with a designer in New York, and got her business — and her dream — up and running.
Today, Celia Grace sells dresses across the country and in Europe. The VVM award is just one in a long line of accolades, including a Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Success Spirit Award in 2011, a finish in the money at the UMass Pitch Competition in 2012, and a second-place finish at Valley Venture Mentors’ pitch contest during the Western Mass. Business Expo in 2012.
The other 11 winners of VVM Accelerator Awards, and their prize money, include:
• Homebody Holistics ($45,000), a maker of all-natural, hand-crafted, herbal cleaning solutions using no harsh chemicals or additives;
• Scout Curated Wears ($32,000), a designer, curator, and producer of thoughtful women’s accessories;
• DaVinci Arms ($21,000), a designer and manufacturer of firearms suppressors and accessories for mission-critical applications;
• Treaty ($21,000), a nanotechnology company whose flagship product is FogKicker, a biodegradable anti-fog solution made from nanocellulose;
• Prophit Insight ($19,000), a software company that helps healthcare providers identify and acquire unique sources of physician referrals;
• Livingua ($18,000), an app that connects travelers to locals who know the language and culture wherever and whenever they want;
• Name Net Worth ($15,000), a connective platform that leverages trusted relationships to measure and strengthen a user’s personal and professional networks;
• iRollie ($9,000), a niche-market phone-case manufacturer and online retailer featuring the rolling tray phone case;
• Need/Done Inc. ($9,000), instant help for kids at home from people their parents trust;
• Sumu ($7,000), which works with property managers and landlords to post fee-free apartments to help users find their next home; and
• AnyCafé ($6,000), a developer of hot beverage solutions for the future, including the Travel Brewer.
About 550 people attended last night’s ceremony. For a detailed look at the VVM accelerator program, click here.