Social Innovation Lab's 2023-24 Cohort pictured at the Showcase event.

Last fall, 120 applicants vied for 10 places in the Social Innovation Lab’s Spring Cohort for mission-driven startups from the Greater Baltimore and Johns Hopkins communities.

Anthony Watters, the program’s director, shared that “The 2023–2024 Social Innovation Lab cohort has truly exemplified the spirit of innovation, community and impact. Their work spans diverse fields, from sustainable construction and modular housing to mental health and inclusive wellness, showcasing a commitment to creating a brighter, more equitable future for the people of Baltimore and beyond.” Watters continued, “Notably, this cohort has demonstrated remarkable collaboration and partnership, supporting each other and leveraging their collective strengths to drive greater social change. Their ability to work together is what sets the cohort apart, and I am so excited to see what their collective efforts will bring to fruition.”

The program ensures that each founder and their team have access to co-working space, mentorship and connections to Johns Hopkins’s ecosystem of pro bono support and mentorship. They are guided by a human-centered discovery curriculum designed to foster continued growth for their innovations, and each team or founder is awarded a baseline of $5,000. More prizes were awarded when this year’s program culminated in a May showcase at the newly rededicated Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship, where teams presented their work for a live audience and more attendees online.

The 10 innovations inspired standing ovations and are poised to make a difference in Baltimore and beyond.


Cohort Prize: $15,000, Decided by a vote from the members of the cohort
Salama Wellness, led by Leah Hairson, offers continuous pre-and post-natal care to ensure a safe postpartum for mothers. They are on a critical mission to alleviate instances of maternal and tragically high infant mortality in the U.S., especially in underserved communities.

Audience Choice Award #1: $2,000
Next Generation Language Access, led by Omari Jeremiah, is working to train the next generation of interpreters.

Audience Choice Award #2: $2,000
Metallic Luxury, led by Randi Williams, is using shipping containers to create a sustainable community development for those priced out of traditional housing.

The other startups that participated in the Social Innovation Lab Spring Cohort are:

  • Divaneering Impact Hub, led by Shawna Stepp-Jones, inspires young women to pursue STEM education while learning about how startups work in the beauty industry.
  • JJIM, led by JHU alums Mark Wo and Taein Lee, is a commercially viable, sustainable and carbon negative alternative to construction materials, specifically hemp-based concrete.
  • Nav, led by Shani’a Stevenson, empowers teens to manage mental health challenges and well-being through shared technology.
  • NovvaCup,  a winner of several accelerator program awards, led by recent JHU alum Danielle Nicklas, has created a sustainable and reusable menstrual cup that is easy to use in less than convenient environments.
  • Project Healthy Communities, led by Kadija Hart, aims to drives community engagement and change in under resourced communities by working to alleviate food deserts and other social determinants that adversely affect the health of citizens.
  • Sacred House, led by Morgan Dominique (pictured), is a holistic wellness and community hub to create a healing space for Baltimore’s challenged communities.
  • Zroin, led by Tlee Cooper, leverages 360-degree Matterport technology to transform brick-and-mortar retail space into smart stores ready for e-commerce.

Applications for the fall semester at the Social Innovation Lab open in August. Connect with the team at [email protected].