Center for Civic Innovation Announces Westside Innovation Lab Fellows

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Atlanta, Georgia – June 11, 2016

The Westside Innovation Lab is a program run by the Center for Civic Innovation to identify and support community-driven and community-built ideas and interventions within neighborhoods on the Westside of Atlanta, primarily within the zip codes 30314 and 30318. These ventures will be supported with business training, partnerships, mentorship and early stage capital.


The Center for Civic Innovation is proud to announce the final eight ventures that will continue through the Westside Innovation Lab, a six-month business incubator. Over 120 community members submitted applications with ideas to improve their communities, and of those, 44 pitched their ideas to their communities, including Ashview Heights, AUC, Bankhead, Castleberry Hill, English Avenue, Grove Park, Vine City, and Washington Park. Those residents pitched their ideas to improve their community’s challenges to fellow neighbors at three community forums on May 18, 21 and 24, 2016. Over 300 community members attended these forums to hear the ideas from local business owners in their respective communities and provided the feedback that informed our lab’s final selection of ventures.  The participants in the Westside Innovation Lab are called Westside Innovation Fellows. More details can be found at

The eight selected Westside Innovation Fellows are:


  • Taranji Alvarado and Jahlil Mudavanha - TENDALUSH: An educational landscaping, tree, and lawn service that will provide employment and training to youth on the Westside.  

  • Keitra Bates - MARDDY’S: Using underutilized restaurant space to help other small food‐based vendors access a shared kitchen space and marketplace to package and sell healthy, affordable foods.

  • Abiodun Henderson - GANGSTAS TO GROWERS:  Using agricultural training to provide training and employment to community members transitioning out of gangs or incarceration and at risk youth.

  • Naida Hill and Breanna Rice - CODE BLACK: STEM program run by two Spelman College students for Washington Cluster public schools that provides near peer technology exposure, mentorship and opportunity for girls.

  • Richard Hinds - GOOD KUPA KOFFIE: Launching a neighborhood coffee shop and roaster that bridges the economic gap between coffee farmers abroad and consumers in the US, while providing training and jobs to people on the Westside.

  • Tiffany Jones and Cashawn Myers - GOLDEN GROWERS: HABESHA, Inc. has developed agricultural programs for all ages. In continuing to promote these activities throughout Atlanta, the organization would like to explore opportunities that incorporate an intergenerational approach to the programs offered.

  • Lateef Pyles - UNIVERSITY BARBERSHOP: Using an existing barbershop as a resource, education and apprenticeship center for males in the community.

  • Shawn Walton - WECYCLE: Creating a bicycle co-operative and engagement center in West Atlanta.


These top eight ideas represent diverse demographic and program sectors.

  • 50% of the fellows are women-led businesses,

  • 88% of the fellows aim to create new jobs in the neighborhood,

  • 75% of the fellows live in the neighborhood they are directly serving,

  • And nearly 40% of the fellows are addressing food and nutrition.


“The Westside Innovation Lab is an opportunity to support social impact businesses,” says Rohit Malhotra, founder and executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation. “These businesses are not charities; they are businesses that directly tackle a challenge in a neighborhood, while also creating jobs, increasing revenue, and bringing new products, services, and programs into the market. On top of that, they are proving that solving social challenges is a part of economic development. When we tackle social challenges accurately and effectively, we ultimately grow and strengthen our local economy for everyone. So we aren’t making an emotional argument. We are making an economic one.”

Raina Turner, an Atlanta native, will serve as the team lead and program manager for the Westside Innovation Lab. Turner brings deep experience in community organizing and small business development. She will be working directly with the Westside Innovation Fellows to help grow their ideas into sustainable and scalable business ideas. “This initiative is an effort to not only amplify the phenomenal work of local entrepreneurs, but also to support their collective impact in their communities. Each venture will transition from our lab this fall with a clear plan for self-sufficiency and growth, so their crucial work can continue to benefit their larger communities for years to come,” says Turner.


About the Center for Civic Innovation:

The Center for Civic Innovation engages with local communities and public institutions to develop, test, and scale social interventions that create positive economic impact and increase civic participation. We do this by supporting and investing in people and organizations who are already on the ground with products or services that make the public sector more effective, innovative, and participatory. We host programs for community-based social entrepreneurs at all stages, but focus on early stage, untested projects. We are based in Atlanta, Georgia, and our programs are focused on tackling challenges faced by the city, the metro region, and state while creating models that will be scalable to cities like Atlanta.



Rachel Stanley

Membership and Communications Manager

Center for Civic Innovation


Raina Turner

Westside Innovation Lab - Program Manager

Center for Civic Innovation