South Charlotte

Nonprofits vie for Seed20 spotlight, support

SEED20 participants meet for dinner with their coaches at UNC Charlotte Center City before practicing their pitches about the nonprofit work they are doing.
SEED20 participants meet for dinner with their coaches at UNC Charlotte Center City before practicing their pitches about the nonprofit work they are doing.

With three children and a consulting business that requires frequent travel, Lorrina Eastman has many demands.

For the second year in a row, however, Eastman, 48, has opted to volunteer as a coach with SEED20, the initiative by Social Venture Partners Charlotte to identify, spotlight and support innovative ideas for social change in the region.

“I am so proud to be involved in an organization that is actively supporting and promoting social entrepreneurs who are doing amazing work for the Charlotte community,” Eastman said. “The coaching is an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved and we all learn something in the process.”

Eastman is one of many community leaders who are matched with 20 nonprofits, all of whom apply in the fall for a two-month training session that includes coaching, feedback and mentoring on how to succinctly and powerfully tell their story. The program will culminate with a celebration April 11 at Knight Theatre, when 10 of the participating nonprofits make three-minute pitches to a panel of judges and an audience of over seven hundred members of the community.

Jennifer Davis-Martin is the the Social Venture Partners lead partner overseeing this year’s SEED20 competition.

“Every year we get to meet people who are determined to make our community better,” Davis-Martin said. “And as long as there are people willing to do that, we want to put them up on stage and shine a spotlight on them so that they can share their story.”

One story that will be told is that of Jimmeka Anderson, 30, who had to overcome serious body image issues growing up and initiated a program to teach media literacy education to teens.

“I saw how I was impacted by the media,” Anderson said. “I wanted to empower other teens to be resilient to the negative influences of the media and embrace their individuality.”

She started her I AM not the MEdia campaign in 2011, but opted to apply for SEED20 this year to “get ideas on how to enhance my organization and spread awareness,” she said.

One of her three coaches (each SEED20 participant is assigned two community leaders and one student ambassador from Davidson College) is Auggie Wong, 55, who is in his fourth year of coaching.

“I see my role as providing them with confidence and focus,” Wong, a landscape architect, said.

Fellow coach Justin Garton, 24, owner of Joe’s Doughs, values the fact that there are other ways to give back besides monetary donations.

“Whatever skills you have,” he said, noting that for him it is communication and public speaking, “you can share with a nonprofit who can benefit from them.”

Shane Windmeyer, 43, is participating this year on behalf of Campus Pride, a national organization that supports LGBT students at colleges across the country.

“I got a tweet about SEED20 on the Share Charlotte website,” Windmeyer said. “I figured it was a great way to meet leaders in the nonprofit sector in the Queen City.”

One of his coaches, Bill Craver, 47, who works at Legend Brewing, said he first got involved after attending the event four years ago.

“I try to do a good enough job so that I keep getting invited back,” he said.

For the Davidson College students who are assigned to each participating nonprofit, the experience is a great way to network and get to know the community.

“Being able to interact with so many nonprofits is a great experience,” said Jalen Madden, 19.

Clay Shupak, 20, who was assigned to Southside Rides, an organization that mentors at-risk youth in the auto body trade, also points to the contribution the students make on each team.

“The voice of the millennials is important,” Shupak said. “We are very comfortable with social media and technology.”

For all involved, the culminating event, when the 10 finalists present their three minute pitches, is an inspiring and meaningful evening.

“It is hard to put into words the energy and awareness that it creates unless you go,” Social Venture Partners partner Richard Lee, 49, said.

Mark Weber, 52, another Social Venture Partners partner, said the SEED20 event is an opportunity to gain maximum exposure for the participating nonprofits.

“We give them the opportunity to not only make a good first impression, but to hit a home run,” he said. “With donors, the media and the community there, it allows them to stand out in a really crowded field.”

Katya Lezin is a freelance writer:

Want to go?

The SEED20 OnStage event is at Knight Theatre at 6 p.m. April 11. Tickets are $70 and are available at or available at the door. All 20 participating nonprofits will be on display but 10 finalists will compete for a variety of prizes, including a $20,000 top prize.