A dance therapy company wins the grand prize of the Social Innovation Laboratory

Tyde-Courtney Edwards, founder of Ballet After Dark and BAD Studios (Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab)

A company that aims to help survivors of sexual violence heal through dance therapy walked away from the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab window with the top prize and $25,000 to help support loved ones survivors and distant.

Tyde-Courtney Edwards’ work as the founder of Ballet After Dark is no secret in Baltimore. She has been featured by Baltimore Magazine and The Baltimore Sun for her work teaching trauma-informed dance classes to help trauma survivors improve their relationship with their bodies. A documentary, aptly titled “Ballet After Dark”, produced by Queen Latifah and Procter & Gamble, was even made about Edwards’ work.

But now the company is taking its formula online in hopes of supporting survivors around the world, those who might otherwise not be able to attend in-person classes due to price barriers or health or who simply wish to take the courses in the privacy of their own homes.

The product, called BAD Studios, will be a subscription service that will give survivors access to online dance therapy tutorials and workshops. The product is currently under development; Edwards has hired a production company on the project to develop the educational materials, and the Social Innovation Lab Showcase’s $25,000 prize will go towards creating these materials, as well as strengthening his business here in Baltimore by hiring three part-time employees.

Edwards is thrilled to expand the reach of Ballet After Dark’s mission.

“We are the only organization that offers this type of trauma-informed dance therapy intervention and resources,” she said. “There is an extreme lack of prevention and recovery resources available to survivors of sexual assault, especially black and brown survivors. So we’re creating this safe space for survivors who look like us, look like members of our community.

Edwards was one of 10 participants in the 2021-2022 cohort of the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab, a six-month acceleration program aimed at supporting early-stage startups with strong social missions. This year, the other members of the cohort included companies focused on everything from ensuring access to menstrual products to recycling glass.

The second-place winner of the cohort was the Puzzling Disorder Project, a clothing company run by Nicole Stokes. Stokes, a knitter and crocheter, started selling her designs several years ago but only realized during the pandemic how much her son, who has autism, has benefited from the tactile feel of her clothes. Certain stitches and tissues have served as “sensory tools,” which can bring comfort to some autistic people when they feel overwhelmed by other stimuli.

She then began to target her products specifically towards people with autism or who might otherwise benefit from this tactile input.

“I have a scarf that I make, a perfectly fashionable scarf. But I can actually add a weighted element to it so it’s heavier” and acts similar to a weighted blanket, she said. The innocuous appearance of its accessories and clothing means that the products do not “draw attention” to themselves.

With the $15,000 she won at the Social Innovation Lab Showcase, she plans to start creating and distributing what she calls “customizable sensory kits,” which will include both her products as well as some items made by other Baltimore entrepreneurs.

Stokes said the Social Innovation Lab program was invaluable to her journey as an entrepreneur; for years, she resisted calling herself a business owner even though she makes and sells clothes, as knitting and crocheting had long been hobbies before she made it into a business.

As a member of the Social Innovation Lab, she learned that she had a lot of business knowledge and expertise – she just didn’t always have the right words to describe that expertise.

“The program itself really sat me down and said, you know what the revenue streams are. You know what your target market is because you sell there,” she said. ) really gave me confidence in my experience.”