These innovators are leading the change, powering us all forward to level up Philadelphia.
Joe Ammon, founder & CEO, Jordyn Amoroso, chief brand officer, Paula Belatti, chief operating officer, goclove.com
Right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Joe Ammon, Jordyn Amoroso and Paula Belatti debuted their very first pair of healthcare shoes under brand name Clove. To say that the stylish sneaker was a hit is an understatement, thanks to a variety of features like fluid-repellent uppers and laces, cloudlike comfort, anti-odor insoles and the ability to easily slip them on in seconds. Two years aft er the launch, the team has created an abundance of new colors to fit any frontline worker’s personality, including a cool gem-inspired line featuring hues like peach quartz. But the team does a lot more than just produce footwear for the healthcare industry—they strive to make a difference. During the pandemic alone, they donated over $250,000 nationwide to hospitals (including UPenn and Jefferson) and testing sites, as well as compression socks. They also make philanthropic donations to centers like Philadelphia FIGHT in hopes of making healthcare centers more accessible with better resources. Belatti says, “It’s just been amazing to watch the growth, and I think having that healthcare family background really is what inspires us to pay attention so closely.”
How does Clove fill a void in the industry?
Ammon: Every single design decision that went into the creation of the Clove sneaker was made with a healthcare worker’s needs in mind. Historically, a footwear option created for healthcare professionals did not exist, which is why we created Clove—sneakers designed for those on the frontlines.
Tell me more about Clove’s community aspect.
Amoroso: One of the things that we really pride ourselves on as a brand, not only in the healthcare space but in general, is really capturing that individual from a 360 perspective both inside and outside the hospital. … Back in May, we did an AAPI campaign entitled Your Stories, Your Space, dedicated to amplifying the voices of the Asian American identities in the healthcare community with unique narratives that embrace, empower and celebrate our frontline workers both inside and outside the hospital.
Potter, social activist, spoken word poet, educator, villagepotter215.com
If you’ve visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art lately, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen Roberto Lugo’s graffiti-inspired pottery dotting the Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room exhibit. Lugo, who grew up in Kensington, has 26 works featured in the exhibition, which opened Nov. 5 as an ongoing program. In general, the artist likes to define himself as an activist, educator, poet and founder of Village Potter—which is his own brand that strives to make art more accessible—and highlights themes of poverty, inequality and racial injustice through his works. “[Growing up,] even though I was surrounded by art [between] graffiti and also the murals of Philadelphia, I had never taken an art class,” he explains. “That’s one thing that I think is really important to understand about my work and where it comes from. A lot of the things that I’m making are really geared toward not just celebrating the things that I do or the people that I commemorate in my work, but also thinking a little bit about how do we change the conversation and make sure that more people are invited to that—not getting rid of anyone that exists there but just making sure that more voices have a seat at the table.”
You define yourself as the ‘ghetto potter.’ Tell me more about the inspiration behind that.
I think ghetto has such a negative connotation, but for the people that grew up in areas where they don’t really have a choice on where they grow up, ghetto is really about resourcefulness. People in the ghetto do a lot with very little… I just felt like, well, if I’m gonna go out and do my thing, I’ve got to represent where I’m from, and I want people to know where I’m from.
What’s next for you?
One of the exciting projects I’m working on right now is I’m going to be doing an artist residency at the Grounds For Sculpture, and that exhibition is opening in May and that is called Village Potter. … I’m also working on a solo exhibition at the Hermitage Museum, which is in Virginia.
“My goal is to empower children and families through the power of story,” says Hallee Adelman, an all-around creative powerhouse who has nimbly flourished in careers ranging from filmmaker and producer (she was executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning The Social Dilemma, as well as Writing With Fire, which just scored an Oscar nomination) to teacher, university professor and children’s book author (penning eight children’s picture books that address aspects of social and emotional learning). But the one thread that ties all of these seemingly disparate roles and projects together is her desire to portray life as it is with raw honesty and tender poignancy. “With my work, like the Great Big Feelings series, I share honest portraits so kids can feel empowered as they learn to manage their emotions,” she says. With the documentary films she’s worked on, Adelman raises important questions about societal roles, the dark side of social media and the youth movement on gun violence. And with her most recent film, Our American Family—which she co-directed and produced, and the release is yet to come—she deftly shows the realities faced by families who are dealing with generational addiction. As for what’s on the horizon, this spring the Great Big Feelings series will grow by two new titles: Way Past Lonely and Way Past Afraid, and another picture book, The Strongest Thing, comes out to remind kids of their own personal strength.
What change do you hope to drive in the future through your work?
Good change happens when we understand each other, self-reflect and have important conversations. I develop stories because they are a direct and powerful medium that can bridge gaps and lay the foundation for a better tomorrow. In the end, our work and our heart are what we leave for future generations. Through all my efforts as an educator, author, producer and citizen, I work to spread kindness, learn from others and help lift kids, families and storytellers.
On your road to success, what were some of the turning points for you?
When my publisher Albert Whitman & Company shared in the vision of turning Way Past Mad into the Great Big Feelings series, when Woodstock Film Festival crowned Our American Family with the Audience Award, and when the filmmakers and writers I work with realize success by changing laws, shifting mindsets and publishing their own diverse bodies of work.
President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, phsonline.org
With a passion for gardening and horticulture to enhance and elevate the safety, health, economic and environmental benefits of our city and region, it is no wonder Matt Rader has led the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) to great success. During his six years at the nonprofit, Rader has continued to wow both locals and visitors with the Philadelphia Flower Show, which will be held outside at FDR Park for the second straight year this June. Th ere’s much more to his role, though. Behind the scenes, he leads PHS to provide over 250,000 free seedlings of kale, tomatoes, onions and more to over 160 Philadelphia community gardens that grow and share food. He also oversees the tree plantings (with over 2,000 planted in 2021) with its PHS Tree Tenders groups, provides green job training for those with barriers to employment, such as returning citizens, and maintains beautiful gardens and landscapes that are open and free to visitors. For 2022, Rader is currently working on an NIH grant with Dr. Eugenia C. South from the Perelman School of Medicine at HUP to further introduce gardening to the city to create systemic change. “Gardens, trees and clean, green streets aren’t ‘nice to haves’ for neighborhoods. They are ‘must haves’ that improve health by providing clean air, food, jobs and safe, beautiful stages for community life,” Rader concludes. “Also, they have been scientifically proven to reduce violent crime and improve mental health. It will take all of us investing our time and money to bring greening to every neighborhood.”
Please share how you hope to innovate your industry.
By growing plants, anyone can simultaneously unlock their creativity, care for the earth and advance our common health and well-being. I want to spread this message and get everyone gardening for the greater good.
What first sparked your interest in your industry?
As a kid, I loved to grow flowers and vegetables. Years later, I attended a conference on public horticulture careers at Longwood Gardens and fell in love. If you [love to] turn the corner onto a lush tree-lined block, catch your first glimpse of sprouting daffodils in Logan Circle on an early spring day or put your hands in the soil and feel the earth between your fingers, you’ll get it too.
What change do you hope to drive in the future through your work?
I want everyone to grow something and allow themselves to unleash their creativity through horticulture.
What other projects or news can we buzz for the year ahead?
In early spring, keep your eyes peeled for the most dazzling bulb displays we have ever produced—more than 70,000 bulbs including daffodils and tulips from The Netherlands will bloom at Logan Circle and Meadowbrook Farm.
Author, activist, sankofasummerschool.com
When we last checked in with Feminista Jones in 2018, she was trailblazing the city with her writing, social work and public speaking. The absolute powerhouse, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, was on the heels of launching her global anti-harassment campaign, #YouOkSis, and was also known for organizing the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14)—better known as the single largest demonstration against police brutality in modern history of the United States. To say that she was trailblazing to make a difference is an understatement. Since then, she’s only continued to dedicate herself to her work, but now with more of a focus on education. “I oft en cite Angela Davis when she says, ‘We have to liberate minds as well as society,’” says Jones, who is currently working toward her PhD at Temple. She’s also opened the Sankofa Summer School—which works to educate about the lives and people of African descent—as well as launched the podcast Black Girl Missing with Asa Todd and Niki Irene. “I have found that teaching has afforded me more direct contact with students and allows me to engage more intimately and form longer-lasting connections,” she says. “It’s in the spaces where I can educate… reaching people on that one-to-one level and really trying to change minds.”
What inspired Sankofa Summer School?
‘Sankofa’ means return to your source and go back and fetch. It’s an African proverb, and it’s the idea that we have to kind of get back to who we were pre-colonization, before racism, before sexism. Before all of those things, we were human beings that were communal and cared about each other and looked out for each other. … I decided that I can off er adults the opportunity to learn more… learn things that would really expand their continent. Then, maybe, I can help contribute to reducing a lot of the stigma.
What got you to where you are today?
I felt like when my mom passed away, I just had this sense of urgency… like this was a queer feminist woman who was always teaching me to just do right by people. Be kind to people, give back to your community, never forget where you came from. That really was drilled into me, and so when she passed away, I was just like, ‘Oh, man, I gotta really do something. I can’t just languish here and just do nothing. I have to be active.’
Behind Binto, a vitamin company that makes supplements easier and more approachable for women, is Suzie Devine. After struggling with fertility issues, this Philly nurse decided to help others through supplement kits and accessible healthcare with 24/7 access to medical professionals. Th is spring, look out for Binto’s launch of single vitamin canisters and Devine’s participation in the Dream Ventures Accelerator—a female-focused fund and incubator.
With over 20 years in the restaurant and hospitality industries, chef Lee Wallach founded Home Appétit. Designed for foodies on the go, the company is one of Philly’s leading meal delivery services. Th is year alone, Wallach managed to grow his business with a 96% jump in revenue (in a pandemic, no less).
Through their sustainability-focused beverage company, Reveal, Sheetal Bahirat and Zuri Masud are preventing food waste one avocado seed brew at a time. Combining their degrees in the culinary arts and food science, this dynamic duo is creating antioxidant-rich beverages from discarded avocado seeds they receive from local restaurants, giving the otherwise useless pit a second life.
DR. ASHLEY JORDAN
DR. ASHLEY JORDAN
Previously serving as the senior director of development at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Dr. Ashley Jordan is bringing her years of expertise to the The African American Museum in Philadelphia. As the new president, since September, Jordan is not only calling on her experiences as a leader of cultural institutions celebrating the African American experience but also her time as an adjunct professor of U.S. history in Ohio.
Dressing big names like Lizzo, Blue Ivy and Alicia Keys, Jeantrix founders Deric “Nyce” Crawley and Muhammad “Homm” Abdul-Basit are styling streetwear lovers in their bold jackets, painted jeans and more. At their King of Prussia Mall storefront, supporters can look forward to a new spring collection and workshops this year like “paint and sip,” where attendees can chat with the Jeantrix artists.
BECCA SUSKAUER BECCASUSKAUER.COM
Since graduating from Penn State’s BFA musical theater program last May, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native Becca Suskauer jumped into her first national tour, Pretty Woman. As an ensemble member and understudy for lead role Vivian Ward, the young actress kicked off the tour on opening night at the Kimmel Cultural Campus as Vivian in January— with a stunning voice and lively stage presence, Suskauer is certainly one to watch.
ALEXANDER TORREY THEROUNDS.CO
Last year, Alex Torrey launched zero-waste delivery service The Rounds in Philly, offering an innovative, sustainable option for refilling home goods on a weekly basis. From pantry products like fresh bread to cleaning supplies, pet goods, baby needs and more, this subscription-based service is conquering one city at a time—currently, The Rounds services Philadelphia, D.C. and, since last month, Miami.
Photography by: By Breanne Furlong; Photo by Ryan Collerd/Courtesy of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; By Joshua Pestka; Courtesy of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; By Danielle Nowak; By Rosie Simmons; By Alyssa Timoteo, Life Like Ruby’s; By Rosie Simmons; Courtesy of the African American Museum in Philadelphia; Courtesy of Jeantrix; Courtesy of Becca Suskauer; Courtesy of The Rounds