March 31, 2023 – The Charlotte Hornets and Bank of America tonight announced local entrepreneur Kevin Gatlin and his unique line of bedsheets and slumber bags for kids, Playtime Edventures, was selected as the winner of the third annual Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America and a $15,000 investment from the organization. The announcement was made during tonight’s game between the Hornets and Chicago Bulls.
Playtime Edventures makes a variety of functional and educational bedding products designed to transform any child’s bed into an exciting “edventure.” Its best-selling product, the playtime bedsheet, has over 60 interactive games for kids to explore, play and learn, and features five languages, including Mandarin, Spanish, French and ASL. The full product line – including reversible slumber bags, story-time pillowcases and disposable fitted-sheet play pads – was originally created for children in hospitals and shelters as an alternative to excessive use of electronic devices and television. Playtime Edventures was selected from four finalists by a panel of five judges that included Hornets Sports & Entertainment Executive Vice President & Spectrum Center General Manager Donna Julian, Bank of America Business Banking Market Manager Thomas Parks, The Lonely Entrepreneur Founder & CEO Michael Dermer, Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte CEO Gris Bailey and Weathered Souls Brewing Owner Marcus Baskerville.
In its third year, this year’s Hornets Innovation Summit received over 100 applications that were submitted online and included a one-minute video pitch. Fourteen applicants moved on to the second round, in which their video pitches were posted on hornets.com and social media for fan voting. Taking fan voting into account, as well as the initial pitches, an internal committee selected the four pitches in the final round, where Playtime Edventures was joined by curated self-care company Deauxs Lifestyle, Durham-based book café Rofhiwa Books and mobile cabana and bar experience Sipsy Cabanas.
The four finalists presented their final pitches to the panel of judges in a live event at Spectrum Center on March 22 that was streamed on hornets.com. A recording of the event is available on hornets.com/innovation-summit and YouTube.com/hornets. In addition to the four pitches, the event featured two speakers sharing insights and business advice for entrepreneurs: Hornets Sports & Entertainment Managing Partner Curtis Polk and Hornets player Kelly Oubre Jr., who debuted his clothing brand Dope$oul in 2021.
As part of Hornets Sports & Entertainment’s focus on economic mobility, the Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America was launched in 2021 to provide social and financial capital for its participants. For the third straight year, every applicant received one year of complimentary resources from The Lonely Entrepreneur, a national nonprofit that provides current and aspiring entrepreneurs with knowledge, tools and support to grow businesses. Tonight, all second-round contestants, as well as the panel of judges, were invited to a special networking event at Spectrum Center to provide further social capital and awareness among participating businesses.
In his live pitch, Gatlin shared social media videos showcasing how his products help entertain, teach and uplift kids during extended and short-term hospital stays, as well as within their homes. He also cited that as a “mission-based” company, a portion of the funding would be used to donate products to local hospitals and shelters.
“The Hornets really put their foot forward into the community in regard to helping minorities,” said Gatlin in a video call with Oubre, who shared he was this year’s Innovation Summit winner. “This is a really great opportunity for us. It took a team to create Playtime Edventures and to get our products into the hands of kids who really need them. We’re really happy to now have the Hornets as part of our team.”
The Hornets Innovation Summit Presented by Bank of America was open to entrepreneurs and businesses located within 150 miles of Spectrum Center that are at least 51% operated and controlled by minority group members (i.e., individuals who are at least 25% Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American), matching the criteria used by the National Minority Supplier Development Council for the Minority Business Enterprise Certification.
The previous two winners of the Hornets Innovation Summit – Brandi Long’s product, the Jurse, and Elizabeth Escobar’s bilingual job platform, Hay Trabajo – have seen tremendous success following their participation in the event. In 2021, Long experienced an 88 percent increase in sales of the Jurse, a convenient product that transitions from a jacket to a purse as well as an increase of more than 150,000 percent in website visits. Last year, Hay Trabajo saw a 41 percent increase in subscribers following Escobar’s win and formed partnerships with more than a dozen new businesses and nonprofits, helping them to identify and hire Spanish-speaking or bilingual talent.