A 2019 event that helped inspire the 'Hey Auntie!' platform

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One local woman’s social enterprise just got $50,000 richer.

An app that helps connect Black women across generations was crowned winner of the Well City Challenge on Wednesday evening, earning the $50k grand prize.

Nicole Kenney is the face behind Hey Auntie!, a multigenerational tech platform that aims to help alleviate millennial women’s stress by connecting them with older women. The idea is that younger women will be able to discuss career and personal development with the “aunties,” creating a wisdom-sharing pipeline.

“Thank you for this investment into Black women and Black girls,” Kenney said tearfully, nearly at a loss for words as her award was announced. “I’m just grateful.”

A native of West Philadelphia, Kenney’s team already won some seed funding after earning a finalist spot in the contest, which began at the end of last year.

Run by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, the Well City Challenge was born after an Independence Blue Cross study revealed millennials are experiencing worse health outcomes than generations before them. The program included a three-month business accelerator that connected social enterprise entrepreneurs with established business advisors.

Hey Auntie! specifically targets Black women, a demographic Kenney said research has shown are more affected by chronic stress, and shoulder more of what’s called an allostatic load — the cumulative burden of that stress.

Kenney, 38, will use the $50k investment to launch a beta-version of the Hey Auntie! website and application, and test and collect data on the usability of that platform. Set for July 26,  National Auntie’s Day, the first event will be called “The Emotional Phases of a Millennial” and will feature an “Auntie competition” with the prize a weekend stay at a local hotel.

Nicole Kenney, founder of Hey Auntie!

The idea was inspired by Kenney’s own aunt and personal connections with women of all ages.

“Having more seasoned women around me has been a really powerful way for me to navigate life,” Kenney said Wednesday night.

Kenney competed against four other finalists who were also on at the virtual expo, which allowed attendees to interact directly with the contestants and participate in a speed networking event.

In addition to Kenney, attendees met:

  • McKenzie Nash, founder of The Heart To Heal, a mental wellness initiative created to encourage self-care among mental health professionals. Nash’s initiative, Shear Balance, seeks to improve wellness in the Black community by providing mental health training hair stylists and barbers
  • Ana Karen Cervera Noriega of Let’s Talk Philly Conversation Circles, which provides a safe space for immigrant millennials while helping them improve their English conversation skills, wellness and social opportunities
  • Jiana Murdic of Freedom Greens and Gardens, a West-Philly based healthy-food initiative that seeks to provide subscription-service boxes through her nonprofit Get Fresh Daily, and reimagines Malcolm X Park as a community garden filled with crops with specific health benefits
  • Takia McClendon, founder of City Fit Girls and the force behind Strides, a physical  fitness community that revolves around running and engages participants with coach-led group workouts and an app.

In an intro video, aired at the beginning of the event, Kenney honored the women who inspired her project, aunties.

“I want to thank you for your love,” Kenney said. “I want to thank you for your support, and for being the shoulders on which we stand.”

Layla A. Jones (she/her) was a general assignment reporter for Billy Penn from 2019 to 2021. Her work has helped underserved community organizations, earned free repairs for property owners who sustained...