The Key Bookstore Wins the 2023 New Haven Civic Innovation Prize

Photos courtesy of Khamani Harrison

In late March 2023, Startup Yale hosted its annual awards series, recognizing the entrepreneurship and innovation of Yale students. Startup Yale is a cross-university collaboration between partners including Dwight Hall, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking (Tsai CITY), and Yale School of Management that brings together Yale’s biggest entrepreneurship awards in a two-day conference packed with pitches, prizes, and world-changing ideas.

Dwight Hall manages the New Haven Civic Innovation Prize, which awards up to $10,000 annually to the best student- or community-led venture or project focused on benefiting the City of New Haven. In previous years, the Prize was the only award offered at Startup Yale that was open to both Yale students and community initiatives. This year, only the Civic Innovation Prize and the Black Venture Summit Prize were open to non-student applicants.

Dwight Hall was proud to award the 2023 Civic Innovation Prize to The Key Bookstore, an interactive bookstore built on the values of Afrocentricity, spirituality, environmentalism, and entrepreneurship.

“The Key Bookstore is designed as an immersive ecosystem that connects books to interactive experiences and builds community,” CEO Khamani Harrison explained. “Imagine the ultimate combination of your favorite book club, childhood book fair, and summer reading program perks all in one place. The joy of all of the experiences is what we aim to embody as the neverending bookstore experience you can access 24/7.”

“The Key Bookstore emerged as the grand prize winner for the New Haven Civic Innovation Prize from a strong pool of 17 applicants,” reported Johnny Scafidi ’01, Dwight Hall’s Director of Community Outreach and Engagement. “It was highly rewarding for Dwight Hall to coach the finalists prior to the pitch competition and we look forward to continued partnerships. One of our values for the Prize is to ensure equitable access for community-led projects within the Startup Yale environment and another is to balance innovation and impact. We are so grateful to our phenomenal judges, who applied their expertise and deep understanding of our community to the process.”

As the recipient of the Civic Innovation Prize, the Key Bookstore was awarded $10,000 to continue its work to benefit New Haven. Khamani and her team plan to use the funds to “build partnerships, create marketing materials, shoot engaging content to start our campaign for Reading Culture messaging, and begin the build of our mobile application dedicated to building a community of book lovers of all ages.” Further, the Bookstore will continue its collaboration with other organizations in New Haven, from Tsai CITY and the Yale School of Management to New Haven’s Board of Education and the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. 

But Khamani emphasizes that the Bookstore’s work is far from over. They aim to not only promote reading and literacy, but to revolutionize the very idea of a bookstore, incorporating new opportunities provided by technology like augmented reality and blockchain. And as part of that effort, the Bookstore encourages others to reach out and become involved in their mission. For more information, the Bookstore’s website is They are also @keybookstore on all social platforms, and their email is

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