• St. Louis Region Receives Grant to Address Equity in Entrepreneurship

    Dec 01, 2016

    While startup activity in the St. Louis region and in the United States is rising, women and minorities consistently have lower rates of entrepreneurship.  Addressing the gender and racial equity in the startup community has become a core priority for the region.  To align efforts, the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective was formed.  The initial Collective comprises twelve St. Louis area nonprofit and governmental organizations, including the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

    The Collective is one of 12 recipients of the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge grant nationwide and will receive $420,000 over two years from the prestigious Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help female and historically underrepresented entrepreneurs of color in high-growth sectors.  The Collective will help ensure that St. Louis’ high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurial pathways are open for all to participate and benefit. “Entrepreneurship is a pathway to prosperity for all communities, but especially for communities of color and women in St. Louis who have been historically disenfranchised or underserved,” said Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, head of the Inclusion Initiative for BioSTL, the organization that conceptualized and submitted the grant on behalf of the Collective. “Together, we want to help ensure there is gender and racial equity in the start-up community, which means an entrepreneur’s success cannot be predicted based on their identity.”

    In awarding the Collective a grant, Kauffman signaled that the group has the potential not only to transform the way St. Louis supports underrepresented entrepreneurs, but could also serve as a model for replication in similar regions across the country. “Entrepreneurship in America should be available to everyone, yet women and minorities continue to face more obstacles to starting businesses when it comes to accessing funding, education, mentors and markets,” said Victor Hwang, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “The Inclusion Challenge grants will enable these outstanding support organizations to expand their services to empower more entrepreneurs and help them succeed. The nation and our economy as a whole will benefit from more entrepreneurs generating income and wealth in traditionally underserved markets.”

    The importance of racial equity in policy, program design, and resource allocation – as a step beyond diversity and inclusion – became the focus of the Ferguson Commission report after the unrest in Ferguson in August 2014.   The Collective is working to purposefully align its work with the report and organizations working to apply a racial equity lens in other areas of the community.  This alignment provides a framework that can be used to advance gender equity and address other identity-based inequities that may exist.  The Kauffman grant will help the Collective gather regional baseline data and build ongoing tracking systems, receive individual anti-bias training for ESOs, complete a needs assessment and pilot new activities.  

    Initial members of the Collective that have committed to a more intentional and rigorous process of building an equitable entrepreneurship ecosystem are (in alphabetical order): Arch Grants – BioSTL – Center for Emerging Technologies (CET) – Cortex – IT Entrepreneurship Network (ITEN) – Missouri Small Business Development Center – Prosper Women’s Entrepreneurs – St. Louis Economic Development Partnership – St. Louis Makes – St. Louis Regional Chamber – T-Rex – Venture Café.  The Collective membership is expected to broaden and, over the course of the work, members will engage a wide range of partners working to build a robust entrepreneur start-up community in St. Louis.

  • St. Louis Regional Chamber and Regions Bank Form Partnership to Bring Harvard-Based Business Education Program to St. Louis

    Jun 03, 2016

    The St. Louis Regional Chamber has partnered with Regions Bank and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) to launch the Inner City Capital Connections Program (ICCC).  Launched in 2005 to help inner city business owners overcome the challenges of small business development, the program positions small businesses for immediate and long term growth through executive education, personalized business coaching, networking and access to growth capital.

    The brainchild of world-renowned Harvard business professor Dr. Michael Porter, ICCC is a highly selective, Harvard-based business education program. Since its beginning ICCC has helped 837 different businesses raise over $1.32 billion in capital and create over 11,000 jobs in inner cities. On average, 68% of participating businesses are minority owned and 37% are women owned.

    ICCC is cost-free and geared toward businesses that are growth oriented and have a presence in urban or economically underserved areas. The program is divided into four parts and amounts to roughly 40 hours of learning for local entrepreneurs. These stages are conducted in-person and online with small business bankers acting as coaches for each business owner. To qualify, a business must have at least $2 million in annual revenues, however, an entrepreneur can forego the annual revenue requirement by being nominated by another person or business.

    Individuals and businesses are encouraged to nominate local entrepreneurs that they feel would benefit from this incredible program. Nominations may be submitted here and will be accepted until July 1st. For businesses who wish to apply themselves, applications may be submitted here. The program will begin September 29th at Washington University and is free of charge to all those attending.

    For more information on ICCC and its launch, please see the news coverage here or here, or by visiting the ICCC website.

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