Heartland Forward of Bentonville said it was raising $4 million to expand its Community Growth Program and Toolkit to encourage entrepreneurship in 20 states in the heartland of the country.
Heartland Forward, a nonprofit organization, launched the program with partners Builders + Backers and Accenture and provided grants to 15 entrepreneurs in Tulsa and Oxford, Mississippi. A majority of the recipients were minorities and women. Heartland Forward said the goal is to provide $5,000 grants to as many as 1,000 recipients by 2023 to create community solutions.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship can be a gamechanger for a community, and the Community Growth Program and Toolkit is first-of-its-kind for social entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurs who may scale their business over time,” Heartland Forward CEO Ross DeVol said. “We believe the true differentiator is giving people the chance to experiment while being surrounded by mentors who are experienced entrepreneurs themselves, and in some cases investors. They want to see these aspiring entrepreneurs be successful as entrepreneurs whether with today’s idea or one in the future.”
The program will offer a $5,000 “Pebble fund” as well as mentorship, workshops and storytelling assistance from Builders + Backers, which was founded by early stage investor Donna Harris. Accenture will provide a data platform for the program.
“Great ideas, and people capable of building them, can be found, funded, and scaled in every community,” said Donna Harris, the CEO of Builders + Backers. “The key and the economic urgency is getting more people, in more places, to actually put their ideas into action. That’s the power of small experiments and the premise behind our entire program. For the same price as a single venture investment, we can unleash and fuel thousands of experiments, ensuring the best ideas rise to the top, no matter who has them, where they come from or what form they take."
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