Two Michigan nonprofits have been jointly awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency.
Grand Rapids based business “incubator” Start Garden and Northern Initiatives, a northern Michigan community development financial institution based in Marquette are the recipients of the money intended to help underserved entrepreneurs throughout Michigan.
“We just want to knock down some hurdles,” said Elissa Sangalli, President of Northern Initiatives, which delivers loans and business services to small business owners in Northern Michigan. “Too many entrepreneurs are still being denied opportunities – for education, for capital, for growth. We’re opening the doors and continuing to deepen our impact around the state.”
Northern Initiatives and Start Garden have already launched their partnership, with the 10 finalists of this year’s Start Garden 100 automatically eligible for a $20,000 loan.
“Every year we are completely inspired by the hustle and dedication so many entrepreneurs bring to the 100 competition, but they don’t fall under traditional lending qualifications because they’re too early. Northern Initiatives has boldly stepped up to recognize their earning potential and match the money we’re giving away with their loan program,” said Darel Ross, co-director at Start Garden, which is in the business of helping entrepreneurs/startups with financial, intellectual and social capital.
The grant, which was announced by Vice President Kamala Harris, is part of the Commerce Department’s largest investment ever in underserved entrepreneurs. Northern Initiatives and Start Garden will use the funds to continue creating an innovative program that connects entrepreneurs to resources, assistance, and capital – from idea to launch and beyond. The project hopes to enroll 400 early-stage entrepreneurs over four years, with a goal of creating 300 businesses and 645 new jobs.
Northern Initiatives and Start Garden will host cohorts that work together on business planning, financial reporting, hiring practices, projections, and a multitude of other aspects of running a business. Local business professionals will work with the cohorts, and each entrepreneur will have an individual business coach for one-on-one mentoring. The partnership between a CDFI and an accelerator rounds out the entrepreneurial ecosystem in West Michigan.