Inclusive Business Accelerators and Grants for Startups
A three-part series
This feature is the second in our three-part series “Startup Support for Entrepreneurs of Color: Inclusive Business Accelerators and Grants in and around the Innovation Quarter.” Read the first feature here and the third feature here.
In the Innovation Quarter, we strive to support, facilitate and amplify opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs and drive economic impact by advancing an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Yet, even with startup activity on the rise across all sectors—especially in healthtech—we know that entrepreneurs of color remain underrepresented when it comes to access and support—from securing capital to finding mentors and community and connecting with other women or minority venture capitalists.
So, what does it take for entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs to not only start a business but to thrive and grow as an owner and community member? Fueled intentionality.
Black and African American startup entrepreneurs received only a tiny fraction—1.2%—of the record $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups through the first half of 2021.
Bridging this gap, rooted in systemic, social, economic, and historical inequality and injustice, requires listening to and understanding the unique challenges entrepreneurs of color and women face to create solutions that best serve them.
Here’s how the Small Business Center at Forsyth Technical Community College, our partner in the Innovation Quarter, is working to reduce disparities by supporting entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs.
Accelerate at the
Small Business Center
Accelerating the goals of entrepreneurs by
connecting them to the entrepreneurial community
[accelerator [ak-sel-uh-rey-ter] noun. A startup or business accelerator is a program that gives developing companies access to mentorship, investors and other support that help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses.]
The Small Business Center at Forsyth Technical Community College helps entrepreneurs succeed by providing high-quality, readily accessible assistance to prospective and existing business owners.
Since 1984, SBC has supported small business owners by facilitating educational events like seminars, roundtables, and clinics, providing confidential one-on-one counseling and mentoring, and hosting networking opportunities that fuel connections to the resources and people that help entrepreneurs succeed.
Allan Younger, the director of the Small Business Center, believes in advocacy and impact. At the Small Business Center, he and his team are committed to “increasing business success” for their clients, and Younger’s personal philosophy of practicing “dangerous unselfishness” benefits the entire Winston-Salem community.
Younger is an active leader outside of the Small Business Center, which further drives the mission of SBC. He’s an organizer of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of Forsyth County, which facilitates several organizations to commit to enhancing entrepreneurship opportunities.
He teaches business and leadership classes to undergraduate students at Winston Salem State University, Salem College and Carolina Christian College.
He serves on the Executive Committee of the NC Black Entrepreneurship Council, which awards more than $500,000 in grants to support Black entrepreneurship throughout the state.
He owns GRACE Consulting, which provides business effectiveness consulting, leadership development, and community relations to several organizations.
Beyond that, he serves on the boards of several organizations that foster community-based leadership and revitalization, inclusive entrepreneurship, academic, racial, and economic equity, and social justice, including the SG Atkins Community Development Corporation, HUSTLE Winston-Salem, the Winston-Salem Foundation, the Selective Service System, and the Commission on College Brothers Affairs for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
His community advocacy work complements his desire to fix the inequities and systemic problems he recognizes in the entrepreneurial ecosystem—such as a lack of access to capital, the resources needed to start a new business, and the resources required to grow an existing business.
The country’s median white household is an estimated
7.8x wealthier than the typical Black household—
$188,200 vs. $24,100—and Black Americans hold
just 4% of the nation’s wealth.
At the Small Business Center, where he and his team listen to clients’ needs and build programs and services to respond to their needs, they discovered that local small business owners needed a program that pushes them harder than they can push themselves—all while helping to break down the systemic barriers that make it harder for entrepreneurs, especially people of color and women, to start a business or grow an existing one.
From there, Accelerate, a business accelerator that awards certificates rather than grants or funding, was launched. With an open, ongoing application, it is open to new and existing businesses and accepts new clients each month.
“More than 50 SBC clients have participated in Accelerate
since we started in February of this year. Although we don’t exclude anyone, most clients are Black and/or women. This program was designed to give them the resources and the confidence they need to be successful.”
This program aims to accelerate the goals of entrepreneurs by aligning and connecting them to Winston-Salem’s entrepreneurial community. Accelerate meets on multiple occasions throughout the month, often with guest speakers and special events like SHOWCASE, which gives participants the opportunity to highlight the value of their business.
The Small Business Development recently introduced a credential that will help recipients to distinguish themselves from their competition as well. It requires clients to complete at least Stage 1 of Accelerate to demonstrate they are serious about providing value to the market.
While more women founders are raising
funding for their companies than ever before,
Black and Latinx women founders still receive less
than 1% of venture capital funding.
To Allan Younger, this business accelerator is just another way to make sure small business owners succeed. When he considers the future of entrepreneurship for people of color and women, he hopes that more organizations will demonstrate their commitment to increasing access to capital, resources, and knowledge.
We hope they all look to Allan and the Small Business Center for guidance and inspiration.
Check out SBC monthly events or request mentorship at the Small Business Center at Forsyth Tech.