The Center For Economic Inclusion & Founders First CDC Announce 3rd Annual Vanguard Accelerator offering $750,000 in total awards for Latina and Black Women-Owned Businesses in the Twin Cities

Founders First CDC launches $100,000 Job Creators Quest Grant program to create and promote premium wage jobs to small businesses in underserved communities

Minneapolis, Minnesota – January 24, 2024 – The Center For Economic Inclusion, “The Center”, is offering a total of $700,00 in forgiveable loans and  $50,000 in unrestricted grant funding to 10 Latina and Black Women business owners in the Twin Cities region. Recipients will also receive a full-ride scholarship to attend the Founders First Business Accelerator Program, along with coaching supports and access to a quarterly peer cohort. The program application deadline is Wednesday, February 21, 2024. The program aims to rectify the historical inequities in access to capital by supporting the ability to scale and further contribute to the nation’s economy.

Even after a wave of DEI pledges from banks & corporations in 2020, according to McKinsey, for the 350 largest M&A transactions that closed in 2021, for example, none of the 118 investment firms serving as financial advisers or the 166 law firms serving as legal advisers were minority-owned. There is a lag between promises and progress but this program looks to move the needle.

“This program demonstrates that we can change the face of the economy to reflect the diversity of our communities. Now, our business owners can diversify their client base, their services, their capital streams and grow their workforce—so they can meet the supply chain needs of corporations in our economy,” says Tawanna Black, Founder and CEO of Center of Economic Inclusion.

Women- and minority-owned ventures only account for 2% of received venture capital—which is the fuel that drives growth. The Vanguard Accelerator acknowledges that most capital sources are not designed for the average diverse business owners and provides a methodology and framework tailored to this segment of entrepreneurs. “Recognizing the unique challenges faced by founders of color, the Vanguard Accelerator delivers a transformative approach that goes beyond conventional funding models. Our commitment is shared by regional partners who recognize the strategic investment in unlocking untapped potential and fostering innovation among diverse entrepreneurs.” says LeeAnn Rasachak, CEO of WomenVenture.

Founders First CDC Founder & Board Chair, Kim Folsom says, “What accelerates value creation? The conversation includes access to capital—but must go beyond it. Only 2.4% of Black-owned businesses are employer firms. Our partnership with The Center supports founders of color to have access to funding, the business ecosystem, and support to scale.”

2023 finalist Edna McKenzie, Founder, Midwest Select Contracting is a testament to this recipe for scaling success serving both personal, organizational, and economic growth, “I used my funds to purchase technology to train my employees. This gave me the runway to grow and hire more people and provide more benefits for my employees, such as retirement.”

Vanguard Accelerator Program Eligibility Requirements: 
To qualify, the founder must be a Latina and Black women business owner with an active business in a targeted growth sector, based in the Twin Cities, have annual revenues between $75,000 and $3 million, employ at least three full-time employees, a minimum of three years in business and operate B2B. 

Grant applications are accepted beginning January 24, 2024 at: 

Qualifying Applicants are eligible to receive one or more:

– Founders First CDC is offering $50,000 unrestricted grants in the form of $5,000 grants and a full ride scholarship into a business accelerator program to support and accelerate their business growth
– Center For Economic Inclusion is offering Forgivable Loans ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 to support growth, sustainability, and job creation.


Center for Economic Inclusion
The Center for Economic Inclusion, founded in 2017 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is the nation’s first organization dedicated exclusively to equipping public and private sector employers and policymakers to close racial employment, income and wealth gaps and catalyze inclusive economic growth. The Center is a think-and-do tank, an accelerator responsible for producing the business and government executives, and Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latino business owners who will transform regional economies into thriving, racially equitable ecosystems for everyone. The Center offers research, education, advocacy, job creation, and transformation consultancy services in services of its mission to educate, equip and influence 20,000 leaders, employers, and policymakers to take anti-racist actions to ensure that 3,000,000 people experience a racially just, inclusive, and economically vibrant economy by 2028. Learn more: 

Vanguard Accelerator and Vanguard Fund
The Center for Economic Inclusion’s Vanguard Accelerator and Vanguard Fund are fueled by a multi-sector collaboration to maximize wealth-building opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and Latina-owned businesses in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. Vanguard offers bank-ready businesses in high-growth industries proven tools and resources to scale, while also building racially inclusive and equitable corporate and government supply chains. The Vanguard Accelerator and Fund complement the diverse array of business development programs for start-ups, by intentionally arming Black and Brown business owners with the tools, financial and human capital necessary to scale those businesses and become job creators and wealth builders, by competing for and securing corporate and government contracts for revenue growth. Learn more:  

Founders First CDC
Founders First CDC is a nonprofit 501c3 that was founded in 2015 and has received significant support from the regional community reinvestment banks to empower diverse founder-led, revenue-generating small businesses through three primary programs: (1) Founders Challenge; (2) Founders Bootcamp; and (3) Founders FastPath. By building recurring revenues, tech enablement, and essential solution focus, Founders First is a catalyst for positive change for underserved entrepreneurs and founders to become leading employers in their communities. Since launching, Founders First CDC has awarded more than $620,000 to minority and underserved business owners throughout the United States, focusing on Texas, Chicago, Southern California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey regions. Through this partnership, Founders Frist CDC has officially expanded its impact offering to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Learn more: 


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