Founders First CDC is Proud to Announce the Recipients of its Inaugural 2023 National Pride Fund for LGBTQIA+-Owned Businesses

The fund is supporting 25 LGBTQIA+ led businesses throughout the nation with unrestricted grants.

"The LGBTQIA+ entrepreneur community represents one of many underserved and under-resourced groups we aim to support."

Founders First CDC (Founders First), a national non-profit organization 501(c)(3) committed to bolstering the growth of diverse entrepreneur-led businesses, in collaboration with TurningPoint Executive Search, is thrilled to unveil the inaugural National PRIDE Fund. This fund is specifically designed to empower LGBTQIA+ -lead and owned small business owners across the United States.

The National PRIDE Fund extends a remarkable opportunity for eligible small businesses to secure one of 25 grants, for a total of $25,000 disbursed. Since 2015, Founders First CDC has proudly awarded over $640,000 to minority and underserved business owners nationwide, focusing primarily on regions such as Texas, Chicago, Southern California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Twin Cities. The National PRIDE Grant is one of three national grant funds currently offered by Founders First CDC.

Kim Folsom, Founder, Chairperson, and CEO of Founders First, said, "The LGBTQIA+ entrepreneur community represents one of many underserved and under-resourced groups we aim to support. Through our funding resources, small business grants, and business accelerators, we have created a platform that serves the needs of the small business community. We are grateful to have the support to highlight LGBTQIA+ business owners and the importance of creating an inclusive economy."

The 2023 Founders First CDC National Pride Fund grant finalists are:

  • Ana Ivkosic of Wattle Cafe 
  • Kathryn Smith of Walton Birch
  • Jusak Yang Bernhard of Wag Heaven Pet Supplies and Self-Serve Dog Wash 
  • Auston Matta of Two Bad Tourists 
  • Kevin Van Belois of The Fabulous Group, Inc. 
  • Nate Derby of Stakana 
  • Melissa Wallace of SIPPIN SNAX Gourmet Bar Snacks 
  • David Khalili of Rouse Relational Wellness 
  • Brian Miller of Restrained Whimsy 
  • Nadean Carson of Oya Construction, LLC 
  • Kelly Moffat of Kirrin Finch 
  • Nathan Brown of Kiona Technologies 
  • CJ Hockenbury of Impulse Music Co. 
  • Jules Dameron of Hypernovas Productions LLC 
  • Phillip Collins of Good Black Art 
  • Kevyn Lee-Wellington of Fluffy’s Sno-Balls 
  • Anna DeShawn of E3 Radio 
  • Ruben Sanchez of DoMi Real Estate Advisors, Inc. 
  • Nile Livingston of Creative Repute, LLC
  • Christopher DeSantis-Mallia of Creative Happens Events, LLC 
  • Robert Powers of College Torch 
  • Keith Liao of Cayuga Climbs 
  • Dov Sims of California Rose Catering 
  • Natasha Holmes of And Still We Rise 
  • Natasia Hanratty of 196 Productions Inc.

“Small businesses and entrepreneurship within the LGBTQ+ community have always been near and dear to my heart. In addition, this is where some of the best new ideas have come from when it comes to LGBTQ+ business development. When I first learned of Founders First CDC and their embrace of our community with their PRIDE Grant, I wanted to be a part of this in any way I could,” said Ken Schmitt, CEO and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search.

"Small business owners face the brunt of rising living costs, inflationary pressures, and the challenges associated with providing quality goods and services to their customers," said Shaylon Scott, Executive Director of Founders First CDC. "This year, we are ecstatic to present our first-ever National PRIDE grant. At Founders First, our mission centers on the needs of diverse communities. LGBTQ+-owned small enterprises play a vital role in fostering a thriving LGBTQ+ community, inclusive growth, and local employment opportunities. “

Grants of this nature, specifically targeting the LGBTQIA+ community, are imperative. As per the Federal Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS), LGBTQIA+ businesses that were denied financing were more likely to attribute their denial to weak sales (35% vs. 26%) compared to non-LGBTQ businesses. They also highlighted that lenders were reluctant to approve funding for “businesses like theirs” (33% vs. 24%) and cited a lack of documentation as a contributing factor to their rejection (15% vs. 6%). Additionally, according to the survey, 85% of LGBTQIA+ firms reported a negative impact on their business due to the pandemic, in contrast to only 76% of non-LGBTQ+ firms.

Registration for the grant commenced on May 6, 2023, and concluded on June 6, 2023. To qualify, the company's founder must self-identify as LGBTQIA+, operate an active U.S.-based business, hold the positions of CEO, President or owner, and employ a staff ranging from 2 to 50 individuals. Furthermore, the annual business revenue should not exceed $5 million.

For additional information and pre-registration for 2024, visit


About Founders First CDC

Founders First CDC is a non-profit 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. Learn more at

About TurningPoint Executive Search

Businesses rely on TurningPoint to hire top-notch, ethical, and thoroughly screened professionals in a timely manner and at a fair price. Our executive search firm provides a personalized and collaborative approach to executive recruiting, delivering more than just a simple resume or bio. Our process leverages in-depth research, direct recruiting, and comprehensive in-person screening to produce a well-rounded slate of candidates for each search. We source and present candidates with the technical skills, business acumen, and communication style that will impact our client’s top and bottom lines. Our clients expect this type of engagement from their executive recruitment partner.

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