The last two years have been challenging for small business owners, particularly underrepresented founders who typically don’t have the same opportunities to access the capital, curriculum and connections that drive expansion and profitable growth.
A number of programs have emerged to offer funds and education to these founders, from government and the banking industry as well as the private sector and nonprofits.
The national nonprofit Founders First, which brings resources to revenue-generating companies led by diverse founders, offers a series of grant programs that combine cash awards combined with full tuition scholarships to its business accelerators.
The 2022 Job Creators Quest Grant provides $100,000 distributed over 30 small business owners with cash awards from $1,500 to $10,000. More importantly, grant recipients receive a full tuition scholarship to a Founders First accelerator program to increase their revenues and drive profitable growth.
The current Job Creators Quest Grant is open for the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and companies can pre-register for other regions including Texas, Southern California and Illinois.
Eligible companies are located in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, have a current staff between two and 20 people, and make revenue off a service-based business, with an annual revenue between $100,000 and $3 million. The companies must be founded by an entrepreneur who identifies as a person of color, woman, LGBTQIA+ or military veteran, or are located in a low-to-moderate income area. They also must be looking to hire one to two new employees in the next year.
One of the unique benefits of the Job Creators Quest Grant is the scholarship to an accelerator. Founders First offers three pre-funding programs that focus on teaching and guidance, putting small businesses on a path to funding, job growth and profit acceleration: Challenge, Bootcamp and FastPath.
Participants are grouped by revenue so founders can focus on the growth issues that confront business owners at different stages of expansion. Challenge is for companies at $50,000 to $250,000 in annual revenue, Bootcamp for companies $250,000 to $1 million, and FastPath for companies generating above $1 million.
Focus areas include adding recurring revenue streams, adopting new technology to create greater operational efficiencies, and transitioning from individual contributor to leader as the company grows and adds team members. In addition, there is an emphasis on becoming funding ready so that diverse entrepreneurs can access the capital needed to create and capitalize on growth opportunities. Founders receive assistance to create or improve their pitch deck, and every program culminates in a live pitch event.
The results are impressive. Of the companies that have graduated from Founders First accelerator programs, 69% have increased their revenues by an average of 435%, 475 jobs have been created, 61% have added new revenue streams and 53% have gone on to receive funding post-graduation — an estimated total of $38 million in growth capital.
Grants are a great way for small businesses to receive cash without any payback requirement. Simply complete the application and attach or upload any requested documentation. Typically, there is a review process to select semi-finalists, and then a formal judging period to select grant recipients. The entire process can take 60 to 90 days.
Founders First currently offers six grant programs a year including two national grants — Kitty Fund for Mom-Preneurs and Stephen L. Tadlock Fund for Veterans — as well as regional Job Creators Quest Grants for Pennsylvania/New Jersey, Texas, Southern California and Illinois. You can pre-register for grants and receive an alert when each grant program goes live.
Interested in applying for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey grant fund and accelerator? You can do so through June 13:
About Founders First CDC
Founders First CDC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) founded in 2015 to empower diverse founder-led, revenue-generating small businesses through accelerator programs. By building recurring revenues, tech-enablement, and essential solution focus, Founders First serves as a catalyst for positive change to entrepreneurs of color and female founders to become leading employers in their communities.