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Accelerator seeking applications from businesswomen, owners of color

Kauffman Foundation awards $300,000 to program

The Greater St. Louis Inc. Diverse Business Accelerator is now accepting applications for its Fall 2021 cohort and for the first time ever, all entrepreneurs who complete the program will immediately receive $5,000 in capital.

Additionally, the $1,000 tuition fee is being waived. DBA is a 12-week hands-on interactive program for racially, ethnically and gender-diverse entrepreneurs looking to grow their business. Program participants learn how to develop actionable business expansion goals, market and communicate their services, make meaningful business connections, and identify the capital and resources they need to support growth.

“Starting this Fall, we will have a Capital Access Pool that will not only give all entrepreneurs who complete our program immediate capital, but also up to $15,000 in follow on capital in 2022,” says Valerie Patton, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for Greater St. Louis, Inc. and President of the Greater St. Louis Foundation. “Access to capital is often a barrier to growth for many small business owners of color and women.”

The creation of the Capital Access Pool, along with the tuition waiver, is made possible thanks to an Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation grant. Foundation officials recently extended their initial one-year grant to DBA for another three years (2022-2024) and gave the program $300,000. The extension allows DBA officials to add more coaches and subject matter experts around legal, marketing and accounting, and to accept more applicants. “This is the first time the Kauffman Foundation has extended a grant to an organization without having them re-apply,” says Patton. “The Foundation’s support is testament to the quality of our program.”

In its third year, DBA has graduated 30 entrepreneurs. Bryon Pierson, founder and CEO of EDUrain, which is a platform that helps students make college financially accessible, is a 2019 DBA graduate. He says the program provided access to bankers, attorneys and accountants, professionals whose services he otherwise would not have been able to afford. DBA also helped Pierson craft his pitch and get real-time feedback. “Thanks to DBA, I was able to craft a pitch that led to me raising over $70,000 and adding nine employees,” says Pierson.

Ninety percent of DBA graduates who have been surveyed about the program say it significantly increased their business knowledge on topics important to growth. Kayla Dennis, a 2019 DBA graduate and president of U. S. Essential Services LLC, which offers onsite specific, predictive and preventative maintenance services to heavy and large fleet, says the networking and developing new skill sets such as social media, was particularly helpful to her. “DBA teaches you to work on your business, instead of in your business,” says Dennis.

The Fall 2021 cohort will start September 8, 2021 and meet every Wednesday morning for three hours through Nov. 17, 2021. It will conclude with the Final Pitch in which participants will present their business to a panel of regional stakeholders for the opportunity to win $25,000 in equity-free capital to invest in their business growth plan.

Greater St. Louis Inc. is currently accepting applications here. To be considered, applicants must have revenue of $500,000 or more, have a business growth plan that demonstrates the business’ capacity to increase revenue and hire employees within two-five years and be headquartered in the 15-county, bi-state region. For more information, contact DBA Director Lakesha Mathis at 314-444-1165 or

The deadline to apply for the Diversity Business Accelerator is Friday, Aug. 27, 2021.

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