MARCH 30, 2021
2021 WEPOWER Accelerator Cohort
Welcome Our Second Cohort of WEPOWER Accelerator Entrepreneurs!
We are thrilled to announce the members of our newest WEPOWER Accelerator Cohort! After receiving 100+ applications, interviewing nearly 40 semi-finalists and inviting 21 finalists to be considered by 1,600+ St. Louisans who participated in the community vote, we have selected 10 Black and Latinx St. Louis proud and boldly ambitious entrepreneurs.
They are leading companies committed to growth – the growth of their own families’ economic well-being, the growth of jobs and the economy of neighborhoods experiencing systemic disinvestment and the growth of an environmentally sustainable St. Louis where Black and Latinx folks are healthy and wealthy. WEPOWER is grateful we have the opportunity to continue to grow our community of entrepreneurs. Together, we will create new vehicles for community-owned wealth, quality jobs and livable wages that will make the St. Louis economy work for everyone, not a few.
The WEPOWER Accelerator provides Black and Latinx business owners in St. Louis with the opportunity to learn investment readiness business skills. Thanks to the partnership of Kiva and a founder-focused investment fund, our entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to receive interest-free loans.
WEPOWER designed the WEPOWER Accelerator to spark job creation and create economic opportunities in St. Louis. From 1983 to 2013, the United States’ median wealth decreased by nearly 20 percent with Black and Latinx wealth decreasing significantly. As a Village Capital Community, WEPOWER Accelerator celebrates and builds power with our bold Black and Latinx entrepreneurs through funding, training and community support. Bridging the gap to spark economic opportunity and wealth building in low-wealth communities in the St. Louis area, we provide these entrepreneurs with tools and skills they need to take their companies to the next level.
This cohort has the opportunity to collaborate with and support one another as they grow in their entrepreneurial skills and disrupt expectations for doing business and making St. Louis proud! These talented leaders will receive professional coaching from legal, marketing and tech experts, branding and marketing services, access to grant capital and potential funders as well as emotional and wellness support.
Meet the entrepreneurs and learn more about what inspired them to start their businesses:
Jessica Black owns Jessie B’s Academy which is an early learning center for all children, including those with special needs. She hopes to open more academy locations throughout the St. Louis area to provide quality daycare to kids and parents in the community she considers to be family. Jessica was inspired to start Jessie B’s after the experiences she faced growing up with a learning disability and wanting to nurture St. Louis’s next generation of doctors and lawyers.
Melissa Douglass owns Goal Driven Counseling which is a multi-state, virtual, mental health counseling group. In five years, she hopes GDC becomes a nationally licensed model to further destigmatize mental healthcare and decrease barriers while increasing access to Black, inclusive and culturally responsive providers. Melissa decided to follow her heart and start GDC to modernize therapy and make it more comfortable for minority communities to embrace their mental health journeys.
Patrick Clapp owns Coffeestamp, a local coffee shop that uses ethically sourced coffee from Honduras. He hopes to open two more locations in the next 5 years, while having a lasting impact on supporting a self-sustaining coffee bean farm in Honduras. Patrick decided to start Coffeestamp to create economic opportunity in his home country of Honduras and in his new home city of St. Louis with a commitment to environmental sustainability.
Rachel Burns owns Bold Spoon Creamery, which makes small batch premium ice cream with fresh and local ingredients. Rachel dreams of growing Bold Spoon to have a staff to execute events, help with production and collaborate with local farmers to source ingredients; while continuing to promote STEM education through the science of ice cream making and entrepreneurship. Stemming from making mint ice cream as a hobby using mint from her backyard, Rachel decided to begin Bold Spoon when ice cream making turned into a passion.
Estie Cruz-Curoe owns del Carmen which is a local vegan-certified manufacturer of frozen fresh black beans and sauces. She envisions del Carmen becoming a leader in the natural and healthy specialty food space with an emphasis on community involvement and sustainable crops. As a proud Cuban-American, Estie decided to start del Carmen when she saw the absence of authentic Cuban food in the midwest.
Shamel Robinson owns Sonder Lush Nail Studio which is a nail care salon that uses chemical and acrylic free products. In five years, she hopes to effect legislative change in the nail industry and dreams of Sonder Lush becoming the go-to destination for clean beauty needs, equipped with a mobile nail salon truck and a medical spa. After being dissatisfied with the selection of nail shops in her community, Shamel decided to open Sonder Lush to build a culture of consciousness and wellness with local service and product options.
Reginald Jennings owns Rooterman which is a locally-owned full service sewer and drain cleaning company. He dreams of providing his employees with a starting salary of $60,000 to better to support themselves and their families. Reginald decided to open Rooterman after seeing the lack of representation in the plumbing field and wanting to give his son a brighter future.
Jaquan Vassel owns Vassel’s Comfort Shoes & Custom Insoles which develops custom- fitted diabetic shoes and insoles. He hopes his business sets the expectation for other shoe providers to become properly trained in handling foot conditions to ensure quality service for all customers. He was moved to start Vassel’s when he saw too many people in his community that needed care being taken advantage of and wanted to support their health and comfort.
Tiffany Jones owns Cheryl’s Herbs Group which provides handmade custom blend herbs and essential oils. She hopes to increase accessibility to aromatherapy and herbs as plant medicine for people across the country and hopes through education, customers can help their friends and family understand and trust the products they use. Tiffany became the owner of Cheryl’s to honor the legacy of her mother by helping others who need alternative forms of healthcare.
Chantelle Nickson-Clark owns A&C's Wine Boutique which is a Wine boutique with exclusive wines, beers, and more. She wants to be able to gainfully employ those within our community, add a second location, and mentor other budding business owners with the valuable information learned from WEPOWER Accelerator.
And how is our last cohort doing?
Seeing the incredible success and impact of our inaugural cohort has been rewarding and energized us to continue this work. The first cohort saw an average increase of 3.5x in their monthly revenue following the completion of the program. They’ve also retained 100 percent of their team members and accessed a total of $400,000 in seed capital! Supporting accomplished Black and Latinx entrepreneurs from within our own community to thrive is at the heart of WEPOWER, and we can’t wait to see the amazing work that the cohort undertakes in 2021.
As always, thank you for your continued support. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can support these talented community members through investment, mentorship or would like to become a guest expert for a workshop, please email [email protected].