WHAT IS ELEVATE/ELEVAR?
The Elevate/Elevar Accelerator is a 6-month entrepreneurship development program for Black & Latinx entrepreneurs. Through the Accelerator, we support founders with curriculum, connections, community, and access to capital through grants. We also support founders with interest-free loans in partnership with Kiva and a founder-focused investment fund.
ELEVATE/ELEVAR ACCELERATOR TIMELINE
- 1/18 - 2/5: Applications open
- 2/12: All entrepreneurs notified if they made it to the next round
- 2/15-2/217: Semi-finalists' interviewed
- 2/19: Finalists announced
- 2/19 - 2/24: Community vote
- 2/26 - Cohort of ten entrepreneurs announced
- 3/2 & 3/4: Entrepreneur onboarding begins (additional dates in March tbd)
- 4/1: Accelerator & curriculum begins
Elevate/Elevar is a direct response to both need and opportunity. From 1983 to 2013, our nation’s median wealth decreased by nearly 20 percent. While White wealth increased during this period, Black and Latinx wealth decreased significantly. This has left our communities in states of extreme disinvestment, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. We can bridge the racial wealth gap by elevating Black and Latinx founders, who are too often overlooked and underestimated. Investment in their success is estimated to generate 1.1 million more businesses and 9 million more jobs. It would boost our national income by 300 billion dollars.
Elevate/Elevar Accelerator, as a Village Capital Community, is part of an international network that supports ready-to-scale companies. Our program offers St. Louis-based founders:
Cohort learning — Investment readiness curriculum with proven track record of 91% survival rate, 8.6x more investments raised, 43% more revenue generated and 43% more jobs created than non-cohort companies. (Our 2020 cohort increased monthly sales more than 300% during the Accelerator.)
1:1 Coaching — Bi-monthly 1:1s with customer growth and acquisition business coach, monthly customizable workshops and office hours with legal, human resources, technology, accounting and marketing professionals based on cohort needs, and an advisory board of mentors
In-kind professional services — Branding & marketing services from a top agency in St. Louis, paid accountant and Quickbooks account for duration of the program with potential for discounted services after
Access to capital — $5,000 in equity-free grants, customer acquisition stipend to pilot and test SEO and ads, and forums and meet-ups with 20+ lenders, non-traditional funders and investors, venture capitalists
- Support for you as a human — Therapist / wellness coaches to ensure emotional and mental wellness needs are met
The community vote is a process that allows us to follow the lead of Black communities who have experienced generations of economic disinvestment. It allows us to activate community power, create space for community voice, and gives the communities we serve an opportunity to help us select what businesses do, or do not, work with our communities.
We are especially hoping to hear from residents in wards 3 and 21. Type in your address here to check what ward you live in: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/aldermen/Wards-1-28.cfm. The Community Vote will be held from 2/22-2/25. You will be able to vote via our website by clicking the “Vote” button at the top of our website.
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 Elevate/Elevar.
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]
MEET THE MEMBERS OF THE 2020 ELEVATE/ELEVAR COHORT
Eemerg allows users to pick the nearest available roadside assistance service provider with a budget in mind. The Eemerge platform connects users directly with those who are available and qualified to assist the user in real time.
Shine In All Shades Adult Coloring Book Series + workshops addresses self care & the issue of colorism via hand drawn illustrations paired with positive affirmations - which help cultivate safe & fun spaces for our communities to shine unapologetically!
Apiary @ The Park is a cultural Co-working space for creative entrepreneurs, freelancers, as well as new and established small businesses.
Heru transforms food desert areas into healthy and sustainable environments by acquiring and revitalizing land to provide quality organic foods and herbal goods and donates some produce to elderly and single parents.
Winnie Caldwell & Sidney Keys III
Books N Bros is a youth-led book club for boys, which is a subscription-based program to advocate for African American literacy.
Designs, engineers and fabricates custom furnishings and interiors, using ethically sourced materials, with the aid of automated technology.
Original Family Smoke House is a Plant-Based food company that provides 100% vegan comfort classic meals.
Dimensions is a mobile game designed to introduce college students & transplants to their new city and to foster community engagement through augmented reality experiences with longer-term residents and organizations.
Butter Love provides all natural skin care products that help to heal, soothe and moisturize the masses.
Tiffany Elise Wesley
Pure Vibes is a worker-owned company that creates essential wellness products, including artisan-made soaps and aromatherapy products, that elevate our customers and communities.