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How Philanthropy Is Bolstering the Region's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

The Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth has announced its second round of grant funding, with $317,500 awarded to 9 local organizations critical to building a strong and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. This includes programming that starts early, helping area public school students learn and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset through mentors, career exploration, business planning and pitch contests. Other grants will help to expand resources for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs including access to capital and technical assistance.

Beyond funding, the Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth has experienced success in helping to cultivate new and deeper connections between many of the organizations, particularly as they begin to view their work in the context of a larger system of opportunity. Nonprofits providing youth entrepreneurial programming met twice at the Community Foundation over the past year to share best practices and to learn more about each other’s programs. In several instances, they have expressed an intent to work together in 2023 and their desire to create pathways for inspired youth to continue to fuel their interest in entrepreneurship when moving from elementary to middle to high school. In the small business and entrepreneurial ecosystem space, organizations are diligently working in coordination to create a “resource hub” for small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs to find the types of support they need more easily.

The Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth was established by the Community Foundation through a seed gift of $500,000 and has attracted another $500,000 in donations from individual donors. While philanthropy typically has not had a significant role in supporting business and business owners, this fund was created to reverse that thinking.

“In just two grant cycles, we have been very impressed by the deep commitment and earnest engagement of our grantee partners working in the entrepreneurial space,” said Scott Blackwell, Chief Community Impact Officer at the Community Foundation. “Their combined reach, results, and drive to further strengthen the pipeline of support for the aspiring to the seasoned business owners further strengthens our belief that the Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth has great potential to provide a growing stream of opportunity for investment in economic empowerment and opportunity creation.”

See the latest grant recipients of the Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth:

Support and Resources for Local Small Businesses

Bridging Virginia: $75,000
To create a Small Business Capital Access Resource Hub at 1717 E. Main Street (where Start Up Virginia and Lighthouse Labs are located), in partnership with the Metropolitan Business League. This hub will provide a central space for small business owners to access capital and technical assistance.

Jackson Ward Collective Foundation: $30,000
To support a part-time program coordinator to help run the Community Business Academy, which is a program designed to bolster basic business skills of approximately 40 Black small businesses owners and would-be entrepreneurs who have not had access to this foundational level of business knowledge.

Entrepreneurial Programming for Youth

Boys & Girls Club of Metro Richmond: $25,000
To support entrepreneurial programming for 100 students over the course of the year, as well as a 6-week Summer Entrepreneurial Experience for 10 youth working alongside small business owners and participation in the Career and Business Exploration Project that engages an additional 400 youth.

Chesterfield Education Foundation/MADE Program at Meadowbrook High School: $25,000
To provide continued support for students enrolled in Chesterfield's MADE (Meadowbrook Academy for Developing Entrepreneurs) specialty center to participate in the VCU Entrepreneurship Academy. Students gain graduate student mentors, earn micro credential digital badges and a certificate, and pitch new business ideas in Shark Tank fashion to local judges.

Girls for a Change: $30,000
To support and expand the Immersion Lab program, which is an immersive entrepreneurial experience for Black high school girls and recent graduates that includes networking and business plan development and execution.

Metropolitan Business League (MBL) Foundation: $30,000
To support the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which is an after-school program from middle and high school students in Richmond and Petersburg Public Schools. The goal is to increase youth awareness and aspirations to explore self-employment as a potential lifetime career path.

NextUp RVA: $30,000
To pilot a program that combines a variety of entrepreneurial enrichment activities with financial literacy and business building training for 60 middle school students in the Richmond Public Schools.

YMCA of Greater Richmond: $42,500
To expand a program for 4th and 5th grade students in the Richmond Public School system designed to build an entrepreneurial mindset. All sessions are led by trained facilitators, and the program culminates in a showcase event where the students present their business ideas.

Diversifying and Strengthening the Local Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Start Up Virginia: $30,000
To offer scholarship access to the Entrepreneur Certificate Course through community partners including Metropolitan Business League (another grantee), Virginia Union University, Virginia Community Capital, as well as scholarships for under-represented entrepreneurs to attend the Idea Factory and Incubator programming.


To learn more or to give to the Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth, please visit New gifts will help to increase the number or size of grants awarded in the next grant cycle to be conducted in Fall 2023.

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