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Initiative Foundation, Entrepreneur Fund receive grants

The Small Business Administration grants will help provide technical assistance to low-income entrepreneurs.

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Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

The Entrepreneur Fund and Initiative Foundation will each receive a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide direct technical assistance to low-income entrepreneurs.

The funds will help entrepreneurs get financing to establish and expand their small businesses through the Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs, more commonly known as PRIME.

With its award of $200,000, the Initiative Foundation, based in Little Falls, will support the Enterprise Academy in St. Cloud and expand the program into Brainerd and the Mille Lacs Reservation.

The Enterprise Academy program is a 12-week, cohort-based entrepreneurial development course for disadvantaged entrepreneurs and was successfully piloted in St. Cloud in 2018. It offers a customized training curriculum and coaching support, with the ultimate goal of preparing participants to access small business financing from either the Initiative Foundation or another lender.

The Entrepreneur Fund, which serves northeast and central Minnesota, along with northwest Wisconsin, will use its $200,000 award to target services to minority, women and low-income microentrepreneurs to provide extensive services including traditional 1:1 consultations and technical assistance, along with new virtual services including online learning platforms, virtual networking opportunities and virtual classroom settings for business classes/programs. This will extend the reach of services to rural areas and support a transitioning culture around social distancing needs.

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“The Biden-Harris Administration and Congress have worked together tirelessly to ensure our nation's small businesses have the resources they need to survive this pandemic and build back better,” stated Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman in a news release. “This year, SBA focused our PRIME grant selection process on our nonprofit partners who can best bring federal resources to life, especially in the regions and communities where they are needed most. I look forward to partnering with these organizations as they help us connect America’s entrepreneurs with the capital they need to start and grow their enterprises.”

For 2021, the Small Business Administration placed special emphasis on projects designed to offer training and technical assistance to strengthen economically disadvantaged businesses, particularly those projects serving entrepreneurs in opportunity zones, rural areas and historically underutilized business zones. This year’s 27 grant recipients represent 17 states and the District of Columbia.

“It’s great to see this competitive federal funding coming to support low-income, BIPOC & Native entrepreneurs, and in some rural areas of Minnesota,” stated Small Business Administration Minnesota District Director Brian McDonald in the release. “The Entrepreneur Fund and Initiative Foundation are well positioned to help those seeking to achieve their small business dreams.”

This year, more than 100 organizations applied for Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs grants, which range from $75,000 to $250,000, and typically require at least 50% in matching funds or in-kind contributions. The grant was created by Congress as part of the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs Act of 1999. Grant funds will be made available on Sept. 30, and the project period for each grant is one year.

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