Initiators Fellowship search for Greater Minnesota social entrepreneurs

Opportunity provides entrepreneurs with a pathway to accelerate their enterprise for good in Greater Minnesota.

Jon Friesner in front of his business in Emily.
Jon Friesner, founder and owner of Emily-based GroShed, is a member of the 2020-2021 Initiators Fellowship cohort of graduates.
Contributed / Initiative Foundation

LITTLE FALLS — The Initiators Fellowship is recruiting for its 2024-2025 cohort.

Launched by the Initiative Foundation in partnership with three other Minnesota Initiative Foundations, the two-year fellowship provides a suite of support to help emerging social entrepreneurs develop their ventures in rural Minnesota.

Current and aspiring business owners whose enterprise is designed to create positive community or environmental impact and who reside and operate in the 53 counties and six tribal nations of the Initiative Foundation , Northwest Minnesota Foundation , Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative are eligible to apply. Learn more, contact program staff for a conversation and take the eligibility quiz at . The formal application will be open from May 1 to June 15.

The Initiators Fellowship provides the next generation of rural leaders the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial spirit to create change while building their business and personal leadership capacity. The program provides wrap-around training and mentoring — plus $30,000 annually for two years — to support fellows and their business or nonprofit social enterprise ideas to improve Greater Minnesota communities.

"If you are committed to revitalizing Greater Minnesota with a business whose mission goes deep to address social or environmental change, then this is an opportunity to accelerate your growth and the success of your venture,” said Christine Metzo, Initiators Fellowship program manager, in a news release.


Jon Friesner, founder and owner of Emily-based GroShed and a member of the 2020-2021 Initiators Fellowship cohort of graduates, applauded the program for linking him to a network of people who cared about him and supported his big idea of year-round hydroponic agriculture to support communities, schools and food deserts.

“Suddenly, a bunch of people knew we existed, and that was incredibly helpful to kick us off and gain some ground,” he said. “So much of owning a business is about who you know. The Initiative Foundation and its partners seem to have a bottomless well of people they know. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

To view the Initiators Fellowship program requirements, visit .

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