Business mentoring available for BIPOC and underserved entrepreneurs

Published 11:47 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

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Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is recruiting businesses to join the Prosperity Initiative program. This program is open to entrepreneurs in SMIF’s 20-county region who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC), and underserved individuals.

Entrepreneurs at any stage in their business planning process are encouraged to apply. Those who are in the ideation phase will start the process by participating in CO.STARTERS, a 10-week long, cohort-based opportunity that equips entrepreneurs with the fundamental tools to turn business ideas into action. Topics will range from the development of a business plan to how to pitch your business to investors. SMIF partners with Collider to provide this unique offering.

Entrepreneurs that complete CO.STARTERS, or those who already have an established business plan, will then meet regularly with a business strategist to set intentional goals to scale growth. A personalized plan of action will be developed, and entrepreneurs will be trained on a variety of advanced business skills including QuickBooks management, marketing and financial planning.

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“We are excited to offer a wider variety of entry points for underserved entrepreneurs to begin the Prosperity Initiative journey,” said Pam Bishop, vice president of economic development. “Whether you are someone with an established business, or someone with an idea, this program can help turn dreams into reality.”

The Prosperity Initiative is supported, in part, by the state of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Partners serving on the advisory committee include Community Economic Development Associates (CEDA), Region Nine Development Commission, Merchants Bank – Winona, Minnesota Council of Churches – Tapestry Project and Otto Media Group. More than 80 clients have graduated from the Prosperity Initiative since its launch in 2016.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, however, to join a cohort of entrepreneurs, applications must be submitted by March 20 for an April 11 start date. A second cohort will open for applications in late August. While business coaching is offered for free for those with established business plans, there are a limited number of free seats available for the CO.STARTERS portion of the program.

To learn more, and to apply, visit Contact Kara Sorensen, SMIF’s business program specialist, at or 507-214-7025 with questions.