Breaking Barriers and Igniting Change Through Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has long been recognized as a vital pathway to economic stability, social mobility and wealth creation. However, underrepresented entrepreneurs – especially outside of high-density population areas – often face barriers that hinder their full participation in business ownership and growth.

From access to capital, to digital connectivity, inequities persist within America’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The next era of entrepreneurship demands a concerted effort to level the playing field and expand participation. Recognizing the need for inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) has embraced an innovative approach to support founders in Georgia at the intersection of research, funding and social networks – components that form the bedrock of successful startups and scalable enterprises.

PIN has a dynamic, inclusive entrepreneurship program designed to empower innovators, entrepreneurs, non-profits and hybrid organizations with projects that generate scalable social impacts and sustainable economic opportunities. Supported projects receive comprehensive assistance, ranging from project funding and program management to marketing and promotion, all while fostering connections with current and former project alumni. In addition to technical assistance, funded participates provides invaluable joint learning and networking opportunities.

What sets our program apart is its holistic approach to entrepreneurship that leverages innovation and technology to create economic opportunities while also making a positive impact on communities. In addition to substantial financial grants, it intentionally prioritizes the investment of social capital in its projects, helping develop and position entrepreneurs as subject matter experts and innovation leaders.

To date, the program has awarded a total of nine grants, including the latest additions. As the program embarks on its fifth cohort, the impact of past initiatives is already evident:

  • Projects have secured an impressive $12.1 million in additional funding, with $3.4 million raised directly by the entrepreneurs themselves.
  • Over 1,110 Georgians have directly benefited from projects implemented across ten economic development districts.
  • The projects have focused on a variety of critical areas from pediatric healthcare access to AgTech advancements and smart tech solutions for underserved populations.

This year, three groundbreaking projects were competitively selected to receive funding:

  1. Georgia Foundation for Agriculture (GFA): Leveraging virtual smart environments, GFA aims to enhance students’ understanding of STEM and AgTech developments through a state-approved AgTech curriculum. Through a partnership with STEMuli and Georgia Farm Bureau, the goal is to ignite students’ interest in farming by providing experiential learning while also offering support to teachers. Within this educational metaverse, students will experience AI-powered, game-based learning opportunities, and will learn how to grow food, invest profits, and develop sustainable ag businesses.
  2. Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneurship Experience (FLEX): Realizing a need to provide a pathway for small business creation in an economically challenged community, the Fitzgerald High School College and Career Academy, Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce and Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County Development Authority came together to create FLEX. The initiative aims to provide an inclusive platform for educating students from diverse backgrounds on the rewards, sacrifices and processes of small business ownership in the hopes that they will be able to foster sustainable ventures beyond graduation.
  3. Small Bites Adventure Club: Small Bites Adventure Club harnesses the power of experiential learning through a digital platform, empowering teachers to provide nutrition education with bite-sized professional development and instructional videos for early learners. The goal is to connect children with healthy food habits, life skills and academic advantages, ensuring every child in Georgia has the opportunity to experience the joys of cooking with fresh, nutritious ingredients.

“We are so grateful to PIN for investing in Small Bites Adventure Club’s vision to scale and offer high quality food and nutrition education to childcare programs across Georgia.” shared Erin Croom, Co-Founder and CEO of Small Bites Adventure Club. “At a time when America’s healthcare costs are soaring and health is declining, this grant represents a significant investment to reverse that trend through prevention-based programming.”   

Building an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem is a complex and ongoing endeavor. It requires dedication, collaboration and a long-term commitment to dismantling barriers and fostering a culture of opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of their backgrounds, geographical location or circumstances. The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation serves as a catalyst for change, driving the transformation of Georgia’s entrepreneurial landscape. By investing in these visionary projects, we recognize the power of entrepreneurship to not only create economic prosperity but also address societal challenges and drive sustainable social change.

 

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation

Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity and shared economic success. The Partnership’s focus pillars of community research, workforce development, student engagement and economic opportunity are a powerful combination that provides technical and financial support to open innovation through collaboration. Since 2020, the Partnership’s work has deployed over $3M in capital and resources throughout the State and catalyzed 30+projects with local governments, universities, start-ups and nonprofits. The projects have created new businesses, increased access to financial and social capital, and deployed more than 170 technologies.

More information is available at www.pingeorgia.org.

About The Author: Debra Lam is the Founding Executive Director at the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation

Want to read Debra’s previous articles? Here are the links: 

The challenge of equitable mobility – March 2023 

How can we connect communities and bridge the digital divide? – February 2023 

How Georgia AgTech is leading the way – January 2023