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Initiators Fellowship Program

 The Initiators Fellowship 2017-18 cohort has been selected, and applications for future rounds are not  yet available. If you are interested in learning more about the Initiators Fellowship program, please this form or contact Jeff Wig, vice president for economic and organizational development, at (320) 631-2006 or by email at  jwig@ifound.org.

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The Initiative Foundation would like to thank the many generous partners who aided in the development and funding of the Initiators Fellowship program. Special thanks to Granite Equity Partners, founding supporter of this groundbreaking regional economic development and leadership initiative.
Emerging Leaders are well positioned for the Initiators Fellowship program.

Empowering Entrepreneurs to Make a Difference

The power of business enterprise to solve society’s biggest challenges is enormous for those with a big dream and even bigger passion and drive. Now, like never before, we need the next generation of leaders to help address critical issues in our region and beyond.

Are you a young professional or college student who is developing a business or social enterprise idea and you just need the right kind of boost to make a significant impact? Then we are looking for you.

The Initiators Fellowship Program is a big, bold strategy that provides the next generation of Central Minnesota change agents the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial spirit to address society’s needs while building the business and leadership foundation of our region.

A Brief Overview

  • A cohort of Fellows with strong social enterprise concepts are chosen each year.
  • An annual $30,000 stipend is paid each year for two years to cover living expenses so Fellows can focus on their ventures.
  • Fellows are typically between 18 and 40 years old and come from the Initiative Foundation’s 14-county region which includes 160 hometowns and two tribal nations.
  • The Initiative Foundation seeks strong diversity in Fellow candidates, but all applicants interested in building social benefit through business enterprise are encouraged to apply.
  • Fellows may also include established, skilled workers who need time to explore their entrepreneurial ideas.
  • Enterprises are generally in their first year or two of development and are evaluated based on innovation and the importance of the enterprise to the community and region.
  • Each Fellow receives education, customized technical training and mentor support in developing their business and individual development plan to support growing their concept into a successful enterprise.
  • As the program grows, Fellows will be supported by an alumni annual conference and a lifetime network of advocates, colleagues and friends.

Homegrown Heroes

Initiator Fellows are young people between the ages of 18 and 40. They are drawn from across Central Minnesota, including women, refugees, immigrants and people of color from the 160 hometowns and two tribal nations served by the Initiative Foundation.

Community Connections

Initiatives are generally in their early stage, within the first year or two of development,
and will not yet have an established revenue or customer base. Initiator Fellows and their
enterprises are selected to reflect the future of Central Minnesota and to represent the mission,
values and vision of the Initiative Foundation.

The business and social enterprise initiatives proposed by our Initiator Fellows are evaluated
based on ...

  • Their importance to the community.
  • The degree to which the idea is innovative.
  • The anticipated level of social, community or environmental impact.
  • The potential to be sustainable and profitable in the long term.

The ideas brought forth should have a meaningful and primary impact within Central Minnesota. A broader impact with state, national or global reach will, of course, be highly valued.

Why it Matters ...

Over the next two decades, the population of people over 65 in Central Minnesota will increase by nearly 50 percent. Replacing this key group and the leadership void it represents is critical. Their retirement will be compounded by the fact that nine of the 14 counties in our region have a negative net migration of individuals between the ages of 18 and 40.

We need to provide opportunities that encourage young people to stay, return or move to Central Minnesota to build new or expanding businesses with high social value.

We can further increase the number of entrepreneurs in our region by engaging our minority population that has increased by 77 percent in the last 10 years and is projected to increase by another 40 percent by 2025. Our future economic vitality depends on our ability to engage with our growing diversity.

The Initiators Fellowship provides the mentorship, training and support for young adults to strengthen Central Minnesota through their business enterprise and their leadership in our communities, region and beyond.

Helping Social Entrepreneurs Thrive in Central Minnesota

Imagine a Central Minnesota region that is abuzz with new businesses, innovative social enterprises, engaged youth and tons of fresh energy.

Not possible, you think? We beg to differ.

The Foundation’s Initiators Fellowship Program is a bold strategy to provide the next generation of Central Minnesota change agents the opportunity to use their passions and entrepreneurial spirit to develop ideas and businesses that will help build thriving communities.

We Need Your Help

The Initiators Program depends on community engagement and a strong commitment of resources—both time and money. Geared to 18- to 35-year-olds, we’ve set our goal at $1 million in seed money to deliver the envisioned results.

Giving opportunities:

  • Contribute to the Initiators Fellowship Program fund that will be used to award annual stipends to our Initiators Fellows.
  • Sponsor a Fellow for $30,000 a year for two years.

Help us grow the fund. Help us grow Central Minnesota. Help us as we work to help young social entrepreneurs succeed.

How It Works

The program supports a cohort of Fellows each year. Initiator Fellows receive a stipend of $30,000 per year for two years to cover living expenses so they can focus on their venture. They also receive technical assistance and mentor support as they develop their plan.

Empowering Socially Enterprising Individuals to Succeed

Were you one of those lucky individuals who had a professional mentor early in your career? That person who challenged and supported you to do your best? Have you always wanted to figure out a way to pay that forward?081415-Initiative-Foundation-0356-for-web.jpg

Here’s your chance.

The Initiative Foundation’s Initiators Program is a big, bold strategy that provides the next generation of Central Minnesota change agents the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial spirit to develop businesses that will help build thriving communities.

We need mentors from a variety of backgrounds—mentors who have a broad base of skill sets and life experiences yet all share a passion for making Central Minnesota the best place to live and work.

We Need You

As a Mentor, you will be asked to advocate, support and advise a specific Fellow with regular meetings and check-ins. You also will be expected to facilitate and encourage communication and collaboration with connections across the Initiative Foundation’s broad network.

Program Highlights

Here’s a brief overview of the program:

  • Up to eight Fellows are chosen each year.
  • An annual $30,000 stipend is paid for two years to cover living expenses so Fellows can focus on their social enterprise or business venture. 
  • Fellows typically are between 18 and 35 years old and come from the Initiative Foundation’s 14-county region that includes 160 hometowns and two tribal nations. 
  • The program aims to draw emerging leaders including women, refugees, immigrants and persons of color. 
  • Established, skilled workers who need time to explore their entrepreneurial ideas will also be encouraged to apply. 
  • Initiatives will be evaluated based on innovation, their importance to the community and the anticipated level of impact they may have in the region and beyond. Initiatives generally are in their early stage, within the first year or two of development.

As the program grows, Fellows will be supported by an alumni annual conference and a lifetime network of advocates, colleagues and friends.

2017-2018 Initiator Fellows Deckert, Greder, Ibrahim, Nystrom

Four Central Minnesotans have been named to the first cohort of the Initiators Fellowship program—a two-year initiative that surrounds emerging entrepreneurs with training, financial support and mentorship as they develop a business or social enterprise venture that contributes to thriving communities in Central Minnesota and beyond.

Powered by generous founding funder investments from Granite Equity Partners, an investment firm with a portfolio of companies that are rooted in Minnesota, the Initiators Fellowship program provides a $30,000 annual stipend for Fellows who are driven to make an economic, social and community impact in Central Minnesota.

The four fellows are:

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Annie Deckert
 Elk River 

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Rod Greder
Pine City 

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Hudda Ibrahim
St. Cloud 

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Quinn Nystrom
Baxter 


Annie Deckert 
will pursue the expansion of her economic development enterprise, the Decklan Group, to create affordable services for small and pre-startup businesses. 

Rod Greder will continue the development of a neurofeedback eyewear startup,
Awear Technologies, to help develop focused reading skills for youth with attention deficit disorders.
Greder’s startup was a 2016 MN Cup finalist.

Hudda Ibrahim will launch a new regional consultancy to help existing businesses attract and retain immigrant workers. Ibrahim’s enterprise also will support the St. Cloud Small Business Development Center as it works to serve new American entrepreneurs.

Quinn Nystrom will develop a national consultancy to promote patient perspectives for people with diabetes. Nystrom also will develop a nonprofit with a focus on education for diabetic children.

Read profiles of our Initiator Fellows in the 1st Quarter 2017 edition of IQ Magazine.

Connect:

Jeff Wig

Jeff Wig
Vice President for Economic 
& Organizational Development
jwig@ifound.org

(320) 631-2006

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Matt Varilek
President
mvarilek@ifound.org

(320) 631-2005

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