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Four Rising Entrepreneurs Named Initiators Fellows

December 21, 2016


From a consultancy service for new Americans to a neurofeedback solution for attention-challenged youths, the first cohort of Initiators Fellowship participants aims to make an impact on the economy, communities and leadership of Central Minnesota

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 the Initiators Fellowship Endowment, 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 creation and launch of the Initiators Fellowship has been a long-time vision of outgoing Initiative Foundation President Kathy Gaalswyk, our board and our many regional partners who have shared their insights and their generosity," said Larry Korf, chair of the Foundation's Board of Trustees. "We're vested in diversifying and strengthening the regional economy, and we believe that providing this level of support to the promising leaders and entrepreneurs selected for the Initiators Fellowship program will go far in elevating the vibrancy of Central Minnesota."

Judging for the pitch-style presentations was done by Initiative Foundation Board of Trustee members John J. Babcock, Traci Tapani, Charles Black Lance and David Monroy. From eight finalists, the following four were selected:

  • Annie Deckert, Elk River, will pursue the expansion of her economic development enterprise to create affordable services for small and pre-startup businesses.
  • Hudda Ibrahim, St. Cloud, 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, Baxter, 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.
  • Rod Greder, Pine City, 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.

As Fellows develop and execute their business models, they'll work with the Initiative Foundation Community, a regional ecosystem of people, programs and partners who will assist with training and education, consulting, technical assistance and financing, said program leader Jeff Wig, Initiative Foundation vice president for organizational and economic development.

"It's gratifying to have our inaugural Initiators Fellowship cohort start out on such a strong footing," said incoming Initiative Foundation President Matt Varilek. "We owe a debt of gratitude to Rick Bauerly and Granite Equity Partners for the vision, guidance and funding they provided to get this important Central Minnesota business-building program implemented."

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