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Are you an entrepreneur who would like to help kick-start economic growth in West Tennessee?

Applications are now open for West Tennessee residents to turn new business ideas into reality through an idea accelerator program
Credit: Heartland Forward

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Ford Motor Company Fund is set to fund a program to help West Tennessee entrepreneurs turn ideas into a potential business venture.

Heartland Forward, Builders + Backers, the CO, Epicenter Memphis and Ford Motor Company Fund announced Wednesday that applications are being accepted for 20 West Tennessee residents to access training, resources and up to $5,000. 

If you live in Fayette, Hardeman, Haywood, Lauderdale, Madison, Shelby or Tipton county and have a creative problem-solving idea for your community, you're urged to apply.

The Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator Program backed by Heartland Forward is designed to make it simple for anyone to experiment with entrepreneurship. 

“Problem solving with an entrepreneurial mindset will be key to rebuilding our post-COVID local economies, and the Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator has already proven to be a successful, meaningful way to accelerate the entrepreneurial thinking needed to help our communities thrive,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to West Tennessee as part of our commitment to support 1,000 Builders across the heartland by 2023."

Applicants do not have to prepare a business plan or pitch deck to submit their projects. Those interested can apply here. The application deadline is December 30. 

The most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on January 26.

“Ford is a committed partner to our new neighbors in West Tennessee and we are thrilled to be working with Heartland Forward to invest in the region,” said Ford Motor Company Fund economic mobility director, Mike Schmidt. “We believe in building pathways with people who have historically had limited opportunities for business development and ownership through access to capital and training. Through these new partnerships we hope to help bring aspiring entrepreneurs’ dreams to life.”

“We welcome the additional resources that the Builders + Backers program will offer entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Memphis and West Tennessee region, including those served by theCO,” said Jessica Taveau, president and CEO of Epicenter. “We’re grateful that Ford Motor Company Fund and Heartland Forward recognize, as we do, that investing in founders in this region and connecting them to opportunities can change lives and grow our economy.”

Selected applicants will benefit from:

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program.
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership™, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders.
  • Buildership Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities.

The program was first piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi in summer 2021, and since, there have been over 300 Builders across 15 cities. To learn more about The Builders, click here.

This is Ford Fund's second philanthropic investment into West Tennessee. Earier this month it announced a $1 million in capital grant funding to support non-profit organizations in West Tennessee, in hopes to help each program better serve its community.

RELATED: Ford giving $1 million in grant funding to non-profit organizations in West Tennessee


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