St. Louis Regional Chamber Launches Diverse Business Accelerator

Diverse Business Accelerator is a long term project and, "a first for the Chamber."

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The St. Louis Regional Chamber is dedicated to creating a business community that provides opportunities for diverse businesses to grow. To that end, the Chamber has launched the Diverse Business Accelerator for women and minority business owners looking to advance their enterprise.

The Diverse Business Accelerator is designed to teach business owners to build capacity, attract capital, operationally execute contracts, secure funding, find new contracts and expand existing agreements. The program is currently accepting applications from candidates that are small, scalable, and diverse or women-owned businesses comprised of one or more employees in the professional services, construction, construction service, logistics and manufacturing sectors.

The deadline to apply is Friday, February 1. Applications can be completed online at: https://stlregionalchamberevents.com/chamber-dba/. The program fee is $999 with a $200 discount for the first cohort.

Three Cohorts Planned in 2019

Lakesha Mathis, CSSYB, Director, Inclusive Business Solutions at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, who is co-leading the program, expanded upon some of the details of the program in an email conversation with EQ, saying that this is a long term project and, “a first for the Chamber.”

“We have planned three cohorts for 2019 with 12 participants in each cohort. So, 36 participants in 2019. The first cohort is nearly full! The vision for the program is for the St. Louis Region to be known as a the place for diverse and women owned businesses to grow and thrive. The cultivation of strong diverse and women owned businesses through capacity building will increase jobs, capital investments and employees in our region which leads to an increase in the regional GDP.”

Three Months of Coaching & Mentoring

The multi-phase program features a strategic curriculum and the sharing of wisdom and best practices focused on three main categories:

  • Communications & Marketing: participants learn to effectively communicate their business’ value proposition,
    refine core messaging, creating collateral that works
  • Relationship Building: participants will be matched with c suite level mentors to foster the formation of a
    supportive professional advisory network essential to the success the business’s growth
  • Growth Ready/Scaling: participants will receive a financial review and analysis, financial literacy training for
    small businesses, introduction to community reinvestment act process, and small business administration loan requirements.

“Participants can expect to gain access to the knowledge, tools and skills necessary to grow their businesses. There will be expert guest speakers, dropping jewels to be used immediately. There will be an opportunity to pitch to investors, bankers and procurement professionals. Participant will leave this experience ready for their next steps whether it’s gaining access to capital and contracts or hiring employees.”

Program participants will meet weekly for three months at the St. Louis Regional Chamber starting February 20, 2019. During that time, participants will walk through how to develop their business goals, market and communicate their services, make meaningful business connections, and prepare for growth.

“Many of diverse and women owned businesses experience limited success because they are not building capacity in their business and are in some instances taking on more contracts or jobs than they are able to successfully fulfill. This accelerator will allow businesses to position themselves for successful, planned growth.”

Planning Partnerships for Growth

Mathis explained to EQ that there are ongoing discussions with venture capital partners to join the program, with further announcements expected in February. Participants will also have the opportunity to win an equity-free cash prize during a pitch competition and engage with Chamber banking partners to discuss SBA loan opportunities.

“Part of the strength of the Regional Chamber is our network of businesses committed to the St. Louis region. Part of the advantage of this accelerator is helping to introduce these businesses to other Chamber members to help line up new business opportunities. One of the keys to becoming a more inclusive business community is encouraging these connections and fostering relationships whenever possible. The program will expose participants to multiple options for growth and scaling, whether it’s an SBA loan, an investor or a decision to bootstrap. We understand that loans aren’t a fit for every business. Our responsibility is to provide knowledge of the options available and support participants as they chose the best path for their businesses.”

“Growing your business is about making the right connections – which is what the St. Louis Regional Chamber is all about”, said Val Patton, Senior Vice President, Economic Inclusion and Executive Director, St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative. “We want to help make our region nationally known for its inclusive business community, and that starts with building capacity and relationships with our diverse business owners. This is an opportunity to get plugged in and ready for grow.”