Valarie Patton

Valerie Patton, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer for Greater St. Louis, Inc., says Kauffman Foundation grant can create access to capital for small business owners of color and women.  

Grants totaling $100,000 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation will allow The Greater St. Louis, Inc. Diverse Business Accelerator to, for the first time, give $5,000 in unrestricted capital to all entrepreneurs who complete the three-month-long program.

An additional $300,000 from the foundation -- the largest grant in the program’s history -- will provide program benefits through 2024, according to officials with the Accelerator, which is designed to aid racially-, ethnically- and gender-diverse entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses.

The program is accepting applications for up to 10 businesses to participate in its Fall 2021 cohort which begins Sept. 8 and meets every Wednesday morning for three hours through Nov. 17.

The Kauffman grants also allow the program to waive the normal $1,000 tuition through 2024.

Fall marks the seventh cohort for theinteractive program that gives entrepreneurs instruction in how to develop realistic business expansion goals, market and communicate their services, make meaningful business connections, and identify the capital and resources they need to support growth, according to a news release.

The inaugural class was Winter 2019. Since then, 30 businesses have been enrolled, and all but three have graduated.

Starting this Fall, a capital access pool will provide $5,000 each to entrepreneurs who complete the program and provide up to $15,000 in follow-on capital in 2022 to all Diverse Business Accelerator companies that present a viable plan for “how well they will use the funds to elevate their business,” a spokeswoman said.

“Access to capital is often a barrier to growth for many small business owners of color and women,” said Valerie Patton, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer for Greater St. Louis, Inc. and President of the Greater St. Louis Foundation.

The Kauffman Foundation’s recent $300,000 grant marks an expansion of the foundation’s initial one-year DBA grants, awarded in July 2020.

The extension allows DBA officials to add more coaches and experts in the law, marketing and accounting, and to accept more applicants. 

“The foundation’s support is testament to the quality of our program,” Patton said in a statement.

The Fall 2021 cohort will conclude with a final pitch, in which participants present their business growth and development ideas to a panel of regional potential investors for the opportunity to win $25,000 in equity-free capital, made possible in part by the Kauffman funds. 

Greater St. Louis, Inc. is accepting applications through Aug. 27 at

To be considered, applicants must haveannual revenue of $500,000 or more,  be headquartered in the 15-county, bi-state region and have a growth plan that demonstrates the business’ capacity to increase revenue by 10%, and add at least three employees within 18 months after graduating.

For more information, contact DBA Director Lakesha Mathis at 314-444-1165 or 

Karen Robinson-Jacobs is The St. Louis American Type Investigations business reporter and a Report for America corps member.


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