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A new Howard County initiative is making accelerator programming available to entrepreneurs from groups that are typically underserved by such business-building programs.
HoCo Higher: Accelerator Business Program opened up applications this month for its free, 10-week bootcamp, which begins Sept. 10. It’s being created through a partnership between Howard County government, the Howard County Economic Development Authority and M&T Bank.
“Small businesses are the economic engine that pushes Howard County forward and help our community thrive,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “HoCo Higher will help entrepreneurs, especially those who are traditionally underserved, reach new heights and access important resources and support structures. I encourage small business owners to apply for this unique and exciting opportunity to learn best practices and set their business up for success.”
The program is agnostic in terms of sector. But to participate, a business must be based in Howard County and have at least two years in operation, as well as annual revenue of $150,000 or more. It’ll be a commitment to work through challenges, so it’s important for a business owner to have the time to put toward the program.
“We’re looking for folks that are looking for help in getting their business to the next stage,” Detra Miller, head of M&T Bank’s minority and women-owned business banking team, told Technical.ly. That could mean growing revenue, figuring out how to hire more employees or even pivoting.
M&T Bank is making financial experts available to the businesses in the program, as well as offering the curriculum that will make up the programming. That will include legal business formation, obtaining certifications, developing business plans, managing finances and sourcing capital. Participants will also complete a case study.
The program grows out of M&T Bank’s work to connect entrepreneurs who are women and people of color with resources that could help to establish banking relationships, and provide access to tools for growth that banks offer. It started in 2019 with a program in Baltimore city, and was further galvanized to continue the work with the conversation on racial injustice following 2020’s racial justice protests. M&T connected with Howard County officials, and launched the program there.
“We’re focused on engaging, empowering and providing education to the amazing business owners in our community,” Miller said. “Those are the things we’re hoping to move forward with and navigate our way through helping these amazing business owners with their journey.”
With weekly meetings will be held Wednesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Maryland Innovation Center in Columbia, it is embracing the accelerator model that has helped many startups. The program was created by listening to the community, and the cohort model can help participants build a network and community with each other.
“Having a community of people around you — likeminded folks doing the same thing you’re doing — it helps you build confidence,” Miller said. “It even helps you build your book of business.”
Other cohorts will be forming to connect with, as well. In the coming months, M&T Bank expects to roll out additional accelerator programs in Baltimore city and Montgomery County, Miller said.
United Way of Central Maryland has $500,000 up for grabs to local leaders who are using innovative ideas to make community impact. The Changemaker Challenge is open to individuals and nonprofits from Baltimore city, as well as surrounding counties including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard.
“We recently surveyed the community and found that the top concerns during the pandemic have been mental health, child care and education, and housing. As an organization, we continue to work with communities and partners to find solutions – but it can’t end with us. We want to foster and elevate the creativity, and the leaders, we know are in our neighborhoods,” said Franklyn Baker, CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland, in a statement. “We want to give more people a seat at the table, and provide a platform to share their innovative ideas to close the gap and help even more people.”
Along with funding, winners will receive coaching and mentorship, professionally edited pitch videos, and promotion via United Way channels.
I-Corps Applications open
Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures is set to host its latest cohort of the I-Corps program in the fall.
The free program is designed to help engineers and researchers to figure out if the problem they are seeking to solve with technology has a market for commercialization. It has helped plenty of startups get off the ground through activities like customer discovery and market research. Companies are eligible for a $2,880 grant on completion.
The program is set to run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 14.
A couple more reminders on upcoming deadlines:
- Today is the last day to apply for Techstars’ Baltimore-based Equitech accelerator.
- Entrepreneurs have until Sept. 17 to apply for the pitch competition from Founder City, the event collab from Betamore and Frederick’s FITCI.