About The Fellowship

A Social Enterprise Initiative To Make Greater Minnesota Even Greater

 The Initiators Fellowship is a big, bold strategy that provides the next generation of regional leaders the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial spirit to address society’s needs while building the business and leadership capacity of Greater Minnesota.

Up to seven Fellows will be selected from a pool of applicants who are in the process of starting a social enterprise and who live in the participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions, representing 41 counties in Greater Minnesota. The program will run for two years, from January 2020 through December 2021. The goal of the program is to strengthen each Fellow’s leadership within their respective communities, and to support the growth and development of their social enterprise ventures.

“The Fellowship really helps institutionalize mentoring for some of the most passionate and purposeful entrepreneurs and leaders—people who initiate change and improvement and progress in our communities. We are backing these people with the hope that they will develop a lifetime relationship with their region so that when they are going to start a new business or nonprofit, they will base it locally—and grow it locally.”
Rick Bauerly
Founder of St. Cloud-based Granite Equity Partners, a major program funder

Minnesota Initiative Foundation Regions Served

West Central Initiative serves nine counties and one tribal nation in west central Minnesota: Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, White Earth Nation and Wilkin.

Initiative Foundation serves 14 counties and two native nations in Central Minnesota: Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwa, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright.

Southwest Initiative Foundation serves 18 counties and two native nations in southwest Minnesota: Big Stone, Cottonwood, Chippewa, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Swift, Yellow Medicine and the Upper Sioux Community.

History & Expansion

The Initiators Fellowship graduated its inaugural cohort in December 2018. 

The four Fellows were supported with two years of leadership and business development training with the goal of increasing the growth and impact of their social enterprise ventures and their commitment to serve as leaders within Central Minnesota. Program evaluations were strong, with Fellows reporting a 68 percent increase in valuable network connections made through the Fellowship.

The first cohort of Initiators Fellows reported a 68 percent increase in valuable network connections established during the Fellowship term. Fellows also reported an aggregate Net Promoter Score of 75. (A Net Promoter Score of 70 or more generally means a business or venture is generating strong and positive word-of-mouth referrals.)

A Commitment to Home

At the conclusion of the program, all four Fellows reported an increased commitment to live and grow their social enterprise in the region where they live.

The program’s early success encouraged other supporters to join the Initiative Foundation and founding funder Granite Equity Partners in their goal to expand the program across Greater Minnesota by 2025.

The Bush Foundation, a strong booster of promoting social change through business enterprise and leadership development, has committed to a seven-year, $1.4 million investment. The first phase of the resulting expansion will be a partnership with Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative, which have signed on to foster and support Fellows within their respective regions starting in 2020. The partnership will result in an expanded cohort of up to seven Fellows and a much broader and deeper network of support.