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Our Program

Empowering Entrepreneurs to Make a Difference

The Initiators Fellowship serves as a launching pad for Greater Minnesota change agents.

The 2020-2021 cohort features seven Fellows selected from a pool of 80 applicants. Each is starting a social enterprise (PDF) venture and lives in one of the the participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions.

The 2020-2021 cohort culminates in a December 2021 graduation. The goal is to strengthen each Fellow’s leadership within their respective communities and to support the growth and development of their social enterprise venture.

Recruitment for the next cohort of the Initiators Fellowship will begin in spring 2023. In the meantime, complete the interest form to stay connected.

All Ages, All Stages of Life

The Fellowship seeks strong diversity in its candidates, which may include recent college graduates and/or established, skilled workers who need time and support to explore their entrepreneurial ideas.

We welcome social entrepreneurs from all walks of life who generally are in the first few years of building their enterprise. Fit for the program is based on individual character, the drive to create and innovate, and the potential impact that the applicant’s social enterprise venture and community leadership could have on their community and the wider region.

Becoming a Fellow

Are you an entrepreneur eager to tackle a social challenge?

The Fellowship is designed for idea and early operations stage, high-potential leaders and entrepreneurs who are eager to tackle a social challenge and pursue leadership growth. In addition to an annual $30,000 stipend, Fellows benefit from supportive programming, educational opportunities and a resource-rich ecosystem of experts, including dedicated staff and mentors.

Applicants typically are at an early stage in developing their social enterprise idea. They are in an idea to early implementation stage (in operation for five or less years). Early-stage development means applicants have, at the very least, identified a particular social problem that they feel passionate about addressing and have developed a working  theory or model for a potential solution. They may have started testing their idea, and may even have early results, proof of concept or revenue. Ventures may be for-profit or nonprofit. The key is that their operating model has potential for meaningful revenue generation and a path to financial sustainability.

Should I apply?

The Fellowship currently serves 53 Greater Minnesota counties and six native nations. Applicants must live and work within and their social enterprise must serve one of the four participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions.

A guiding principle of this program and all the work of the Minnesota Initiative Foundations is that diversity can make our communities stronger when all are welcomed, treated fairly and given the opportunity to contribute their unique gifts. 

The Fellowship is fundamentally about supporting and equipping committed Greater Minnesota community members to develop in leadership roles. Leadership can come in many forms, but we imagine that the purpose-driven individuals applying for the Fellowship have aspirations for their communities as well as for their enterprise and are willing to work hard and get involved.

Social enterprise ventures are purpose-driven, for-profit or nonprofit businesses in which profit- and purpose-motives form a double-bottom-line.

View the FAQs on the Resources tab for more information on eligibility. 

The application period for the January 2022 to December 2023 cohort closes at 5 p.m. on July 19.

application Process

April-May
Have an Idea?
Are you passionate about solving social problems? Are you interested in creating a financially sustainable enterprise? Are you in the early stages of planning and looking for support? Take the eligibility quiz to see if you qualify!
April-May
May 24-July 19
Apply!
Apply for the Initiators Fellowship by completing our application. Applications will be evaluated based on the leadership potential of the applicant and the social enterprise venture being pursued.
May 24-July 19
September 17
September Selection
Up to 15 applicants will be invited to participate in Finalist Day! Applicants will be notified about their selection status by Sept. 17. All applicants receive feedback regardless of the outcome.
September 17
October 5
Finalist Day
Finalists will share their ideas with a panel of judges and participate in a live pitch session. Finalists also will have the opportunity to access a variety of supportive resources throughout the day.
October 5
January 2022
Program Start!
Eight selected Fellows will receive two years of intensive support and training plus $30,000 annually. Selected Fellows will be matched with a mentor during November and December, and the program will kick off in January 2022.
January 2022

Your Mentor: A Guiding Hand

C-suite skills, talents bring a wealth of support to Fellows

Entrepreneurs brimming with ideas can find a world of advice and research online. But working solo can be isolating and can result in costly missteps. Selected Initiators Fellows can side-step that risk by being paired with a hand-picked C-Suite Mentor who will help guide and shape them on their journey. The benefits flow both ways, and the relationship can last a lifetime.
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