Our Program

Empowering Entrepreneurs to Make a Difference

The Initiators Fellowship serves as a launching pad for the next cohort of Greater Minnesota change agents.

A group of seven Fellows has been selected from a pool of applicants who are in the process of starting a social enterprise (PDF) and who live in the participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions, representing 41 counties in Greater Minnesota.

The program runs for two years, culminating 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.

The application period has ended and will reopen for the January 2022 to December 2023
cohort in spring 2021.

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 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 stage, high-potential 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. 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 model for a potential solution. They may also have started testing their hypothesis, and may even have early results, proof of concept or revenue. Usually, they will be in the first few years of their enterprise development. Ventures may be for-profit or nonprofit. The key is that their operating model has meaningful revenue generation and a path to financial sustainability.

Most individuals who are in the process of starting a social enterprise are eligible to apply. There is no nomination process. Applicants should fit within the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 18 years old by the start of the Fellowship cycle.
  • You can be a recent college graduate, a young professional, mid-career or in your encore years; we welcome social entrepreneurs from all ages and stages of life.
  • Partnership enterprises are allowed, but only an individual partner with controlling interest may apply for the Fellowship.
  • You must live within one of the three participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions, or within a tribal nation adjacent to one of the three defined regions for the two-year duration of the Fellowship term. Applicants must also be committed to remaining within the region or tribal nation for the long-term.
  • You must have English-language proficiency; all programming will take place in English.
  • United States citizens, nationals, lawful permanent resident aliens and persons legally residing within the region and who have the following legal residency classifications are eligible to apply: refugee, asylum or asylee, temporary protected status or deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) status.
  • Diversity is a core program value. Women, non-binary people, minorities, people with disabilities and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. Applicants with diverse backgrounds, experiences, ability, economic status, and perspectives are encouraged to apply.

The application period has ended and will reopen for the January 2022 to
December 2023 cohort in spring 2021. 

application Process

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? Start planning!
May 15-July 15
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 15-July 15
September Selection
Up to 15 applicants will be invited to participate in Finalist Day! Applicants will be notified about their selection status by Sept. 30. All applicants receive feedback regardless of the outcome.
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.
Program Start!
Seven 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 2020.

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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