Jackson Ward Collective Founders Launch New Business Accelerator
Shortly after bringing their incubator program under the umbrella of a new nonprofit, the founders of Jackson Ward Collective are rolling out another new program to support black-owned small businesses.
The collective’s Community Business Academy Accelerator Program is set to launch with its first class in September. The program aims to teach black business owners or aspiring black business owners the basics of running their own show with training in topics including marketing, fundraising, and accounting.
“It’s a 12-week program that fills the gaps in programming to help people understand what it really takes to run a business. This is something the ecosystem programming does not cover in detail,” said co-founder Rasheeda Creighton.
The Business Accelerator is a new offering from the JWC Foundation, a local nonprofit founded by Creighton, Melody Short and Kelli Lemon in April to connect Black business owners with professional resources. The nonprofit’s acronym stands for ‘Jackson Ward Collective’, which is also the name of the business incubator the trio founded in 2020 and now operates as a branch of the nonprofit. newly formed non-profit.
Creighton said the Community Business Academy was for black owners of so-called “main street businesses,” which she defined as retail stores, hospitality businesses, professional services and personal services, but black entrepreneurs in any industry can participate in the program.
Program fees will be charged on a sliding scale of no more than $250 per participant, which the JWC Foundation is able to do through sponsorships from Altira, Capital One and Dominion Energy, according to a press release from the foundation. The plan is to have no more than 20 annual program participants at a time.
The program’s curriculum is authorized by the JWC Foundation of Rising Tide Capital, New Jersey-based, a nonprofit business development organization. The program consists of weekly in-person sessions that will be held at 1717 Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom.
Creighton said they were willing to develop an in-house program after identifying the need, but were drawn to the idea of licensing an existing program in part because it fit with the philosophy of the JWC Foundation.
“For the collective part of our programming, we see ourselves as a hub. If there’s something that’s proven, that works, that’s effective, we’d rather have a partnership than reinvent the wheel,” Creighton said.
Short said his group connected to Rising Tide through a North Carolina nonprofit in their network. About two years of conversations took place before the program was licensed.
“We identified the gap early on,” Short said. “They have partners across the country and they have a history of success.”
The foundation declined to share the license fee for the Rising Tide gamebook.
Short said the foundation is the only organization in the Richmond area to license the Rising Tide program. The foundation plans to run the program twice a year, with cohorts starting in September and then again in March.
The JWC Foundation plans to host a series of Accelerator Program Information Sessions on June 28, June 30, and July 14.
The creation of the foundation came about in response to feedback from potential donors and opens the door to an expanded pool of funders to help fuel the foundation’s growing list of activities.
“Many funders in the region wanted to provide capital support, but in order to do so, some organizations were unable to move forward with support through our original model in which we had a fiscal agent. Their respective organizations required us to be a 501(c)3,” said Short, who is the foundation’s director of programs.
Creighton is the nonprofit’s executive director. Lemon is a member of the association’s board of directors. The foundation is based in the Gather coworking office in the Arts District.
In addition to the Jackson Ward Collective incubator and upcoming accelerator program, the foundation recently unveiled Blck Street, which is the brand name for the JWC Foundation’s public event programming for black entrepreneurs.
The foundation plans to host the inaugural Blck Street Conference at the Collaboratory of Virginia in early August. The conference will include panel discussions and breakout sessions aimed at helping entrepreneurs learn how to find investors, how to plan for succession and other topics.
The JWC Foundation’s upcoming accelerator program is part of a recent wave of new business development programs in Richmond.
Activation Capital recently completed its startup development pilot program for minority entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurship development group announced earlier this month that it and pilot partner Opportunity Hub had invested $50,000 in local shoe refurbishment marketplace Sudsy Soles, which won a pitch competition who closed the program.
Bon Secours has expanded its decade-old East End entrepreneurship development support program to include Manchester-based businesses.