Business Development and Acceleration

Many businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants face hurdles in securing access to start-up and growth capital, contracting opportunities, and business networks.  These barriers limit a business’ ability to thrive and grow.  Alternative business models like employee-owned cooperatives, benefit corporations, and social enterprises offer a promising alternative that can counter this trend. In the right policy and business environment, sustainable businesses, employee owned cooperatives and social enterprises can create positive economic, environmental and social benefit.  Anchor institutions like hospitals, universities, sports franchises, and state and local governments have tremendous purchasing power.  If leveraged correctly, through procurement policy reforms that make contracts more accessible, anchors can significantly benefit local and alternative businesses.

The Strong Local Economies Program supports local job creation by spreading these alternative business models, increasing the growth of businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants, and promoting other strategies benefitting communities that have been most impacted by inequitable economic policy.

  • Accelerate the growth of local businesses poised to create new quality jobs, and increase the number of those businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants. Specifically, we seek grantees that will enhance the conditions necessary for local businesses to thrive.  This may include accelerator programs, policy solutions, access to growth capital, business planning and support services, and networking opportunities between business owners and other experts.
  • Support the development and expansion of social enterprises, employee-owned cooperatives, and other alternative business models. We are seeking grantees that can help replicate and build successful models, shape best practices, and expand these models through incubators, technical assistance, networks, and capacity building.
  • Reform public and private procurement systems so that local businesses gain increased access to contracts. These activities might include supply chain reforms, public and private procurement policy changes, and advocacy that increases the number of private sector entities committed to supplier diversity and fair procurement policies.
  • Develop ways to jumpstart a local or regional economy and thereby increase its competiveness. Activities might include regional economic development planning and technical assistance that helps cities and metropolitan areas to rethink their economic futures.

We give preference to the following types of efforts:

  • Business incubator and accelerator programs that emphasize minority businesses growth with a goal of tangible job creation;
  • Organizations that advocate for policy reforms that make new contracting opportunities available to local businesses and alternative business models;
  • Cooperative business development programs and strategies that seed or replicate the creation of viable enterprises with growth potential;
  • Local or regional Chambers of Commerce or business affinity groups that create inclusive policies and programs that support business growth, and promote equity and sustainability;
  • Nonprofit organizations that connect businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants to midsize and large firm subcontracting opportunities;
  • Community Development Financial Institutions and organizations that provide access to start-up and growth capital for businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants;
  • Intermediary organizations that develop regional and national networks connecting local businesses to industry specific supply chains.
  • Private sector partnerships that increase contracting opportunities for local and/or minority businesses;
  • Organizations that help develop social enterprises or work on policy conditions for these businesses to thrive;
  • Research and data collection efforts that document innovative business development strategies that create economic opportunities for people of color, women and immigrants.

How to apply:

If you are interested in applying for a Surdna Foundation grant, please submit a letter of inquiry by clicking here. Please note: We can only support organizations that meet our guidelines listed under "What we fund."

Program Related Investments

Surdna's Program Related Investment Fund supports the foundation’s mission by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges.

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