6 Startups Win $50K and Join UMSL Accelerate’s First Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Cohort

Last week UMSL Accelerate announced the six founder teams who will participate in its inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accelerator. The founders, who were selected out of more than 430 applicants, will each receive $50,000 in non-dilutive capital and participate in an 8-week, best-in-class business development program in early 2021.


Last week UMSL Accelerate announced the six founder teams who will participate in its inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accelerator.

The founders will each receive $50,000 in non-dilutive capital and nearly $200,000 in in-kind resources. They will also participate in an 8-week, best-in-class business development program in early 2021.

  • George Holmes, PhD, and Keiry “Katie” Moreno Bonnett of Hire Henry
  • Tyrean Lewis of Heru Urban Farming
  • Eric Love and Darren Williams of St. Louis Assembly Pros
  • Michelle Robinson of DEMIblue Natural Nails & Creative
  • Akeem Shannon of Flipstik
  • Darren and Charlene Lopez-Young of The Fattened Caf

More than 430 of the area’s brightest early stage entrepreneurs applied, highlighting both the abundance of entrepreneurial talent in the St. Louis region and the need to better fund and engage underrepresented founders. Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion to create more opportunity within regional startup and small business ecosystems lies at the center of a mission that sees community impact as its highest priority.

Dan Lauer, executive director of UMSL Accelerate, said that this work is not possible without a strong support system. “We are deeply inspired by the first cohort of Founders and hope to make this a game changing experience for them – starting with a $50,000 capital injection,” he said.


“We are doing our part in moving the needle through significant capital injection,” explained Lauer. “By leveraging university strengths, we will offer these outstanding entrepreneurs talented paid student interns, engaged alumni leaders and brilliant faculty committed to amplifying with possible grants and further research.”

Ameren, Edward Jones and Express Scripts have all stepped forward to fund the UMSL DEI Accelerator, recognizing both the need and possibilities when taking a chance on six early stage business owners. Lauer said that support was critical to make the program possible, adding that, “St. Louis is home to an abundance of entrepreneurial talent with good ideas, but not everyone has the same access to opportunity.”

“Their participation demonstrates – that to us – inclusive prosperity should be and must be the foundation upon which St. Louis rests its economic future,” said UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik.

“We are thrilled to support these impressive founders, and we hope to be a true catalyst for significant business growth and success. When we get behind good ideas and bright people, our whole region wins.”

The first accelerator will begin in January, 2021. The public will be invited to meet the founders at a Demo Day event in the spring.


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Jonathan Allen is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of EQ. He is also the President and Co-founder of Longneck & Thunderfoot (L&T), a brand publishing company incubated at the Columbia University Startup Lab in NYC. After winning an Arch Grant, he moved to St Louis in the summer of 2016.

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