10 Founders Share Advice on Applying to Arch Grants Startup Competition

With the deadline for the Arch Grants Startup Competition fast approaching, EQ reached out to former recipients to get their advice on applying. As a one-time recipient and two-time applicant, myself, I heartily agree with the treasured sentiments below: if you’re on the fence, this is one deadline to cram last minute and get your application in now!


Name: Letisha Wexstten

Company: V15Able

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  [When I applied for Arch Grants I had] an idea, a concept and a business plan. I had no product, no team, and no money. 

Now I have an amazing team that is motivated who have dedicated their time and resources to help me succeed. I have a product that is on the market and being used. 

And I have the funds to make it happen. Arch Grants helped me move my company farther than I ever would have been able to on my own, and for that I am forever grateful.

Would I recommend applying for arch Grants? Absolutely. At this point anything can happen. Arch grants jump started my company in ways I never imagined. 

Best takeaways: Too often we let fear dictate how we live our lives. The fear of failure, the fear of rejection or the fear of having to start over. 

Don’t let your fears hinder your ability to succeed. Ask questions, get advice, call a friend, and practice. 

The best advice I can give when applying for Arch Grants is to just do it. What’s the worst that could happen? 

And if the answer is No, don’t give up. Keep trying, keep moving forward and apply again next year. 

Advice to applicants: They want to see YOU succeed. Sure, Arch Grants provide funds and resources but they are much more than that: they provide a sense of community of like-minded entrepreneurs whose goal is to change the world. 

I’ve seen companies come and go but those who are passionate and motivated excel in the St. Louis community. My advice; stay passionate, stay motivated and believe in yourself because Arch Grants believes in you. 


Name: Dr. Natalie King

Company: Florae

Arch Grants Cohort: 2020

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  in the MVP/Early market validation stage, focusing on building our formulating, manufacturing, and supplier network.

It was and still is technically a team of 1 who’s full-time (yours truly!); however, I now have a broad team of contracted experts who fulfill various functions within the business as we prepare for launch in August of this year. In total, we have approximately 7 contracted individuals with expertise in marketing, formulating, manufacturing, packaging, and graphic design.

Best takeaways: Entrepreneurship is about team work and understanding the needs for the business and those you have, for yourself, as an entrepreneur. If you understand those things, you can truly begin to build the skills of asking for what you need and maximizing the program.

Another great takeaway is that you truly cannot do it alone. Throughout the remainder of 2020 and up until now, the only way we have been successful in completing our production to fundraising etc, has been through leaning on my community.

This may include advisors who are willing to open up their networks to you and/or fellow entrepreneurs who may have gone through similar challenges in the past and can help you cut down that learning curve. The final takeaway is be open to mentoring someone coming right behind you.

Always remember where you started and be open to sharing tips/tricks/feedback with new Founders. After all, you were once there yourself!

Advice to applicants: Know everything you can about your business and the industry in which you are launching into.

Invest in putting together the best pitch materials to represent your brand, and if you can, always find a way to show your company’s value to the market… even if you are still pre-launch. Find a way to validate your efforts so your venture shows value from day one and bring that enthusiasm to your pitch.

Final piece of advice is to never give up. Fundraising can be difficult for any business but keep focused on the end goal.


Name: Anatolij Gelimson

Company: FastDemocracy

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  making about $15k/year and needed to learn a thing or two about scaling sales.

Best takeaways: Everyone at Arch Grants has been wonderful and supportive of us and our company. We’ve made some good friends and it’s really exciting to meet other entrepreneurs who are on a similar journey. 

Being part of a community has been incredibly motivating, and the seed funding was an important validation that people believed in our ideas. Also, we’ve also met our CEO through Arch Grants, which helped consolidate our team.

Advice to applicants: You really should emphasize your revenue and traction. If you can show that some people are ready to part with their hard-earned money because your product solves a pain point they have, that’s a huge plus compared to other applications where it’s unclear if anyone needs the product or not. 

Of course if your startup is brand new, you might not have revenue yet and that’s ok too, in which case other criteria will become more important (but if a startup is 5 years old and mostly pre-revenue, it means that something isn’t going according to plan). Other factors like idea, founding team, understanding of client needs and the market, etc. of course play a big role too.


Name: George Bailey

Company: zPods

Arch Grants Cohort: 2021

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  successfully selling its Made in China MVP and getting ready to transition to a Made in USA product with upgrades.

Best takeaways: There’s a lot of psychology at play in starting a new business. It boosts my confidence to know that I have a community that wishes for my success. It also helps to know that there’s an organization that is ready to dedicate its amazing resources to my success.

Advice to applicants: Story is huge, but you have to understand your audience to know which story you tell. 

When your audience is somebody that wants to invest in your success, the most important part of your story is that the numbers are lining up in the right way for you to be able to take their investment and flourish with it.


Name: Andrew Glantz

Company: GiftAMeal

Arch Grants Cohort: 2018

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  having proof of concept in St. Louis with validation revenue and a small amount of angel investor funding, but still experimenting with growth strategies.

Best takeaways: Learning how to tap into the St. Louis startup ecosystem and recruit talent.

Advice to applicants: Make clear in your application what steps you’ve taken to validate your business, and how Arch Grants can take you to the next level.


Name: Alex Cruz

Company: PenPath

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  self funded and getting initial traction.

Best takeaways: The biggest takeaways from being in the Arch Grants program are that we’ve expanded into their incredible network. We’ve met some key advisors who now support our next chapter. Lastly, we’ve received credibility as a recipient that goes a long way.

Advice to applicants: The application process takes time. Get feedback from others on your application and revisit what you’ve written with fresh eyes. 

Most importantly, keep it simple —it’s ok if you don’t cover everything in every sentence. You may have to leave some good stuff out in exchange for it being easier to understand.

iSite Media

Name: Brian Lord

Company: iSite Media

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  in the proof of concept phase.

Best takeaways: Their commitment to providing resources to making all Arch Grants companies a success. Helping to connect to strategic investors, introducing programs that will help grow operations and providing advice on complex situations.

Advice to applicants: Don’t second guess yourself on applying, it’s worth it! Be excited to immerse yourself in the St. Louis startup ecosystem and be ready to tap into everything it has to offer.


Name: Raj Singh

Company: WayLit

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  seeing some traction with a couple of known clients.

Best takeaways: Arch Grants is vested in your success. The team is awesome and will go out of their way to make sure that you have the resources that you need for your success.

Advice to applicants: Work on your business viability. Then focus on why that viability is enhanced by working in St. Louis.

Edison Agrosciences

Name: David Woodburn

Company: Edison Agrosciences, Inc.

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  We were just about to receive our first contract with the Dept. of Defense.

Best takeaways: It’s more than just the cash. Being an AG winner provides a level of validation for many early-stage companies. 

The AG team WANTS to help their companies, and in our case was able to make an incredibly helpful introduction with a potential customer/investor. They didn’t have that contact initially, but were able to track it down and make it happen for us.

Advice to applicants: Remember that Arch Grants is looking to fund solid business plans. Not concepts, ideas, technologies, apps, etc.


Name: Brett O’Daniell

Company: HomeTraq

Arch Grants Cohort: 2019

I started Arch Grants when my company was…  We were awarded an Arch Grant at the beginning of our seed funding round. We had just released our initial product into the local market and had just started hiring employees.

Best takeaways: As co-founders (Mark Gorman and I), we had decades of experience in the banking, mortgage and real estate industries but little experience in starting and growing a technology company. Arch Grants provided us with the spring board that we needed to embrace the St. Louis startup community and accelerate our growth. 

The connections we made with Arch Grants greatly enhanced the development of our technology as well as our partnership and fund raising efforts.

Advice to applicants: Applicants should take the Arch Grants application process as an opportunity to refine their business model, improve their value proposition and ultimately perfect their pitch and slide deck. The questions and requests made by Arch Grants to applicants (while maybe seeming labor intensive and time consuming at the time) are extremely well thought out. 

Whether an applicant is awarded a grant this cycle or not, the time and resources spent to submit a well thought out application will help their company greatly in many ways. Many times what an Arch Grants applicant learns (or the networking connections made) during the application process is more valuable than actually being awarded the grant.