Meet WEPOWER’s Cohort of Black and Latinx Entrepreneurs in St. Louis
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Selected by over 1,600 community members in greater St. Louis, 10 Black and Latinx business owners will participate in a six-month development program to accelerate the growth of their businesses. Designed to accelerate community-owned wealth building and job opportunities in St. Louis, Elevate/Elevar equips entrepreneurs of color with the resources and skills they need to take their businesses to the next level. The program supports the cohort with curriculum, connections, community, and access to capital through grants and interest-free loans. WEPOWER saw a need to uplift entrepreneurs in underinvested areas such as north St. Louis, especially for entrepreneurs of color who have historically been overlooked for funding. The cohort includes entrepreneurs who own their own sustainable coffee shops, cleaning businesses, holistic herb shops, nail salons, and more.
WEPOWER, a community of changemakers and entrepreneurs building political and economic power in St. Louis, announced its second Elevate/Elevar Accelerator cohort. The 10 entrepreneurs were selected after receiving 100+ applications and 1,600+ community members voting to select them among 21 finalists.
The Elevate/Elevar Accelerator is a 6-month entrepreneurship development program for local Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. Elevate/Elevar supports the cohort with curriculum, connections, community, and access to capital through grants and interest-free loans.
The goal of the program is to accelerate community-owned wealth building and living wage job opportunities in North St. Louis City.
“Following the lead of community members who have experienced generations of economic disinvestment was integral to the selection process of this cohort,” said Charli Cooksey, Founder and CEO of WEPOWER.
“We wanted to ensure that we were lifting up the Black and Latinx business owners that best reflect the community and what it needs. WEPOWER is thrilled to announce this new cohort and see these 10 entrepreneurs take their businesses to new heights.”
The new cohort consists of the following St. Louis entrepreneurs:
- Jessica Black; Jessie B’s Academy
- Rachel Burn; Bold Spoon Creamery
- Patrick Clapp; Coffeestamp
- Estie Cruz-Curoe; del Carmen
- Melissa Douglass; Goal Driven Counseling
- Reginald Jennings; Rooterman
- Tiffany Jones; Cheryl’s Herbs Group
- Rashod O’Kelley; O’Kelley Building Maintenance
- Shamel Robinson; Sonder Lush Nail Studio
- Jaquan Vassel; Vassel’s Comfort Shoes & Custom Insoles
“We started this program as a way to use entrepreneurship to build wealth in Black and Latinx communities,” said Keisha Mabry Haymore, Director of Entrepreneurship for WEPOWER. “We want to help them access capital, grow their network of collaborators and talent to build their workforce, and develop a plan to be on track for upward mobility.”
Elevate/Elevar Accelerator is part of an international network that supports ready-to-scale companies. WEPOWER’s program offers St. Louis-based founders:
- Cohort learning through investment readiness curriculum
- Bi-monthly one-on-one meetings with a customer growth and acquisition business coach, customizable workshops, an advisory board of mentors
- In-kind professional services like branding, marketing and accountant services from a top agency in St. Louis
- Access to capital through $5,000 in equity-free grants and more
- Human-focused support with therapists and wellness coaches
By 2024, WEPOWER plans to facilitate up to two cycles of the Accelerator program annually, increase access to capital through increasing the number of loans offered and launch the Elevate/Elevar Investment Fund, and launch a capacity-building strategy that supports residents’ capacity to control wealth in their neighborhoods.