Now We Know Why Arch Grants Could Award More Grants in 2021

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  • Published on November 9, 2021
  • In Press Release

An additional $270K in funding from NISA Charitable Fund provided five high-growth startups, each with $50,000 in capital plus a robust suite of ongoing professional services to promote workforce development and long-term success in St. Louis with the newly created #STLOnward Awards.

NISA Investment Advisors’ Charitable Fund partnered with Arch Grants to meaningfully increase the funding available through the nonprofit’s Startup Competition model for 2021 under an innovative platform called #STLOnward Awards. The NISA Charitable Fund is a donor-advised fund established in April 2020 and funded by NISA Investment Advisors, LLC, with operational support by St. Louis Community Foundation.

The Charitable Fund’s contribution of $270,000 enabled Arch Grants to fund five additional high-growth startups with the hope that other established companies will be inspired to support both Arch Grants and subsequent #STLOnward Awards. These five startups will be recognized at the 9th Annual Arch Grants Gala event on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, as the #STLOnward Awards โ€“ Powered by NISA.

The five startups receiving the grants were chosen because their missions align closely with NISA Charitable Fund’s strategic pillars of education, workforce development, and access to capital for traditionally underserved populations. The winning startups include Equalizer Games, oneKIN, PlaBook, Rock The Score, and ZenHammer.


“As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that capital, when matched with a systematic ecosystem of knowledge, mentors, professional supports, colleagues, and connections, better guarantees the further success of your company,” said Dr. Philip William Van Hickman, CEO and Founder of PlaBook. Being a recipient of an Arch Grant gives PlaBook this capital along with a terrific network that will help us to positively impact children who are learning how to read.”


โ€œGiven Arch Grants’ strong track record of success, my team and I are humbled to be part of the initial class of #STLOnward Award recipients,” said Marvin A. Franรงois, CFA, Co-Founder and CEO of oneKIN. “While the program has only just started, we have already been provided with precious resources and are confident this next year will bring outsized growth for our company.”

“Receiving an Arch Grant for $50,000 and the accompanying support, coupled with being back in St. Louis, has allowed us to move at the pace we have only dreamed of previously,” said Edwin Williams, CEO of ZenHammer. “We are ecstatic to be back building our business here in St. Louis and to becoming an active part of the community again.”

Equalizer Games

“We are thrilled about building our business in St. Louis and accelerating our sports and education technology platform,” said Kathy Tomlinson, Co-Founder and President of Equalizer Games. “We will be creating more job opportunities in technology while taking our business to another level of success because of Arch Grants.”

Rock The Score

“It is truly an honor for Rock The Score to receive an Arch Grant and the recognition such an award holds,” said Peter Wright, CEO and President of Rock The Score. “We are incredibly proud of the success that we have worked so hard to achieve, and it feels great to have that echoed by Arch Grants.”

“Arch Grants’ program is a model for driving economic empowerment and developing the next generation of employers, civic leaders, and philanthropists for the St. Louis region,” said David Eichhorn, CFA, NISA’s CEO and Head of Investment Strategies. “Our organization is inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of the five high-growth startups we are supporting through our partnership with Arch Grants. We look forward to watching their businesses grow and contribute to the vitality of the St. Louis economy in the months and years ahead.”

“Arch Grants is deeply committed to making St. Louis a destination where people want to live, work, and stay,” said Emily Lohse-Busch, Executive Director of Arch Grants. “It is gratifying to partner with NISA Investment Advisors’ Charitable Fund, a like-minded St. Louis success story, to provide much-needed capital to well-positioned startup firms that are on the precipice of making significant economic contributions to our local region.”

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