Bridge Program begins second year; applications available

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Greater Fort Wayne Inc. will ramp up its Bridge Program in coming weeks, boosting an additional 10 startups. Launched last year, the Bridge Program provides connections, resources, and coaching to entrepreneurs, helping them bridge the gap between startup and success. Applications for entrepreneurs to be considered for the program are now available at bridge.gfwinc.com and are due by Friday, Nov. 27.

“Startups make our community stronger—they create jobs, grow the economy, and become part of what makes Allen County unique,” said Brenda Gerber Vincent, VP of community and corporate impact at Greater Fort Wayne Inc. “In just one year since the program launched, our entrepreneurs are finding an incredible amount of success and building valuable relationships.”

As part of the program, Bridge Sponsor companies each select a startup business and sponsor its GFW Inc. membership dues for a five-year period. The startup receives full investor benefits, including exclusive discounts, access to investor-only events, complimentary use of meeting space at the GFW Inc. offices, and more. Entrepreneurs also will be able to take part in educational and networking programs tailored specifically for startup founders.

“The Bridge Program has helped me be a better leader,” said Stephanie Martin, founder of A Chance Re-Employment, LLC and a current Bridge Entrepreneur sponsored by Ambassador Enterprises. “In the coaching sessions, I learned how to identify my strengths and those of my team members. It not only makes me better personally, but it makes me better in business.”

Five companies have committed to serve as Bridge Sponsors in the upcoming cohort:

  1. Franklin Electric
  2. Lutheran Health Network
  3. Old National Bank
  4. PNC
  5. Premier Bank

Each Bridge Sponsor company will select a Bridge Entrepreneur to be paired with for the five-year program.

A limited number of additional Bridge Sponsor slots are available for this year’s cohort. To learn more, contact Gerber Vincent at bgerbervincent@gfwinc.com.

“We’re humbled to see these Bridge Sponsors sharing the benefits of GFW Inc. membership with early-stage companies,” Gerber Vincent said. “Mentorship is another important aspect of the program. Our corporate leaders have been generous with their time, providing valuable connections and guidance, and the relationships they’ve built with entrepreneurs are rewarding for everyone involved.”

This year’s cohort will specifically include entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds as part of GFW Inc.’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. According to a recent study by RateMyInvestor and Diversity VC, people of color generally have been underrepresented in the U.S. entrepreneurial community and just 9% of startup founders are female.

The Bridge Program is part of a broad community effort to support entrepreneurship. Additional initiatives include the City of Fort Wayne’s SEED and Summit City Match programs, plus a host of grassroots and nonprofit organizations.

To apply for a spot in the program, entrepreneurs should complete the online application at bridge.gfwinc.com.

About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Ind., as its primary point of contact for economic growth. GFW Inc. focuses on prosperity and community vibrancy through economic development, advocacy, programs and resources that support business success, leadership development, graduate retention and community engagement.