FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Six local entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in the newest cohort of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s Bridge Program. The award-winning program, which pairs longtime companies with startups, is designed to give entrepreneurs an extra boost, helping them bridge the gap between startup and success.
“Our community has plenty of talented, driven entrepreneurs, but the fact is, they’re often held back by a lack of resources and connections. That’s where the Bridge Program comes in,” said Barry Schrock, director of leadership programs at GFW Inc. “Bridge Sponsors bring their resources to the table to help smaller companies succeed. That could mean offering their Bridge Entrepreneurs advice, a key introduction, or just a few words of encouragement. It’s amazing how far startups can go with a trusted sponsor in their corner.”
As part of the program, Bridge Sponsor companies help fund a startup’s 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 have the opportunity to take part in educational and networking programs tailored specifically for startup founders.
The six pairs of Bridge Entrepreneurs and Bridge Sponsors are:
- Bitoda, an IT firm that provides cloud, cybersecurity, and compliance consulting for businesses. Bridge Sponsor: Felderman Design-Build
- Crossroads Courier, while not fitting the traditional definition of “startup,” is aiming to learn the proper techniques to grow the small delivery company while preparing to transition to third-generation ownership. Bridge Sponsor: Fort Wayne Metals
- Health Hut Wellness Center, a provider of natural and organic health care products. Bridge Sponsor: Century 21 Bradley Realty
- Inspired Nutrition by Kelley, a company that helps people optimize their nutrition and health with meal plans, cooking classes, and online programs. Bridge Sponsor: Indiana Tech
- The Backyard, a dining and entertainment concept that’s expected to serve as a hub of local culture in southeast Fort Wayne. Bridge Sponsor: Pizza Hut Fort Wayne
- The Mom of an Addict, a nonprofit organization that supports families of individuals struggling with addiction. Bridge Sponsor: Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne
All six entrepreneurs selected for this cohort come from underrepresented backgrounds. They join an already-diverse program; 19 of the 23 startups selected for previous cohorts are woman- and/or minority-owned.
According to a 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 one of the ways we’re building a nationally recognized economy that’s high-growth, innovative, and inclusive,” said Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW Inc.’s VP of community and corporate impact. “We’re offering connections, resources, and opportunities to populations that, historically, have been underserved in the entrepreneurial space. We’re thrilled to see the business community working together to create a more inclusive local economy.”
This cohort of Bridge Entrepreneurs and Bridge Sponsors kicked off the program with an orientation day in late January. They have six more sessions throughout the year, starting with an entrepreneur training session March 22 and a networking event April 7.
About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana, 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.