FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Ten local entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in the newest cohort of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s Bridge Program. The award-winning program, which connects established companies with startups, is designed to give entrepreneurs an extra boost, helping them bridge the gap between startup and success.
“It’s amazing what this program has already accomplished in just a year. Adding 10 more startups just adds to the impact we can make,” said Aaryn Eady, director of investor engagement at GFW Inc. “For Bridge Sponsors, this is a way to grow the economy and help smaller companies succeed. For Bridge Entrepreneurs, it’s such a shot of confidence to be able go to their sponsor for advice, a key introduction, or just a few words of encouragement.”
As part of the program, Bridge Sponsor companies pay for a startup business’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 10 pairs of Bridge Entrepreneurs and Bridge Sponsors are:
- Creative Circles, a company that produces its own clothing line and provides screen printing and embroidery services for companies locally and nationally. Bridge Sponsor: Fort Wayne Christian Business Roundtable.
- Downtown Courtesy Shuttle, which provides transportation around downtown Fort Wayne via electric vehicles. Bridge Sponsor: Old National Bank.
- EdventureKidz, a company that creates educational career exploration kits to be used as part of children’s in-class, after-school, and at-home learning. Bridge Sponsor: Franklin Electric.
- Ground Down, a company that collects food waste from homes and businesses and converts it into local compost. Bridge Sponsor: ObiCai Restaurant Group.
- Guardian Machine Protection, a company that provides small to mid-sized manufacturers preventive maintenance service on industrial machinery and equipment. Bridge Sponsor: Premier Bank.
- Interception CPR, a company that provides CPR and first-aid instruction and certification. Bridge Sponsor: Bulldog Consulting Services.
- Sew Pinky, a company that makes clothing for girls of all ages, as well as offering free sewing and crocheting classes for girls. Bridge Sponsor: Vera Bradley.
- Simple Glow Candle Co., a company that produces quality soy candles, sourced and hand-poured in Indiana. Bridge Sponsor: PNC Bank.
- Sistarz & Sistarz, a nonprofit organization that provides food, hygiene products, and school supplies to children and families in low-income neighborhoods. Bridge Sponsor: Lake City Bank.
- Wholesome Roots Cooking, a company that teaches basic cooking skills to equip kids with knowledge they need to be independent in the kitchen. Bridge Sponsor: Lutheran Health Network.
About 20 entrepreneurs completed applications to be part of the program. All 10 selected for this cohort come from underrepresented backgrounds. They join an already-diverse program; 10 of the 15 startups selected for the inaugural cohort in 2019 are woman- and/or minority-owned.
Supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs via the Bridge Program is one of four diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives GFW Inc. launched in 2020.
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.
“Historically, women and people of color have been underrepresented in the startup community, and it’s not because of a lack of talent or ideas. It’s because of a lack of connections, resources, and opportunities,” said Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW Inc.’s VP of community and corporate impact. “The Bridge Program is designed to provide all three of those elements. It’s encouraging to see the business community taking action to make our local economy more inclusive.”
This cohort of Bridge Entrepreneurs and Bridge Sponsors will get started with an orientation day in late February.
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.