Start Garden Announces “100 Ideas” Funding Campaign

Start Garden Co-Diretor Darel Ross.

Start Garden made a stunning and inspiring announcement last night outlining an idea-funding campaign with the goal of launching at least ten neighborhood businesses in Grand Rapids per year. The campaign, titled “100 Ideas,” is aimed at providing anyone with a viable idea the opportunity to bring it to life.

Co-Director Paul Moore expressed that the campaign is a response to the inequities surrounding entrepreneurship in West Michigan. He shared with the audience at 40 Pearl St NW that in 2016, out of the all the venture capital distributed to entrepreneurs nationally, 90 percent went to companies owned by white males, with the remaining 10 percent going to women and within that, 1 percent to African-Americans. He went on the cite the title bestowed on the city by Forbes.com in 2015: fifty-one  out of 52 for African American prosperity.

Start Garden will be accepting ideas until April 10, after which they will announce the 100 ideas chosen to receive $1,000 each. With the newly awarded funds and two months to prepare, the people behind those 100 ideas will pitch to a panel of judges on July 10. A minimum of ten will be chosen to receive another $20,000 to grow their project.

“We want to fund ideas, not credit scores.”

“Imagine living in a city where entrepreneurs can get funding and resources based on their idea, not their zip code, not their background, not their education, not their ability to underwrite the loan themselves by their prior income or savings,” Darel Ross II, Start Garden co-director and former co-executive director of LINC, told the crowd. “Imagine living in that city. Today, I am announcing that powered by Start Garden, the city of Grand Rapids will become that city.”

Pitches can be recorded and submitted at 100ideas.startgarden.com. Directors Ross, Paul Moore and Jorge Gonzalez emphasize that anyone, anywhere and in language can submit their idea.

“We want to fund ideas,” Ross expressed. “Not credit scores.”

The directors collectively acknowledged that while Start Garden has exacted a tremendous impact on start-ups in West Michigan, the audience members at its monthly 5×5 events and those pitching and receiving funds have been largely homogenous. For two years, Start Garden has been working on launching “100 Ideas” to change that and bring entrepreneurial resources to communities who previously did not have access to them. Last night’s announcement, they said, brought the most diverse crowd yet into the downtown space.

“The answer to inequity is income, the answer to income is entrepreneurship,” Ross stated. “And the answer to entrepreneurship is access.”

Sponsors for the campaign include Fifth Third Bank, Huntington Bank and Lake Michigan Credit Union, among others.  To pitch your idea, visit 100ideas.startgarden.com.

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