COURIER STAFF, Feb 19, 2023
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The 24/7 BLAC Black Business Entrepreneurial Accelerator and its collaboration with the University of Northern Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center won the Model Community Accelerator/Incubator Award at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship annual conference Jan. 21.
Hosted by Florida State University, the USASBE 2023: Driven by Dreams annual conference recognized bold and innovative programs impacting entrepreneurship education. The Model Community Accelerator/Incubator Awards was a new award category in 2023, recognizing community programs that help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into viable and scalable businesses.
The 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium’s BBEA entrepreneurial program is one of the organization’s flagship programs created in response to a 24/7 Wall Street Report that highlighted race disparities in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa. The UNI JPEC supports 24/7 BLAC’s commitment to focusing specifically on Black entrepreneurs’ needs in the Cedar Valley and beyond.
“The 24/7 BLAC Black Business Entrepreneurship Accelerator program works because the 14-week program is designed to support the specific needs and problems Black entrepreneurs face. The program continues to support the entrepreneurs beyond their completion of the program with continued one-on-one support,” said ReShonda Young, BBEA program director.
USASBE judges also recognized the program’s pioneering focus on peer mentorship, where Black entrepreneurs support other Black entrepreneurs. The core curriculum of the accelerator focuses on traditional business practices but also addresses the distinct challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs, including social, economic, and systemic issues.
“In the past three years, the entrepreneurs enrolled in BBEA have been beating the statistical odds, even during COVID, to grow revenues as well as profits—some with double and triple digits. But it’s also important to reflect on the secondary economic impact that we all benefit from when our community’s Black entrepreneurs’ succeed,” said Lindi Roelofse, T. Wayne Davis Chair in Entrepreneurship at UNI, who serves on the BBEA Strategic Steering Task Force.
UNI has been named a finalist for one of the USABE awards for three years in a row for its innovative entrepreneurial curriculum.