Forward, a new accelerator program designed to help Black and Hispanic retailers overcome systemic hurdles, will fund an inaugural cohort of 25 early-stage companies with $20,000 each plus exclusive access to training developed in partnership with 1863 Ventures.
The Forward program is sponsored by Square along with Social Change Fund United (SCFU), which was co-founded by NBA champion and entrepreneur Dwyane Wade, one of the Forward program’s mentors. He has been joined by actress and activist Rosario Dawson; Ayesha Curry, CEO of Sweet July; and financial advisors and podcasters Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of Earn Your Leisure. Participating businesses also will receive checking and savings accounts and hardware from Square.
“Latinos open businesses at a rate about 55% higher than their white counterparts, and still have a harder time staying in business and getting the support they need to grow,” said Dawson in a statement. “By launching Forward today, we’re eager to help entrepreneurs of color in the retail sector overcome systemic barriers and make their budding businesses grow.”
Applications for Forward are open through April 1, 2023. Retail businesses must be:
- Part of the clothing and accessories, health and beauty, home goods and furniture or food and beverage sectors;
- Based in the U.S.;
- Within their first three years of operation; and
- Founded by or have a current CEO who identifies as Black/African American or Latino, among other requirements.
Chosen participants will be invited to an event in Miami in early June where they’ll have the opportunity to meet like-minded business owners and receive additional support.
“By partnering with Square to launch Forward, we’re helping to ensure that entrepreneurs of color have the opportunity to make their business ideas come to life in a lasting way,” said Wade in a statement. “As a business owner myself, I understand how critical it is to have the right tools and mentorship when getting started.”