About 20 Black-owned businesses in Saginaw County have already applied for Central Michigan University Research Corporation’s Lift ME, a new entrepreneurial program focused on accelerating Black-owned small businesses, and there’s still time to apply.
“We have about 20 applicants so far, and so we are excited to continue to gain those applicants and review them and see what we have,” CMURC President and CEO Erin Strang told MLive/The Saginaw News about a week after the application opened.
“We’ll go through kind of an extensive review process, and then we will select a number of entrepreneurs to move forward, and we will make that announcement on May 4 at the Saginaw Soup event.”
Courtney Garrett, regional manager of memberships for CMURC, said applicants so far represent an array of industries and business types, including personal services, product-based businesses, restaurants and event venues.
“There’s been quite a good response so far. It’s only been a week,” Garrett said.
Lift ME is CMURC’s first all-Black business accelerator. Lift ME stands for “Level the playing field, Increase representation, Foster new networks and Turn up financials for entrepreneurs,” according to a CMURC news release.
The program will help business owners accelerate their businesses with trackable milestones and provide programming to allow participants to build community connections, develop skills and access service providers that support the continued growth of Black-owned businesses, the release states.
Applicants must identify as Black and have founded or currently be conducting business in Saginaw to be eligible. The program is open to pre-established for-profit businesses. Franchises and businesses that are affiliated with national chains are ineligible.
The program was designed in conjunction with CMURC’s Entrepreneur Like ME initiative and is made possible through collaboration with PNC Foundation.
Strang said up to five applicants will be selected for the first cohort.
“We want to continue to grow the culture of entrepreneurship here in the region,” Strang added. “At CMURC, we have programs designed to get somebody from idea to being in business. This program is really geared towards companies that are in business that are looking to grow and expand, and that’s why we’re taking a fewer number of participants, so that we can be more hands-on,”
Over the course of the six-month program, entrepreneurs can join weekly Strategize ME sessions, bi-monthly one-on-one meetings and monthly peer-to-peer workshops.
As part of this process, CMURC also aims to connect with more companies that provide professional services to entrepreneurs, such as accountants, attorneys and graphic designers, Strang said.
“A component of this is also gaining traction with those professional service providers so that they can continue to have ongoing professional support in specific areas,” she said.
Applications will be accepted until Friday, March 31. Applicants need not be CMURC members to be eligible. For more information or to apply, please visit www.cmurc.com/liftme.