Charlotte Hornets Foundation putting focus on minority founders through innovation summit

Charlotte Hornets Foundation putting focus on minority founders through innovation summit

The Charlotte Hornets Foundation is making strides in its effort to level the playing field for the city’s minority entrepreneurs.

Next month, the foundation will host a virtual Innovation Summit in an effort to help empower minority entrepreneurs in Charlotte by giving them access to social and financial capital, professional resources and skill development, said Betsy Mack, CHF senior director of corporate social responsibility and executive director.

“The need for something like this in Charlotte is absolutely there … We don’t have enough of resources for the (minority) entrepreneurs who have these ideas,” she said. “This excites me because it shows us this could be something that could be a recurring, annual event.”

Mack said the summit is part of a larger social justice initiative the foundation launched late last year.

“We’ve been focusing on economic mobility and racial equity, and we wanted to be more intentional in showcasing our investment in the area,” she said. “The summit is a way for us to show that we’re not just putting words down on paper.”

By the time the deadline passed on Tuesday, the foundation had received nearly 150 applications to pitch at the summit, Mack said. To qualify, a business was required to be at least 51% minority owned and operated.

“We weren’t sure what to expect with the application round because we’d never really done anything like this before,” she said. “The appetite from Charlotte entrepreneurs was overwhelming, and the applications are very strong.”

A team made up of foundation members and a newly formed diversity and inclusion group will review the first round of applications and select who will move on to the second round. From there, the applicants will submit short pitch videos and answer additional questions.

The foundation will announce the Innovation Summit’s five finalists in early March. Those finalists will pitch to a panel of local established entrepreneurs, Charlotte Hornets leadership and national industry experts during a live virtual event in mid-March. The winner will receive a $15,000 prize.

“They’ll pitch to the panel of judges and really have the opportunity to showcase their ideas on a larger stage,” Mack said. “This is a community-wide initiative, so we’re listening to what organizations and individual community members want to see, then marrying those ideas with the foundation’s resources.”

All five finalists will also receive one year of free access to The Lonely Entrepreneur, a national nonprofit that provides current and aspiring entrepreneurs with knowledge, tools and support to grow businesses.

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