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Finnovation Lab Presses Ahead to Assist Social Impact Startups

Applications open April 1 for a fellowship program that offers entrepreneurs $53,000 each in stipends and mentorship.

Finnovation Lab Presses Ahead to Assist Social Impact Startups
Finnovation Lab in downtown Minneapolis

During a time when many companies are struggling to stay afloat, Finnovation Lab believes supporting startups that are working to solve social problems through business is more important than ever. This week, the Minneapolis-based accelerator announced intentions to move forward with a third cohort of the Finnovation Fellowship Program. Applications for entrepreneurs with ties to Minnesota and social impact business ideas will be open April 1 through May 15. 

Nine future founders will be selected to join the cohort and receive a $50,000 living stipend, a $3,000 health care stipend, a workspace, access to a network of advisors and mentors, and tailored curriculum to help turn ideas into successful impact businesses. 

“With each new batch of applicants, it gets harder to select a final group of fellows,” said Finnovation Lab CEO Connie Rutledge. “We’ve seen a lot of incredible ideas to address social problems through unconventional methods, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to foster growth for the leaders behind those ideas.”

The fellowship program, which will run from mid-September 2020 through mid-June 2021, will focus on helping cohorts develop leadership and business planning skills.

Alumni and cohorts of the fellowship program include RED Market, an online marketplace connecting sustainable farmers with wholesalers; We Sparkle, an AI-powered digital assistant that helps make small business marketing efforts more efficient (also a winner of the MN Cup Impact Venture division); and Epimonia, which employs refugees to make gear from recycled life jackets while supporting the education and advancement of refugees by donating 50 percent of profits to non-profit partners.

While the fellowship will continue, it, like most every business, is being forced to adjust to a new normal during the coronavirus outbreak. Events at Finnovation Lab’s downtown Minneapolis space have been cancelled or postponed and the organization has shifted its support and programming online, Rutledge said. 

“Our current fellows' businesses have all been impacted, and we're working together as a group to make adjustments and plans for the future,” Rutledge said. “They're showing great agility and are leaning on each other for support and guidance, which we're very proud to see.”

The Finnovation Fellowship Program is supported by the Bush Foundation, which offers grants and opportunities to philanthropic organizations in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and 23 Native nations.

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