Oregon Community Foundation Awards $520K To Historically Overlooked Entrepreneurs

Oregon Community Foundation
Recipients of Latino Founders Pitch Latino event stand with their checks.

Now in its third year, entrepreneurs who received awards will also obtain business counseling and technical assistance, in the hopes of growing their network and partnering with one another.

Share this article!

The Oregon Community Foundation will award 24 Oregon-based nonprofit organizations grants between $15,000 and $25,000 as part of its Thriving Entrepreneurs Program, according to a press release the foundation issued last week.

The program, which began in 2021, provides mentoring and technical assistance as well as funding and access to capital for under-resourced entrepreneurs and businesses who are often overlooked by traditional markets, including entrepreneurs of color, women and those rural areas of the state.   

Maribel De Leon, Oregon Community Foundation’s program officer for economic vitality, tells Oregon Business over email that in addition to the grant money, OCF will work with participants over the next year to connect the grantees with its network of donors, community leaders, nonprofit organizations, business leaders and elected officials.

De Leon says the cohort of Thriving Entrepreneur Grant recipients will provide updates to OCF on the implementation of their programs through meetings with OCF staff and written reports over the following year.

“We are also a resource to the grantees for other initiatives like wealth-building and facilitating convenings and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Oregon’s entrepreneur community is diverse, so we hope the organizations will also make connections with each other,” De Leon writes.

Some of the recipients including Adelante MujeresEcotrustHigh Desert Partnership, and Microenterprise Services of Oregon (MESO) have been included in past cycles of this grant.

In addition to the Thriving Entrepreneurs grant program, awardees will also have access Community Grant program, which helps nonprofit organizations respond to an immediate need in their community and can “help a specific project over the finish line,” according to De Leon.  For community-based grant recipients, OCF offers additional resources through its Oregon Impact Fund and Early-Stage Investment Fund.

OCF’s 2023 Thriving Entrepreneur grantees this year include:

Talent Business Alliance — $25,000 to support local businesses and entrepreneurs at every stage of development by offering technical assistance, networking, and advocacy to expand the vitality of the community of Talent. As background, Talent lost 60% of its businesses in the 2020 Alameda Fire. The remaining 40% continue to struggle in the wake of incredible losses from the fire.  

MicroEnterprise Resources Initiatives & Training (MERIT) — $25,000 to support Oregon’s diverse business community by providing 20 to 30 clients with expert entrepreneurial and financial management training, small business training, financial education, and loan program and individual development accounts.

Be Blac Foundation — $25,000 to develop and grow the Black community through partnering with and supporting Black-owned and operated businesses/nonprofits and offering culturally specific venture catalyst workshops, training, and bootcamps for emerging and well-established Black business owners and entrepreneurs in Marion and Polk counties.  

Northwest Native Chamber — $25,000 to builds avenues to wealth creation for Native Americans and other diverse communities through small business development and critical business development training, technical assistance, and other key supports to ensure that Native American small business owners and entrepreneurs have the resources that they need.  NNC expects to support 350 Native American small businesses, and this OCF grant will pay for approximately 160 direct counseling hours through contracted Professional Service Providers, who support clients with industry-specific expertise. 

REAP Inc. — $25,000 to invest in students grades 3-12 by empowering them to converse with business, community, and political leaders. Specifically, this grant will support REAP’s Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP), which is a 10-month curriculum that introduces students to the fundamentals of business. 

Warm Springs Community Action Team — $25,000 to supports the Warm Springs Indian Reservation through programs with youth, adults, families and tribal entrepreneurs; employs and trains workers in its coffee shop and food cart and works with hundreds of tribal households each year through workforce trainings, asset building, small business promotion, tax assistance, education, and youth programs. 

Latino Founders — $25,000 to support Latino-led startups looking to scale their products, technology, and services statewide. Latino entrepreneurs with a business idea or an existing business participate in a 10-week accelerator program, where they learn business modeling, finance, and prototyping and get paired up with mentors and resources to help them launch and scale their businesses. 

The BFM Fund (Black Founders Matter — $25,000 for  The BFM Fund’s Emerge Initiative, whichsupports Oregon-based BIPOC entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of launching their venture with pitch competitions, non-dilutive grant funding, and long term, culturally relevant mentorship, networking, and connection to accelerator and other investors.