Ten Oxford Entrepreneurs begin National Accelerator Program

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2022

After a successful first cohort of five last fall, ten additional Oxford entrepreneurs will enter a national idea accelerator program aimed at taking their ideas from concept to action.

In Oxford those ideas include a shared-use commercial kitchen for entrepreneurs to experiment with food and restaurant ideas, a new model for reducing the cost of developing digital content, education workshops on hair care targeted at white families with children of color, single-serving pickle juice for athletes or bars and a storytelling platform to tell the unique stories of the Oxford community.

The participants from Oxford will join builders from Oklahoma in the cities of Tulsa and Oklahoma City as well as Iowa City, Iowa. The three-month program kicks off on January 20. 

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The program continues a partnership between Heartland Forward and its partners, Builders + Backers as well as local sponsors including the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber Foundation, City of Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi.

Again, this year, Heartland Forward brings its Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT), a first-of-its-kind idea accelerator, Pebble Fund and Buildership program, powered by Builders + Backers, to Oxford. The cohort of 10 builders is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to funding and supporting 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. 

“Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy. They are the lifeblood of any community’s economy,” said Jon Maynard, president and CEO for the Oxford-Lafayette Economic Development Foundation. “The approach taken by Heartland Forward in partnership with Builders and Backers is one we believe has tremendous merit. It’s an entirely new way of looking at entrepreneurship with the focus on taking ideas, putting them into action and determining which ones can scale. And this all happens in a 90-day timeframe which is remarkable.”

The Oxford cohort will also include an inclusive effort to help boost financial literacy among young people, a program to promote healing from the trauma of sexual assault and domestic violence by connecting survivors.

Other ideas include: an arts collective pairing larger and smaller arts organization, the creation of a new space for students to quietly and safely study and a community response collective to boost the effectiveness of existing programs and resources. 

“Oxford was one of the first communities to pilot the program, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with their interest, overall investment and the results achieved by the participants,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “We look forward to watching this next group of Oxford builders and what they accomplish. They have innovative ideas that can have real impact on their communities. We are proud to have them as a part of the 1,000 builders we will be supporting across the heartland by 2023.”

“Every community has potential game-changing ideas that are lying dormant,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “We received some exciting submissions in Oxford, and we can’t wait to get to work helping these new builders put their ideas into action. This is where the premise behind our Idea Accelerator program gets so interesting. For less than a single venture investment, we’re going to unleash and fuel thousands of ideas across the country and see new ventures, initiatives and companies emerge.”

At the heart of the CGPT are the Builders + Backers four program pillars, designed to mobilize and equip Builders through: 

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program. 
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders. 
  • Buildership Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities. 

List of Oxford Builders:

  • Stacey Sanford
  • Keiona Jackson
  • Tanisha Shantae Bankston
  • Don Jones
  • Danny Klimetz
  • Danielle Maury
  • Antonio Tarrell
  • Rori Eddie Herbison
  • Elizabeth Speed
  • Andi Brice