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Alabama Power Foundation, Venture for America partner to boost minority entrepreneurs in Birmingham

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The Alabama Power Foundation is partnering with Venture for America in the new Economic Empowerment Cohort program. (Nik Layman / Alabama NewsCenter)
By Alabama Newscenter Staff

The Alabama Power Foundation is partnering with Venture for America (VFA) in a groundbreaking initiative that will connect graduates from leading colleges to four Birmingham-area organizations being led by or supporting entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC).

The foundation will cover the majority of costs for the Economic Empowerment Cohort to hire young, entrepreneurially minded VFA fellows to support four BIPOC-led startups, BIPOC-supporting organizations or a combination of both, for two years. These recent graduates will help provide the brainpower to support Birmingham-area entrepreneurs as they grow businesses or organizations, while also contributing to the growing and diverse economic ecosystem in Birmingham.

The foundation and VFA are recruiting minority-led or minority-supporting businesses/organizations in the Birmingham area to apply to be among the four selected to participate in the cohort. Businesses interested in applying can obtain details by visiting http://alpwr.co/empower.

“Birmingham is filled with passionate and forward-thinking minority entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses and their impact,” said Tequila Smith, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “The Alabama Power/VFA Economic Empowerment Cohort provides an opportunity for four of these organizations to obtain the talent and skills they need, at a subsidized cost to them, to help make that growth happen.”

Abby Guerin Russell is the senior director for VFA Birmingham.

“This partnership and this cohort will have a significant impact on the innovative young talent we recruit to Birmingham from across the country,” she said. “It will also be an opportunity to showcase our impressive Founders of Color and the organizations that support them on a national stage. I am ecstatic about this partnership and how the growth of this Economic Empowerment Cohort will impact the VFA Birmingham community.”

VFA will take the lead in supporting the four chosen Economic Empowerment Cohort companies in hiring a full-time 2021 VFA fellow to join their teams. VFA draws talent from a high-caliber and diverse pool of graduates from more than 150 colleges and universities across the country. This year, VFA received more than 3,000 applications for the 2021 Class of VFA Fellows, with an acceptance rate of about 8%. The result is one of VFA’s most selective, skilled and diverse classes in its history.

In Birmingham, VFA is uniquely positioned to support minority entrepreneurs through its ongoing efforts to identify and recruit underrepresented candidates to participate locally in the fellowship, Russell said. The 2021 VFA hiring season started April 19.

BIPOC-led startups and BIPOC-supporting organizations in the Birmingham area are encouraged to apply to participate in the cohort. The deadline is May 24, with final selection expected May 31.

Once four organizations are selected, VFA will work closely to match them with people who can support their growth over the next two years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for any local business that is poised to grow but could use a hand getting to the next level,” Russell said. “The deadline is quickly approaching, and we’d love for you to be a part of this inaugural cohort.”

For more information about the Economic Empowerment Cohort and application rules, go to http://alpwr.co/empower. For details about Venture for America, please visit http://ventureforamerica.org.