Winrock International has introduced the Multicultural Business Xcellerator (MBX), an initiative supported by the Walton Family Foundation aimed at promoting inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship in Arkansas. The foundation has distributed a $607,873 grant to support the accelerator.
MBX will target 10 companies in its first cohort, five from Arkansas and five from outside the state. Cohort members will participate in a 16-week program based in Northwest Arkansas in 2024, where MBX will help connect companies to expert mentors, capital, and new customers, facilitating accelerated growth, expansion and investment opportunities.
As the entrepreneurial landscape in Arkansas gradually diversifies, MBX wants to address an underrepresentation of BIPOC entrepreneurs in the state, it said. According to the 2021 Arkansas Capital Scan by the University of Arkansas, the majority of seed funding ─ both in Arkansas and nationwide ─ has historically gone to startups and small businesses led by white males, leaving women and people of color with limited access to resources. MBX intends to bridge these gaps in funding, procurement, and mentorship, positioning Arkansas as a hub for inclusive entrepreneurial success.
“We understand the impact our vision plays in providing access to the economy, redefining scalability standards and revolutionizing our approach to inclusive innovation in Arkansas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem and across the Heartland,” MBX founder and Director Bjorn Simmons said.
The 16-week program, set to commence in 2024 in Northwest Arkansas, will connect participants with expert mentorship, coaching, potential sources of capital, customers, and expansion opportunities to facilitate accelerated growth. The eligibility criteria for MBX include visionaries who are building transformative tech and tech-enabled companies and companies led by women and/or under-represented founders.
Other criteria will involve seeking participants primed for growth and able to demonstrate that their product meets a market need and MBX will seek entrepreneurs willing to commit to the program and who are eager to evolve and thrive.
“Winrock has long been committed to expanded access to business support services, entrepreneurial acceleration and financing to BIPOC and women-owned businesses,” said Winrock’s U.S. Programs Director Linsley Kinkade. “We are excited to launch MBX and encourage multicultural entrepreneurs to explore this exciting program. Participants will access mentoring and networking opportunities, gain market visibility, and tap into other support tailored to their needs. By intentionally focusing on underrepresented businesses and founders, this project and the companies launched will have a major impact on inclusivity and diversity across the entrepreneurial landscape in Arkansas and the region.”
Simmons was the founder of Wyzerr, an artificial intelligence business services startup; the founding director of Venture Noire, an entrepreneurial support organization; and has worked with accelerators and ecosystems across the country.