Applications are now open for the inaugural cohort of the LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (LEAP). An initiative of Stonewall Columbus, the program creates an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to start or grow a business or social enterprise in a safe, welcoming and affirming space.
“Columbus is one of the fastest-growing startup economies in the country. However, I saw that enough wasn’t being done to encourage and support the creation and growth of LGBTQ+ owned businesses in our community,” says Michael Smithson, Columbus-based entrepreneur and vice president of the Board of Trustees for Stonewall Columbus, who came up with the idea for the accelerator.
Free to participants, a maximum of 15 individuals or teams will be selected for the inaugural cohort. Participants will complete a 14-module online and in-person course work over a three month period, including a weekly class on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 p.m. Mentors will also work with the participants during and after the program for a one-year period. Additionally, entrepreneurs will gain access to key resources that will help them build, grow and sustain their businesses.
“We are thrilled to announce the launch of the LEAP program through Stonewall Columbus as it will truly help empower members of our community – especially those more marginalized – to explore, start, and grow businesses right here in Columbus,” says Stonewall Columbus Executive Director AJ Casey.
Applications are open through Sunday, February 9. Program classes being on Tuesday, March 3 and will run through Tuesday, June 9. At the culmination of the accelerator, select participants will have the opportunity to pitch at Atlas Partners event Venture Out. Businesses will have the opportunity to pitch for funding and support to sustain their operations.
LEAP is partnering with SEA Change for its programming. The social enterprise accelerator recently expanded the avenues to its curriculum, allowing other organizations access to its business-building modules.
For more information and to fill out an application for LEAP, visit stonewallcolumbus.org/LEAP.