Social Entrepreneurs from Central, Southwest and West Central Minnesota to receive stipend, mentoring to advance business ideas
Little Falls, MINN.—From a hydroponic growing system that allows for year-round fresh produce to an immigrant-focused law firm with an innovative and affordable fee structure, the field of seven fellows for the 2020-2021 Initiators Fellowship has been selected.
“All of the 15 finalists brought forth tremendous social enterprise ideas that hold so much community- and business-building potential for Greater Minnesota,” said Jeff Wig, vice president for entrepreneurship with the Initiative Foundation. “It’s a testament to how much promise there is for Central, Southwest and West Central Minnesota to truly lead the way in building greater good through entrepreneurship.”
Here’s a closer look at our 2020-2021 fellows:
Southwest Initiative Foundation
Fellows from the Southwest Initiative Foundation’s region of 18 counties and two Native Nations include:
Anne O’Keefe-Jackson | Renville/Redwood County | Tribal Arts
A member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community in Morton, O’Keefe-Jackson’s enterprise is to increase availability and access to traditional art supplies for native artists coupled with a space to exhibit artwork and to host performance artists.
Erin Schutte Wadzinski | Nobles County | Immigration
After spending a decade on the east coast earning a law degree, Schutte Wadzinski returned to her hometown of Worthington to put her skills to work. Her venture is an immigration-focused law firm with below-market, fixed-rate legal fees.
Fellows from the Initiative Foundation’s 14-county region include:
Jonathan Friesner | Crow Wing County | Indoor Ag
Friesner is bringing to market GroShed, an automated indoor growing system that allows for year-round fresh produce, even in the depths of winter. Stand-alone GroShed buildings are heated solely by four LED grow lights. Learn more at groshed.org.
Hamdia Mohamed | Stearns County | Sober Homes
Mohamed’s venture creates safe, secure sober homes to alleviate isolation and provide services for those experiencing depression, addiction and homelessness. Wrap-around services include transportation and social services support.
Marc Van Herr | Stearns County | Mental Health Care
Van Herr can attest that there’s a shortcoming in the mental health care system that can leave patients waiting for weeks to see a therapist. His vision is to expand a rapid-response program that provides access to a therapist within 24 hours of a crisis.
West Central Initiative
Fellows from the West Central Initiative’s nine-county region include:
Elke Richards | Douglas County | Local Foods Market
Inspired by the legacy she’d like to leave, Richards’ venture is Venn Hagen, a market that offers locally raised, sustainable foods with a focus on food security and waste reduction. Also central to the vision are living-wage pay and growing a healthy community.
Rachel Stone | Clay County | Youth Leadership
As an educator, Stone’s venture is to equip young people in need with the knowledge and skills required to manage daily activities and confidently face new situations while creating pathways to educational and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Visit fellows.greaterminnesota.net to learn more about each fellow.
The Initiators Fellowship originated with the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation in 2017 as a way to help aspiring social entrepreneurs fast-track their ideas, grow their social and professional networks and further develop their business and community leadership skills. The program, which graduated four fellows in 2019, provides a $30,000 annual stipend along with an executive-level mentor, comprehensive programming, educational opportunities and support from dedicated staff members.
The expanded Initiators Fellowship program will support seven fellows from across 41 Greater Minnesota counties: three in the Initiative Foundation’s Central Minnesota service area and two each in the Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative service areas.
About the 2020-2021 Fellowship
This cohort of the Initiators Fellowship runs from January 2020 through December 2021. The goal is to strengthen each Fellow’s leadership within their respective communities and to support the growth and development of their social enterprise ideas in order to help Greater Minnesota communities thrive.
About the Funders
The Initiators Fellowship is made possible by generous funders, including Granite Equity Partners, an original founding and ongoing funder and partner, along with the Bush Foundation, Sourcewell and CliftonLarsonAllen.