Social entrepreneurs from Central, Northwest, Southwest and West Central Minnesota to receive stipend and mentoring to advance enterprising ideas
LITTLE FALLS, MN—From a community journalist with a goal to surface community-centered challenges and solutions to an entrepreneur creating felon-friendly employment to a grocery store owner creating food access, the field of eight fellows for the 2022-2023 Initiators Fellowship cohort has been selected.
“We’re beyond inspired by the work and visions of these eight amazing Fellows and can’t wait to support and celebrate them these next two years as they seek to transform their communities and regions,” said Brian Voerding, Initiative Foundation vice president for inclusive entrepreneurship. “Throughout this process we were introduced to 85 enterprising individuals, and we are grateful to each and every one of them for the energy and change they’re leading.”
Here’s a closer look at our 2022-2023 Fellows, two from each region:
Southwest Initiative Foundation
Fellows from the Southwest Initiative Foundation’s region of 18 counties and two Native nations include:
Khalif Ahmed Bashir | Willmar | Immigrant Homeownership
Khalif Bashir wants to help make the dream of home ownership a reality for immigrant families. Through the nonprofit he founded, Hope Action Network, and through his business, KB Realtor, he will provide education, consulting and down-payment assistance for first-time home buyers.Read a Q&A with Khalif
Kristine Shelstad | Madison | Community-Building
Madison is home for Kristine Shelstad—a place that nurtured her in her youth and brings her solace as an adult. To give back to Madison and its residents, Shelstad has launched Madison Mercantile—a home for art, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and all things in between.Read a Q&A with Kris
Fellows from the Initiative Foundation’s 14-county region:
Nora Hertel | St. Michael | Community Journalism
With fewer news outlets comes fewer opportunities to read inspiring local stories. Nora Hertel plans to launch the Greater Minnesota Optimist to use community journalism as a catalyst to unite people and to surface challenges and solutions in rural Minnesota.
Fardowsa Iman | St. Cloud | Addiction Treatment
Recognizing the role that culture and religion play in substance abuse recovery, Fardowsa Iman, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and Somali immigrant, wants to open One Day Counseling, a culturally competent substance abuse clinic.
Northwest Minnesota Foundation
Fellows from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s 12-county region:
Daniel Barrientez Jr. | Bemidji | Felon-Friendly Employment
When Daniel Barrientez was released from incarceration in 2010, he struggled to find employment due to his record. Faced with many roadblocks—from employment to housing—he ultimately earned a degree in the culinary arts. His social enterprise idea is a food truck and food business to create jobs for former felons.
Brenna Rollie | Fosston | Wellness & Community-Building
Brenna Rollie wants to use her business, Aham Love Yoga, to increase health and wellness for rural Minnesota communities by providing classes, community events and youth camps with an emphasis on healing, community-building and culture. Her dream is to create a community where all residents live in harmony with the land, water and each other.
West Central Initiative
Fellows from West Central Initiative’s nine-county region:
Alex Ostenson | Evansville | Food Access
To end food insecurity in the Evansville area, which has lacked a grocery store for more than four years, Alex Ostenson founded Main Street Market. With a swipe of a key fob or a scan of the grocery store’s cellphone app, members can have 24-hour access. The store also offers traditional hours for non-members, fulfilling a community need while also providing locally produced food.
Noreen Thomas | Moorhead | Sustainable Farming
Caring deeply about the land she and her husband farm near Moorhead, Noreen Thomas wants to convert local food waste into fertilizer. The biodigester process, she said, would provide a community-based resource and eliminate the need to import fertilizer from miles or even continents away while also promoting clean waterways and sustainable farming practices.
The eight Fellows selected for the 2022-2023 cohort represent 53 counties and six sovereign tribal nations in Central, Northwest, Southwest and West Central Minnesota. They will receive an annual $30,000 stipend during the two-year program, which also includes comprehensive programming, executive-level mentoring and leadership training, ongoing education, and support from dedicated staff members to advance their mission-driven business or nonprofit endeavors.
To support all applicants, the Foundation will provide additional training and resources, starting with a November event focused on building social enterprise ventures.
The Initiators Fellowship originated with the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation in 2017 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 first cohort of four Fellows graduated in December 2019. In December, seven Fellows will graduate from the 2020-2021 cohort.
Visit fellows.greaterminnesota.net for a map of the Fellows' locations and question-and-answer responses about their social enterprise ventures.
About the Funders
The Initiators Fellowship is made possible by generous funders, including Granite Partners, an original founding funder and partner, along with the Bush Foundation and Sourcewell.