$80,000 in Grants Awarded to Entrepreneurs Addressing Social and Health Disparities


The American Heart Association, a global force for longer, healthier lives for all, is supporting social and tech entrepreneurs who are driving change by developing new and innovative solutions to address the social determinants of health in communities across the country.

In October 2022, the AHA hosted the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ virtual finale where a dozen local community-based entrepreneurs from across the United States presented their business models for a chance at three grants totaling $80,000. Kanisha Ffriend (Friend), founder of Heirbloom Co., was named the top finalist and received a $50,000 grant. Heirbloom Co., based in Houston, is a full-spectrum Doula service provider with the purpose of orchestrating and empowering healthy birth experiences – especially for women of color. Ms. Ffriend also received an additional $5,000 grant for being selected as the “fan favorite” with the most individual votes by followers and attendees of the event. Jinga Oglesby-Brihm, DNP, APRN, NP-C, received a $25,000 grant to support the work her organization, Empower Healthcare, is doing to address the lack of available health services in rural areas of Palm Beach County, Fla.

The finale was emceed by network television personality Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent, and judged by a panel of experts in the business, entrepreneurial and health sectors including Uché Blackstock, M.D., founder & CEO of Advancing Health Equity in New York City, an emergency medicine physician and MSNBC medical contributor; John Dozier, Ed.D., Institute Community & Equity Officer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston; and Obi Obadike, CEO of Ethical, Inc., and managing partner of Your Best Ticket in La Verne, California.

Since 2017, the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ has sought to support individuals and companied focused on social and health justice by offering business training and grants to support the work they are doing in their communities. Candidates participated in a rigorous eight-week intensive educational program where each had to identify and declare a “Health Impact Moonshot” challenge. Each moonshot concept was tested and refined using design thinking principles and data-driven customer discovery analyses. Finally, candidates blended their moonshot ideas with their business models and presented them virtually to an expert panel of judges.

During the last six years, nearly 150 social entrepreneurs have participated in the Business Accelerator, and with the support of corporate sponsors, the American Heart Association has now awarded more than $1.1 million to help accelerate start-ups, assist local social entrepreneurs and support organizations addressing the social determinants of health in their communities. Watch the Business Accelerator virtual finale.

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