This past weekend, Square announced the launch of Forward, a business accelerator program designed to help Black and Latino retail entrepreneurs obtain the capital, coaching, and products they need to succeed.
Business owners of color are leading America’s entrepreneurship boom. More than 5 million new business applications were filed in 2022, and Black and Latino Americans are opening more businesses than any other group. Despite these successes, Black and Latino business owners still face systemic barriers to achieving long-term success, which result in higher closure rates. According to a recent Square report, the most common challenges faced by Hispanic businesses is raising capital.
To provide more access to resources and address these barriers, Forwardwill support 25 early-stage businesses who will be awarded $20,000 in funding along with exclusive access to trainings developed in partnership with 1863 Ventures, a recognized leader in providing culturally competent business curricula. The training topics will range from leadership and customer development to scaling operations and managing financial growth.
Members of the inaugural cohort will receive Square checking and savings accounts, Square hardware, attend intimate mentor masterclasses and work on an individual level with coaches to discuss their unique business needs. Program mentors include actress, activist, designer, and businesswoman Rosario Dawson, bestselling author and CEO of Sweet July Ayesha Curry, financial advisors and podcasters Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of Earn Your Leisure, and NBA Champion, entrepreneur and Social Change Fund United (SCFU) co-founder Dwyane Wade.
“We launched the Social Change Fund United with the goal of creating a more fair and equitable society in part through economic investment and efforts to support minority-owned businesses,” said NBA Champion, entrepreneur and SCFU co-founder Dwyane Wade. “By partnering with Square today to launch Forward, we’re meeting those goals and helping to ensure that entrepreneurs of color have the opportunity to make their business ideas come to life in a lasting way. As a business owner myself, I understand how critical it is to have the right tools and mentorship when getting started.”
“Because Square succeeds when our sellers succeed, we’re fully invested in providing entrepreneurs of color with the tools they need to thrive,” said Naomi Wheeless, Global Head of Customer Success for Square. “At a time when Black and Brown entrepreneurs are opening more businesses than anyone else, Square is helping to create a space where great ideas and hard working sellers can get the support and coaching required to reach the next level. Forward is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication from talented employees across the Square organization who are committed to seeing minority-owned businesses make it past the start up stage and go on to thrive.”
Square’s recent Future of Commerce Report revealed that revenue diversification and tech automation are top of mind for businesses around the country. Square’s ecosystem gives sellers a single, easy-to-understand home for their entire business, unlocking a variety of capabilities like accessing loans through Square Banking, connecting with and staying in touch with customers through Square Marketing, and managing staff through Team Management and Square Payroll.
“I’m thankful to have access to Square’s tools to help streamline operations in my own business, allowing me to focus on growing the company and evolving the projects I care deeply about,” said Founder & CEO of Sweet July, Ayesha Curry. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with Square to launch Forward, and be able to assist deserving entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities to provide the resources and mentorship they need to build their businesses and pursue their passions.”
“Latinos open businesses at a rate about 55% higher than their white counterparts, and still have a harder time staying in business and getting the support they need to grow,” said actress and entrepreneur Rosario Dawson. “By launching Forward today, we’re eager to help entrepreneurs of color in the retail sector overcome systemic barriers and make their budding businesses grow.”
American Express will also support the Forward initiative through funding and coaching opportunities for program participants.
Applications for Forward are open now through April 1, 2023. In order to qualify, retail businesses must be a part of the clothing & accessories, health & beauty, home goods & furniture, or food & beverage sectors, based in the U.S., be within the first three years of operation, and founded by or have a current CEO who identifies as Black/African American or Latino, among other requirements. Interested applicants can review the full list of parameters and submit an application at www.squareup.com/forward.
In early June, Forward participants will be invited to attend a capstone event in Miami where they will have the opportunity to meet like-minded business owners, receive additional support and celebrate the completion of the Forward program. This event will be open to the press.