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Sign-Up Data Validates Disparities in Entrepreneurship

Posted on by TriciaJackson, filed under Press Releases


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 17, 2018 - The Start Garden team announced the results of the idea submission phase of the 100 Ideas initiative. In this first phase, the results show the entrepreneurial spirit and drive is more vibrant than the team thought.

For the last 100 days, anyone from anywhere in any language could submit a 100 second pitch to be chosen for a competition. The competition kicks off on April 24, when the 100 Ideas selected are announced. All 100 return to the July 10 Demo Day event to make the case for why they should be among 10 chosen for another $20,000.

Since launching the grassroots initiative on January 4 of this year, 812 people signed up to potentially participate in the competition. 621 ideas were submitted via video to the dedicated 100 Ideas website.

“We were overwhelmed with the response from the community,” said Jorge Gonzalez, Director of the program. “We knew people felt excluded from participating in entrepreneurship because of barriers to resources. Looking at the demographic data, the problem was bigger than we thought, especially for women, minorities and lower income families.”

The program was open to anyone 14 years or older interested in pitching their business idea for the opportunity to receive $1,000 seed funding to flesh out their concept/idea. In keeping with the goal of providing access to all individuals and neighborhoods, Start Garden held regular “pop-up” events at key neighborhood locations throughout the city.

According to Start Garden staff, the 812 individuals signed up to potentially participate in the competition.

  • Gender
    52%-male, 46%-female (remainder “self-described”)
  • Race/Ethnicity
    59%-Caucasian, 29%-African-American, 10%-Hispanic, 3%-Asian (remainder “other”)
  • Age
    22% - 14-24, 58% - 25-44, 19% - 45+ (remainder opted out)  

Income levels showed an equal distribution of participants, with those making less than $50,000 making up the majority at 57%.

“We knew aspiring entrepreneurs ‘bootstrap’ or borrow from friends and family when they’re working on a new idea, which means they need a cache of their own resources, or wealthy connections,” said Paul Moore, co-director of Start Garden. “The sign ups from 100 Ideas are very different from historical demographics on entrepreneurs: half were women, half minorities and half making less than $50,000 a year, confirming that there are a lot of people seeking access to capital to launch something new, but can’t find it.”

The 100 selected ideas will be invited to the July 10 Demo Day, where they will compete to be among 10 to receive another $20,000 to continue building their ideas. The public is invited - and encouraged - to attend this event.

The announcement of the 100 ideas selected will take place on April 24 at Start Garden, immediately following the monthly 5x5 Night pitch competition and will be live-streamed via Facebook at And on April 25, the presenters of the 100 selected ideas will be required to attend a private winner's event, where they will receive their $1,000 check; information on the community resources that can help them prepare for Demo Day; and receive instructions and criteria on what to expect and prepare for at the Demo Day

The Demo Day will take place on July 10, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., at 20 Monroe Live, 11 Ottawa Ave NW in Grand Rapids.

“We opened the gates for all to participate in this important entrepreneurial endeavor, and the community responded,” added Darel Ross, co-director at Start Garden. “This was a great start to what we envision as a multi-year commitment to West Michigan. We firmly believe that great businesses start with great ideas and that ideas shouldn't have neighborhood or zip code boundaries.”

The grants that go to the aspiring entrepreneurs are a first of its kind collaboration among the financial institutions in West Michigan and include the following:

  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Huntington Bank
  • Bank of America (Merrill Lynch)
  • PNC Bank
  • Flagstar Bank
  • Chemical Bank
  • Mercantile Bank
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union
  • Choice One Bank
  • Macatawa Bank
  • Economic Development Foundation

More information can be found at


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Raul Alvarez
GTSD Group

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