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Greater Des Moines Partnership launches Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator

The Greater Des Moines Partnership has partnered with nonprofit Interise to launch the Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator.

The accelerator aims to help businesses gain access to knowledge, management skills and networks needed to increase revenue, create jobs and positively impact the community.

The program is tuition-free and will run from June through December 2022.

Scale DSM participants will complete Interise’s StreetWise ‘MBA,’ (minority business accelerator) which is centered around practical, case-based peer learning for minority-led businesses. Programming will be divided into five modules and participants will be required to attend one session per week. Module topics include business strategy and leadership, financial management, sales and marketing, talent and capital resources, and strategic growth action plan.

“This program will help empower business owners who have a diverse background and cultivate an environment where companies can ramp up their growth,” said Juan Pablo Sanchez, Director of Inclusive Business Strategies at The Partnership in a . “Businesses that participate in this program will be able to take away actionable steps from experts in areas related to leadership, sales and marketing, resource management and strategic planning that position their company for long-term success.”

Greater Des Moines is one of several places around the country that is working with Interise to administer its program. Based on a 2021 data assessment by Interise, 55% of alumni businesses increased or maintained annual revenues, with an average annual revenue growth of 13%. A total of 71% of alumni businesses reported being profitable and 60% added or retained jobs.

“The Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator signature program will be integral to the growth and sustainability of minority-owned businesses in the DSM region,” said Bernard Johnson, Senior Director of Programs for Interise. “The participants in the inaugural cohort are going to increase their individual and shared capacity around finance, sales and marketing, access to capital, and strategy. Interise is truly excited to partner with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and support The Partnership’s dedication to maximizing opportunities for minority-owned firms.”

To apply, businesses must have minority-owned business status, $150,000 – $4 million in annual revenues, one other full-time employee besides the owner or owners, at least two years of being in business, and a willingness and ability to attend the class for seven months.

The application deadline is Sunday, May 8. To learn more and apply, click here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership launches Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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