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Springboard Awards $222,500 Across Ten Organizations as First Round Winners to Boost Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

June 27, 2024
More than 130 businesses and nonprofits competed in the New Rapid Prize Competition that will award $600,000 in 2024 

ROCHESTER, N.Y., June 24, 2024 – A diverse group of organizations that support the entrepreneurial ecosystem across Western New York including a farm collaborative, a minority-focused business directory, and a kitchen incubator were named the first winners of Springboard, a regional, innovative rapid prize competition launched this year. The winners were announced at an event held at NextCorps in Rochester on Monday to honor each group and award prize money ranging from $7,500 - $25,000 with the amount awarded totaling $222,500 in this first of three rounds of funding.

The prize program is designed to support those working in Greater Buffalo, Greater Rochester, and Southern Tier communities who are actively contributing to and expanding the region’s entrepreneurial landscape.

Winners + Funding Distribution
The 10 organizations chosen out of an applicant pool of 131 represent a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits working toward the shared goal of strengthening entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Financial awards were based on the amount requested by applicants for specific projects. Those chosen are:

  • That Brown Bag Minority Business Directory $15,000 for That Brown Bag Minority Business Directory Digital Subscription Project to create a subscription-based service that grants large companies access to the directory database, facilitating direct connections between diverse suppliers and consumers.
  • Phli Divas Beauty Salon, Inc. $25,000 for the Top Tier Professional program that aims to accelerate the talent, entrepreneurship/employability, and knowledge of licensed cosmetologists, barbers, make-up artists, and estheticians.
  • University at Buffalo Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership  $25,000 for Emerging Entrepreneurs Coaching Launchpad, a series of group coaching sessions that offer a comprehensive learning experience to entrepreneurs t who are at the beginning of their business journey.
  • Ibero Business Center-WNY $25,000 for The Expanded Ibero Business Center Services and Pitch Competition that will support business training cohorts in Niagara Falls and Rochester.
  • The Rochester Commissary $25,000 for Innovation through Shared Kitchen Incubation that will enable the food business incubator to provide additional equipment and specialized support for production and scaling for food-focused entrepreneurs.
  • Providence Farm Collective Corp. $25,000 for the Farmer Leadership Circle Program, an inclusionary approach to supporting leaders and building organizational capacity, that will enhance mentorship abilities among current participants and recruit 5-10 new community leaders.
  • The Foundry $25,000 for the second phase of its Young Entrepreneurs Advance: Growing a Youth Entrepreneurship Pipeline, to enhance opportunities for youth to explore the world of business and product creation.
  • Cattaraugus-Allegany Workforce Development Board, Inc. $25,000 for its Small Business On the Job Training Program, that connects job seekers with employers and provides training costs for the first 6-10 weeks of employment.
  • The Good Neighbor Fund $25,000 for Good Neighbor Fund Micro-Grant Program to expand its current micro-grant program, entrepreneurial support, and community events.
  • The Local Sound Collaborative, Inc. $7,500 for The Artist Grants Program, providing opportunity to artists, offering innovative ways to share their craft, and pushing the conversation forward on what music can offer to our world.

The Process
Candidates went through a rigorous review process by five judges representing each region including:

  • Hadar Borden, director, Startup & Innovation Collaboratory powered by Blackstone LaunchPad and WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program at University at Buffalo
  • Marnie Lavigne, Ph.D., president and CEO, Launch NY, Inc.
  • Dr. Susan A. McCartney, Special Advisor to the Provost for Economic Development, Small Business Development Center at SUNY Buffalo State
  • Bob Forness, president and executive director, Olean Business Development Corporation
  • Jim Senall, president, NextCorps

Judges for the next two rounds will vary and include other members from Springboard program partners.

The judging committee considered a variety of factors to determine awardees, including product or service design; ability to address current gaps in the marketplace or ecosystem; clearly defined target market; funding needs to test an idea that otherwise wouldn't be able to launch. Judging criteria also included whether the idea, program, product, or service ultimately benefits entrepreneurs or strengthens the chances for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses successfully.

“The robust response to Springboard demonstrates not only that there is a strong and growing ecosystem of entrepreneur support throughout Western New York, but that there is real diversity and creativity among those providing support to a wide variety of entrepreneurs and industry segments,” NextCorps President and award ceremony host Jim Senall said. “The 10 organizations chosen reflect that diversity and demonstrate that supporting entrepreneurship takes many forms. We are so proud to host Springboard’s first round of winners and look forward to what the next two rounds of applications uncover.”

Application + Funding Next Steps

  • The Round Two application closed on June 21 and Round Two winners will be announced at an award event on August 22nd in Buffalo
  • The final application round will open at the end of June with a deadline of August 23 and winners will be announced at an event to be held on October 23 in the Southern Tier. Prizes range between $5,000 and $25,000 per winner in each round with the expectation that $600,000 will be awarded throughout the program.

Program Eligibility
The program is open to for-profit or non-profit applicants with an Employer Identification Number (EIN) that operate in the nine counties of Western New York including Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans or Wyoming County.

Springboard will help to fund eligible activities that benefit entrepreneurs or promote business growth, such as pilot programs or new initiatives that are focused on entrepreneurship support, education, or ecosystem building; networking, mentoring, and match-making activities; entrepreneurship competitions such as hackathons or startup weekends; activities designed to support a target demographic; and innovation that helps facilitate the growth of many other companies.

Eligible applicants include entrepreneur support organizations; high schools, colleges and universities that support up-and-coming entrepreneurs; and capital providers such as seed-stage funders, angel groups, venture capital funds and CDFIs. Additionally, organizations that support diverse ownership or entrepreneurs from underserved communities, innovative businesses with less than $2,000,000 in gross revenue, and entrepreneurs with existing companies that support entrepreneurship, including sole proprietorships, are eligible to apply.

For comprehensive guidelines and other program details, visit


Program Collaborators
The Center for Regional Strategies, Main Light Strategies, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Victor & Company and several community partners collaborated to lead the development of the pilot program that seeks to provide incentives for events, initiatives, and programs that connect entrepreneurs with resources, information, and other organizations. The Center for Regional Strategies is leading the implementation of Springboard, along with Main Light Strategies and an extensive team of local partners across the region.

About the Center for Regional Strategies
The Center for Regional Strategies is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focusing on planning, developing and implementing economic growth strategies to build sustainable community wealth, especially in underserved areas. Wealth-building strategies focus on the core foundational principles of Placemaking, Workforce and Small Business Development and Nonprofit Capacity Building.

About Main Light Strategies
Main Light Strategies is a Buffalo, New York based strategic consulting firm that specializes in helping communities and companies achieve meaningful objectives in the areas of economic development, large-scale public-private partnerships, and professional sports and entertainment.


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