Grant will enable the Conductor to bring its growth program to rural Arkansans, hire Program Officers to deliver initiative in underserved areas
CONWAY—The Conductor today announced that it has been awarded the 2019 Inclusion Open Grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Inclusion Open Grant was created by the Kauffman Foundation to find uncommon solutions that accelerate the rate of business starts and growth in all communities. The Foundation sought proposals from organizations that could either test new ideas or scale already-proven programs to remove barriers that make starting and growing a business more difficult. The Conductor was selected as one of 19 organizations nationwide to receive funding through the Inclusion Open Grant. The Foundation received 777 applications total.
“What’s exciting about this group of grantees is the chance to expand and develop resources that will have far-reaching effects in other cities and rural communities,” said Chris Harris, Senior Program Officer at the Kauffman Foundation. “The impact these organizations will have on breaking down barriers for entrepreneurs cannot be emphasized enough. We’re really excited to be working closely with all of our grantees.”
The Inclusion Open Grant will enable the Conductor to scale its 10X Growth Accelerator model to reach businesses in economically depressed areas around the state. The Conductor will tailor the model to better meet the needs of rural entrepreneurs. The restructured program, known as the 10X Rural Growth initiative, will cater to scalable, Arkansas-based businesses with annual revenues between $50,000 and $5M. The Conductor will pilot the program in six regions around the state, reaching 11 counties and 19 Opportunity Zones.
“This grant is yet another testament to the importance of the Conductor’s work in Arkansas,” said U.S. Congressman French Hill. “This work is vital to the sustainability of our rural communities, and I am proud to support the Conductor’s initiatives.”
The Conductor will be hiring and training Rural Growth Program Officers who will bring the targeted assistance to each region.
“This Grant is pivotal for the entire state of Arkansas,” said Kim Lane, Executive Director of the Conductor. “With this funding, the Conductor will not only bring unprecedented support to small businesses around the state; we will also be hiring subject matter experts who will deliver the Conductor’s programming in underserved areas. We are truly implementing the proverbial approach of ‘teaching a man to fish’ rather than ‘giving a man a fish.’ Through the Inclusion Open Grant, we are equipping communities with the skills and tools they need to support and catalyze business growth in their hometowns, which will, in turn, lead to more business starts and growth. It is the economic development version of the ‘gift that keeps on giving.’”
Each cohort of the 10X Rural Growth initiative will serve 5-10 companies, and the program will be comprised of five weeks of the renowned curriculum, followed by one-on-one mentorship and coaching. The Conductor will deliver targeted assistance to up to 100 rural, high-potential companies, positioning them for job growth and expansion in impoverished and underserved areas.
“The Foundation’s selection of The Conductor to receive the 2019 Inclusion Open Grant affirms the importance of entrepreneurship in the rural areas of Arkansas. I’m confident this grant will allow the leaders at The Conductor to touch many lives that will produce benefits for individuals and to our state,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said.
“The impact that the Conductor will make in rural central Arkansas because of the Kauffman Inclusion Open is unprecedented,” said Tiffany Henry, Rural Director of the Conductor. “Because of this generous award, we are able to reduce barriers to rural entrepreneurs by providing direct delivery of our proven growth curriculum to the areas that need it most. I am especially excited for the new jobs that will be created by not only the scaling companies, but also the Regional Managers who will be hired to coordinate the 10X Rural Growth initiative.”
At the conclusion of each 10X Rural Growth course, the Conductor will be offering a Marketing Grant, which will be competitively awarded to a company in the cohort and will fund a marketing package that includes a new website, Facebook page, and logo. The Marketing Grant will be funded by the Conductor.
“The University of Central Arkansas is proud to partner in this expansion into rural Arkansas,” University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis said. “Because of the Conductor, the region is becoming a thriving entrepreneurial hub, and we are thrilled to be at the center of this work.”
The counties in the Conductor’s footprint include Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Johnson, Logan, Lonoke, Pope, Pulaski, Van Buren, White, and Yell. The six regions include: Conway and Faulkner (Central); Yell and Logan (Southwest); Van Buren and Cleburne (North); Pope and Johnson (Northwest); White (Northeast); Lonoke and Pulaski (East).
“This is a very exciting time for the Conductor,” said Jeff Standridge, Managing Director of Conductor/Startup Junkie. “We are so excited for the opportunity to bring our world-class programming and workshops to entrepreneurs in need around the state.”
“This grant will help us expand the reach of the proven 10X accelerator program to growth-oriented small businesses in locations that have previously had little support,” said Jeff Amerine, Founder and Managing Director of Startup Junkie. “Programs such as this can slow urban migration and dramatically increase economic vitality in rural areas”.
The Conductor was recently awarded the Small Business Administration’s Regional Innovation Cluster contract, which has enabled the Conductor to bolster its offerings in central Arkansas and expand its footprint to reach underserved areas of the state. In addition to increasing the scope and magnitude of its services, the Conductor also recently expanded its team to include a Director of Operations, Rural Director, two Educators, and part-time student workers from the University of Central Arkansas.
“We are so excited to bolster the emerging, high-potential small businesses around the state,” Lane said. “We can’t wait for exponential job and revenue growth in Arkansas’ rural regions, and look forward to the economic impact that will result from our rural outreach initiatives.”
For additional information about the Conductor’s rural outreach initiatives, visit arconductor.org/rural.