New Kauffman Foundation Grant Program Aims to Remove Barriers Diverse Entrepreneurs Face

‘Inclusion Open’ will fuel business growth by enabling champions of underrepresented entrepreneurs to expand their services to address the root causes of systemic barriers

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) April 18, 2017 – Despite the recent upsurge in U.S. business activity, entrepreneurship remains in a long-term decline that has prevented millions of Americans from achieving economic success. Research indicates that a variety of demographic, socioeconomic and geographic barriers stand in the way of entrepreneurs starting and succeeding today. 

To address these barriers, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced a Request for Proposals for its newly launched Inclusion Open grant program. The RFP is open to U.S. nonprofit and for-profit organizations that can address direct barriers to disadvantaged entrepreneurs, such as access to training, mentoring and capital, and the root causes of those barriers, such as bias, poverty, declining infrastructure, social isolation and demographic shifts.

“We know entrepreneurs from many diverse backgrounds face weighty barriers. These barriers impose a high cost to the U.S. economy, in terms of job creation and innovation,” said Victor Hwang, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “For example, minority and female entrepreneurs encounter especially persistent barriers that limit their ability to start and grow companies. Kauffman research has found that if minorities started and owned businesses at the same rate non-minorities do, the United States would have more than 1 million additional employer businesses and approximately 9.5 million more jobs in the economy.”

“We are looking for organizations with uncommon solutions to level the playing field for entrepreneurs who have been excluded due to demographic, socioeconomic and geographic barriers,” said Philip Gaskin, director of Entrepreneurial Communities at the Kauffman Foundation. “These could be entrepreneurs who have faced barriers related to their gender, race, age, geography, disability or sexual orientation or their status as veterans or displaced workers.”

Inclusion Open grants could total up to $7 million in awards, ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 each. Qualified organizations may apply at; the application deadline is 5 p.m. CDT on May 2. 2017.

The Inclusion Open program is a facet of the Kauffman Foundation’s Zero Barriers movement, which is based on the belief that everyone has a fundamental right to turn an idea into an economic reality, regardless of who they are or where they live.