The Heartland Forward announced the first five Oxford residents selected to receive a Pebble Grant and participate in the Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator program.
These community residents will receive funding, training and assistance to run a rapid, small-scale test of their ideas.
The Idea Accelerator is brought to Oxford by Heartland Forward and run by Builders + Backers, in partnership with Accenture, Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, the city of Oxford, Lafayette County, Visit Oxford and the University of Mississippi.
The Accelerator is the first of many programs that will be available to Oxford residents through Heartland Forward’s new Community Growth Program and Toolkit, which aims to provide training, tools and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs in Heartland communities.
“The Idea Accelerator is designed around the premise that everybody can be equipped to learn the entrepreneurial tools needed to become a builder,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders and Backers. “By starting with a challenge they care about and then, through an entirely new type of training program, learning how to develop and test ideas with small experiments, residents can create positive change for their community while also potentially scaling a business.”
Applications for the program were open to anyone living in Oxford or Lafayette County.
Applicants were asked to articulate a problem or challenge they care about and wish were solved, their new and creative idea for tackling it, and some possible small ways those ideas might be tested quickly and inexpensively to see if they hold merit.
Twenty-seven applications were received for the first cohort, with ideas ranging from ways to foster better health and wellness, ensure local resident safety and help the homeless to build the creative economy, stimulating entrepreneurship and adding entertainment options.
The five residents selected for the Summer 2021 cohort are:
● Andi Bedsworth is interested in creative training and trade programs for high school kids who are not college-bound. She will run an experiment focused on the seamstress trade.
● Tammy Herod wants to help young women in the community learn, grow, and become more knowledgeable in entrepreneurship, leadership, and mentorship of other young women. She will experiment with a creative educational program focused on entrepreneurship.
● Stephen McDavid wants to develop a way for community members to learn about the needs of their neighbors and help one another in those moments of need. He will experiment with a tool to encourage community support and engagement while also developing an alternative local economy model.
● Josh McGlawn is concerned that men of all races and backgrounds are suffering from overwhelming stress and isolation, amplified by the negative impacts of social disunity. He will experiment with creative ways to foster conversation that will build community and provide a positive outlet for tackling personal and shared challenges in our society today.
● Joseph Stinchcomb is interested in building community bonds by bringing people together across the things we think divide us. He will experiment with food and curated conversations as a way to connect people from across the Oxford community.
“When Heartland Forward approached us asking Oxford to be one of the first cities to launch this idea accelerator, we couldn’t have been more pleased,” said Jon Maynard, president, and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “We have a rich history of embracing new thinking and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit. For this first cohort and those to follow, we are excited to see their positive impact on Oxford.”