Applications Now Open for Eastern Shawnee Tribal Members to Turn New Business Ideas into Reality Through Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator Program

Program is powered by Heartland Forward; members in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma encouraged to apply

Bentonville, Ark. (April 10, 2023) – Heartland Forward and Builders + Backers are proud to announce the opening of applications for five Eastern Shawnee tribal members to access training, resources and up to $5,000 to help them turn ideas into potential businesses or ventures. Tribal members in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma with a creative and unexpected idea for a new business or for solving a problem facing their community are encouraged to apply. This will be the second Eastern Shawnee cohort in the Idea Accelerator program, with five Oklahoma-based tribal members participating in 2022.

The Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator Program powered by Heartland Forward is designed to make it easy for anyone to experiment with entrepreneurship. Applicants are not required to submit a business plan or have a pitch deck for their idea. This new cohort of five Eastern Shawnee tribe builders is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to supporting 1,000 Builders across the heartland by 2023.

“Problem solving with an entrepreneurial mindset is key to rebuilding our post-COVID local economies, and the Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator has already proven to be a successful, meaningful way to accelerate the entrepreneurial thinking needed to help our communities thrive,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “We’re thrilled to be expanding this program for Eastern Shawnee tribal members across four states as part of our commitment to support 1,000 Builders across the heartland by 2023. We’re confident this next cohort of Builders will have the innovative thinking and ideas to create real change in their communities, and we look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the months and years to come.”

Those interested can apply here. Webinars will be held for interested applicants to learn more about the program on April 18 and May 3. The application deadline is Monday, May 22. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on June 8th, 2023.

“We hear from hundreds of Builders who have already been through the Idea Accelerator that they needed a low-barrier way to take their idea and test it out. Many had been sitting on their idea for a long time, not quite sure what to do next or unable to take the big leaps required for many entrepreneurial programs,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “Our fast, virtual, yet highly hands-on approach is exactly what they needed. We’re excited to partner with Heartland Forward to help more members of the Eastern Shawnee tribe that we know are waiting for this opportunity.”

At the heart of the program are the four pillars, designed to mobilize and equip Builders through:

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program.
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership™, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders.
  • Buildership™ Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities.

The program was first piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi in summer 2021, and since, there have been over 400 Builders across 15 cities. To learn more about the Builders, see here.