The University of Tulsa Cherokee Women’s AcceleratHER Fellowship Announces Second Cohort Empowered by the Ayana Foundation

TULSA, Okla. (June 28, 2024) – Cherokee Nation and The University of Tulsa announce the launch of the second cohort of the TU Cherokee Women’s AcceleratHER Fellowship, empowered by the ayana Foundation.

Designed to empower and accelerate the growth of venture-scalable businesses led by Cherokee women, the initiative is a transformative, 12-week hybrid program tailored to address the unique challenges women face in scaling their business concepts with a particular focus on access to capital and resources. Applications for the fall 2024 program open in June.

Program Highlights

  • Duration: 12 weeks (mid-September to mid-December 2024)
  • Direct funding: The Cherokee Nation is providing a $10,000 non-dilutive seed grant to each Founder Fellow
  • Format: Hybrid (live online sessions with an in-person showcase on Dec. 14)
  • Participants: 10 selected Founder Fellows
  • Curriculum: Customized, founder-focused and business-focused
  • Support: Assigned accountability partner plus mentor matching
  • Networking: Opportunities to connect with a diverse community of founders, funders and industry experts

The TU Cherokee Women’s AcceleratHER Fellowship is made possible through the support and collaboration of the Cherokee Nation, The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business, the ayana Foundation and community sponsors. The collaborative effort aims to uplift Native American women entrepreneurs by providing comprehensive support, from business planning to growth strategies, culminating in an opportunity to pitch their business proposals to potential investors and partners.

Kathy Taylor, program sponsor and former dean of Collins College of Business, emphasized the significance of this program, stating, “Native American women often face unique challenges within the business community, including systemic disparities and lack of resources. We stand ready to change that statistic by providing a supportive platform for these talented entrepreneurs.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. highlighted the importance of the initiative, saying, “As we continually explore new ways to further the success of the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma, our tribe stands at the forefront of supporting small, family-owned businesses and creating quality jobs within our tribal communities. Native American women represent the lowest rates of business entrepreneurship across all groups. This fellowship is an excellent means of beginning to address such an unacceptable statistic, while also pursuing the longtime mission of the tribe and its businesses of investing in the success of every Cherokee citizen.”

“I believe our success as a tribe can be measured through our citizens and the opportunities available to them,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Programs such as this create excellent opportunities by supporting the creation of Cherokee-owned businesses and paving the way for Cherokee women to help strengthen our communities by becoming business owners, showing their families different ways to live and breaking the cycle of generational traumas faced by many Native families.

“TU is excited to partner with alumna Lesley Robinson and the ayana Foundation to facilitate the AcceleratHER program. Robinson has helped shape award-winning women’s leadership and entrepreneurship programs at universities around the country and help do the same at TU,” said Chris Wright and director of TU’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Robinson, director of education at the ayana Foundation, added, “By nurturing a diverse community of talented entrepreneurs, we can drive meaningful impact and innovation in the entrepreneurial landscape. The TU Cherokee Women’s AcceleratHER Fellowship is a testament to the commitment to fostering growth and success so that women founders can flourish.”

Selected participants will receive a $10,000 seed grant provided by the Cherokee Nation, access to business coaching, networking opportunities and community resources, without ceding any control, ownership or capital. The program culminates in a showcase event at TU where fellows present their ventures to the community, mentors and potential investors.

Applications for the TU Cherokee Women’s AcceleratHER Fellowship are now open. The 2024 program runs from September through December. Interested applicants can find more information and apply by visiting or emailing