A pool of 80 applicants has been winnowed to 15 finalists, including four in the West Central Initiative service area, as the Initiators Fellowship nears its October 25 selection day.

Two fellows will be chosen from the nine-county West Central Initiative service area to join five other fellows in the two-year program.

“We were blessed with a rich and deep pool of socially enterprising applicants,” said Jeff Wig, vice president of entrepreneurship with the Initiative Foundation of Little Falls. “It’s a testament to how much potential and commitment there is for growth and innovation in Greater Minnesota.”

The Initiators Fellowship originated with the Initiative Foundation in 2017 to help aspiring social entrepreneurs fast-track their ideas, grow their social and professional networks and further develop their business and community leadership skills. The Fellowship provides a $30,000 annual stipend along with an executive-level mentor, comprehensive programming, educational opportunities and support from initiative staff and board members.

The program originated with central Minnesota’s Initiative Foundation and graduated four fellows earlier this year including Annie Deckert, CEO of Greater Fergus Falls Corp.  An expanded Initiators Fellowship program this fall supports seven fellows from across 41 Greater Minnesota counties: three in the Initiative Foundation’s Central Minnesota service area and two each in the Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative service areas.

The 15 finalists represent a diverse range of interests—from an entrepreneur with a year-round, high-efficiency hydroponic growing system to a community-based placemaking arts programmer to a social justice champion who aspires to create a social enterprise model that provides legal representation to income-eligible immigrants and refugees.

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