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Deadline: February 12, 2017

U.S. Small Business Administration: Finding Solutions to Empower Formerly Incarcerated Individuals with Entrepreneurship Training and Access to Microloans

The Aspire Challenge is a prize competition conducted under the America Competes Act. The objective of this competition is to spur the development and provision of innovative entrepreneurial development and access to capital resources for formerly incarcerated individuals or those who are non-violent ex-offenders.

This challenge competition is separate but builds on the momentum of the Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative, a public-private partnership announced in August 2016 between the Small Business Administration (SBA), W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Justine Petersen. The three-year initiative is a pilot to test entrepreneurship education programming and microloan assistance through SBA Microloan Intermediaries to formerly-incarcerated individuals in St. Louis, MO; Chicago, IL; Louisville, KY; and Detroit, MI. The goal of the Aspire Challenge is to source additional innovative solutions in other areas in the United States beyond these four metropolitan areas. This challenge also aligns with other actions identified by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a Cabinet-level working group to support the Federal Government’s efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through purposeful cross-agency coordination and collaboration.

The Aspire Challenge will serve as a catalyst to leverage business formation as a tool for economic mobility and self-employment for the formerly incarcerated through the design and delivery of intensive entrepreneurial education and increased access to microloans. This competition is designed to award prizes to entrepreneurial support organizations that propose innovative and sustainable solutions to equipping the formerly-incarcerated with the education and technical assistance they need to start and grow a business.

Each Aspire Challenge Solution shall include innovative solutions for Entrepreneurial Education under the following sub-criteria:

  • Recruitment: Key to testing entrepreneurship training/access to microloans as a tool to reduce recidivism is the outreach to and recruitment of formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • Classroom Instruction: A proven, existing intensive entrepreneurship education curriculum designed for starting and growing businesses. Applications shall include how contestants will: Organize participants to meet in-person for classroom instructions that progressively develops over several weeks; provide online resources and other components/activities that supplement the in-person curriculum; guide participants to explore their personal entrepreneurial interests and visions; address topics such as process, strategy, financing, marketing, human resources, leadership, contracting and market/product development; and guide all participants, by the end of the training, to refine and draft a complete business plan.
  • Mentoring: Provide individualized support on developing entrepreneurial skills and strategies
  • Community Connections: Opportunities to connect with the local business community and social service providers to increase participants’ financial literacy.

Each Aspire Challenge Solution shall also include innovative solutions for Access to Capital under the following criteria:

  • Link participants with participating microlenders, including SBA Microloan Intermediaries, when appropriate, to fund and grow new businesses.
  • Provide assistance to prepare to meet with capital providers, preparing proper documentation, matchmaking events with local lenders and funders, or business pitch events to angel investors, for example.

Amount: $1,200,000 is available for up to 16 awards of $75,000 each.

Eligibility: Applicants must have a current System for Award Management (SAM) registration, comply with all requirements in the notice, and, in the case of a private entity, shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States.

Link: https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/aspire-challenge/

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