February 3, 2022 (St. Paul, MN) — The Center for Economic Inclusion (Center) and partners, including Activate Network, Certified Access, Fearless Commerce, and NEOO Partners Inc., have won a $5 million, three-year philanthropic commitment from JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase’s national, annual AdvancingCities Challenge specifically sourced project proposals this year designed for and by Black and Latina women to address racial and gender wealth gaps. JPMorgan Chase awarded winning collaborations across six U.S. cities a total of $30 million in philanthropic commitments. The firm selected the Center’s partnership to recognize regional efforts to build inclusive economic growth by investing in Black and Latina women.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul based partnership will launch Project Vanguard, a multi-sector accelerator committed to maximizing wealth-building and job creation with Black and Latina women business owners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. It is led by Black business owners experienced in business development, growth, and scale.

Project Vanguard will partner with business owners, corporations, and government agencies to accelerate inclusive job growth by certifying 25 new Black and Latina women-owned businesses over the next three years, with a specific focus on growth sectors.

“Entrepreneurship has fueled the vibrancy of Black and Latino families from Black Wall Street to Selby Avenue for generations, yet wealth extraction and poor investment vehicles have hindered growth, restricting economic prosperity in regions like Minneapolis-St. Paul,” said Tawanna A. Black, founder and CEO, Center for Economic Inclusion. “When we invest in women, we invest in transforming communities and economies.”

“This is a really big deal for the future of our inclusive local economy,” said Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “Major investments like these are well-deserved, and amplify the talent and energy our communities of color in Saint Paul have to offer.”

“Part of our vision is to not only build an ecosystem where existing Black and Latina women owned businesses are profitable but also encourage business development in growth sectors,” said Char Dobbs, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Owner, Activate Network, and Co-Founder, Certified Access Initiative. “It is critical that we have invested partners working in solidarity to ensure the opportunity of business growth, sustainability and/or scalability is equitable.”

The Center and its partners will work directly with Black and Latina women business owners to secure and fulfill public- and private-sector procurement contracts through the Center’s Racial Equity Employer Services & Consulting. Project Vanguard will offer clients training, mentorship, talent, and capital – both financial and social through sustained partnership with the Center for Economic Inclusion. The project partners will offer a menu of specialized training, certification, site selection, deal-making support, workforce development, and capital not currently available in this market.

“We know local communities have the best insights and expertise on their unique needs and are best poised to develop solutions to address them. Our role is boosting those local leaders,” said Demetrios Marantis, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “In Minneapolis-St. Paul, our investment will focus on challenges faced by Black and Latina business owners, and ultimately, accelerate job growth and strengthen the local economy.”

“JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to investing in organizations led by Black women, to close racial wealth gaps, and accelerate inclusive economic growth is commendable. The bank has invested in our work to help drive shared accountability for equitable supplier diversity for three years, and this investment will help us accelerate transformation and systems change,” said Tawanna A. Black, Center for Economic Inclusion.

A portion of the award will seed the Vanguard Fund, a $25 million fund at the Center for Economic Inclusion and Living Truth Enterprises, Incorporated designed to invest capital to help businesses grow and scale on terms that meet the needs of entrepreneurs and the market. The Fund will offer equity investments, revenue based financing and forgivable loans with average investments of $25,000-$250,000. The Vanguard Fund partners will recruit additional philanthropic, venture and angel investors who recognize the opportunity to recapture Minnesota’s history as a national leader for innovative business growth, by investing in the ideas and intelligence of Black and Latina women business owners.