Capital Access Prosperity St. Louis (CAP STL) is exploring how entrepreneurship affects equity and mobility.

Funded through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, CAP STL is a partnership between the Washington University’s Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation (SEI) Lab and WEPOWER.

The St. Louis region’s current startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem fails to support Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in an equitable and effective manner. When WEPOWER surveyed and interviewed Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in 2019, they found that they (a) didn’t know about most of the resources that exist and/or (b) didn’t feel welcome when they were aware and tried to leverage the existing ecosystem. There has been little to no discussion about ways to scale entrepreneurship support efforts to North St. Louis City, a predominantly Black and low-wealth area.

Through interviews with applicants and finalists from WEPOWER’s twice-yearly accelerator, Elevate/Elevar, as well as with venture partners and investors, we seek to answer the following questions:

  • What are the barriers to and accelerators of Black and Latinx entrepreneurial success?
  • How can the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem support a greater number of Black and Latinx people to feel welcome and qualified to even take part in entrepreneurial programs?
  • How do we create better indicators of progress and success for the individual founder as well as the community ecosystem?
  • What data would allow us to make better investment decisions in programs and people?
  • How can this information flow back into entrepreneurship support programs like Village Capital and others, from Detroit to Minneapolis, to better support the success of these entrepreneurs and communities?
  • How can leaders in the St. Louis entrepreneurship/investment ecosystem realize their stated goal of greater economic participation and take the different capital challenges and opportunities for these businesses into account? e.g., how can we build out robust royalty- or revenue-share models for entrepreneurs in addition to the assumed scalable/venture model?
  • If we are committed to asset building in disadvantaged communities, how do we help founders grow and keep their companies?