The Garage has announced a new pilot initiative aimed at removing barriers for Northwestern student entrepreneurs. The Garage Opportunity Fund is for full-time, undergraduate Northwestern students that identify as lower-income and have been accepted into The Garage’s Tinker or Residency program. Qualifying students can apply for up to $1,000 in funding to cover experimental business expenses that The Garage can purchase on the student’s behalf.
“Entrepreneurship requires experimentation and often experimentation requires spending money. We heard from lower-income students and alums that access to money was a barrier to experimenting with new ideas. We created the Opportunity Fund to remove this barrier so that all Northwestern students had access to funding” said Melissa Kaufman, executive director of The Garage.
In addition to funding, students will be connected with peer student mentors from lower-income backgrounds to provide guidance and support on navigating entrepreneurship and The Garage’s resources. Lilliana de Souza and Caleb Holland will serve as the inaugural peer student mentors. Both students are seniors and have participated in multiple programs at The Garage. de Souza is the President of EPIC, the undergraduate entrepreneurship club, and Holland is the co-founder and CEO of Innovestments, a company that seeks to increase access to real estate investing and homeownership. Both students were recently named to Chicago Inno’s 25 under 25.
“I’m so glad this program is being built!” said de Souza. “I’m so grateful for all that The Garage has done to support me, especially through financial resources like paying for travel, purchasing books, and other resources to grow. That is the reason that I am so excited about this fund. It is a great initiative to lower the barrier that less fortunate students face when starting a company. I am always astounded by The Garage’s generosity.”
The Opportunity Fund was developed with input from lower-income students and recent alums, the SES office, and Andrea Dittmann, an Assistant Professor at Emory who researches social class mobility and inequality, with an emphasis on developing interventions that reduce inequality. The program will offer a total of $10,000 in funding for the pilot year. After proving the success of the program in the 2020/21 academic year, the program hopes to attract donors to support the initiative in future years.