Bridging the Gap between Startup and Success
Life as a founder can be a lonely place. But what if it wasn’t? What if you had an established local businessperson in your corner? Someone who could share ideas, […]
Life as a founder can be a lonely place. But what if it wasn’t?
What if you had an established local businessperson in your corner? Someone who could share ideas, business connections, or a word of encouragement?
That’s what the Bridge Program does: it helps founders bridge the gap between startup and success.
How it works
Launched by Greater Fort Wayne Inc. in 2019, the Bridge Program pairs entrepreneurs with “Bridge Sponsors” from established local businesses.
“Bridge Entrepreneurs” receive full GFW Inc. membership benefits at a reduced rate, with perks including:
- Coaching sessions and networking programs tailored specifically for founders.
- Exclusive discounts on business-critical items like office supplies, health insurance, and more.
- Access to members-only networking events.
- Complimentary use of meeting space at the GFW Inc. offices.
“Our community has plenty of talented, driven entrepreneurs, but the fact is, they’re often held back by a lack of resources and connections,” said Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW Inc.’s chief impact officer. “It’s amazing how far startups can go with a little boost and a trusted sponsor in their corner.”
Currently, 21 startups are enrolled in the program, with most Bridge Entrepreneurs coming from underrepresented backgrounds.
“The Bridge Program has been such a great experience!” said Sarah Foxworthy, a Bridge Entrepreneur who founded SociallySeasoned, a digital marketing agency, in 2013. “I was fortunate to be paired with STAR Financial Bank who welcomed me with open arms and have been a connector for me and SociallySeasoned’s growth. The biggest ‘Aha!’ moment for me so far has been reading Born to Build, and learning more about our Alpha Roles and characteristics to be as successful as possible in starting up and running our business. I recommend that book now to any entrepreneur I meet!”
How to get involved
GFW Inc. accepts Bridge Program applications about once a year. Keep your eye on the program webpage, or email Olivia Dickerson at [email protected] to get a heads-up when applications go live.
Once applications are submitted, each sponsor reviews and selects the entrepreneur that best fits their experience and expertise.
“We’re thrilled to offer connections, resources, and opportunities to populations that, historically, have been underserved in the entrepreneurial space,” Gerber Vincent said. “It’s great to see the business community working together to create a more inclusive local economy.”