StartingBlock seeks applicants for new ‘Social Impact Initiative’

November 25, 2018

If you’ve always wanted to start an organization that helps school-age children or gives a leg up to lower-income residents, StartingBlock Madison may give you a hand.

The entrepreneurial hub at 821 E. Washington Ave. is launching a “Social Impact Initiative” in collaboration with the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact and with Associated Bank, and is taking applications for the first round of participants.

“We want to make the world a better place,” said Chandra Miller Fienen, director of operations and programming at StartingBlock.

She said the concept is in line with one of StartingBlock’s four main goals: To cultivate more entrepreneurs, help them grow sustainably, drive innovation, and help the startup community to “give back.”

Applicants should focus on making an impact on either K-12 education, resilient communities or economic opportunity for all. The startups can be nonprofit or for-profit, “as long as they’re a functioning enterprise with a viable revenue-generating product or service,” Miller Fienen said.

She did not offer examples of the type of participant that might be chosen, saying she didn’t want to narrow the possibilities.

“Social entrepreneurship is a large, rapidly growing space with many different ways of doing things and its own unique challenges. Having a cohort that can share their experiences and learn from one another will strengthen all of the organizations, especially with the support of programming and resources tailored to their individual entities,” said Miller Fienen, who will lead the project along with Lauren Yang.

Applications will be accepted through Dec. 3, and up to eight companies or organizations will be chosen. Participants will be announced on Dec. 17.

The project will start in January. Groups will have six months of free space at StartingBlock, guidance from Milwaukee consultant firm Greenbush Strategy Partners, and a chance to rub shoulders with other entrepreneurs.

It will be separate from, but complementary to, American Family’s Institute and gener8tor’s Social Impact accelerator, Miller Fienen said.

“StartingBlock is a place for intersections. We don’t do accelerators, per se ... It’s a place where social impact entrepreneurs can have the opportunity to work in a collaborative space,” she said.

StartingBlock occupies three floors of the eight stories of offices in the Spark building, owned by American Family, that opened earlier this year.

With the growth in entrepreneurship overall in the Madison area, “we think Madison is uniquely positioned to become a leader in social impact entrepreneurship,” Miller Fienen said.

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