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FAQs, videos and more

Browse our frequently asked questions, videos, fact sheets and important links to learn more about the Initiators Fellowship and the many ways in which you’ll learn, grow and make a difference through this program.

Business Planning Training


Most individuals who are in the process of starting a social enterprise are eligible to apply, as long as they meet the criteria below. There is no nomination process; applications will be publicly available online. Eligible applicants:

  • Must be at least 18 years old by the start of the Fellowship cycle. 
  • Can be a recent college graduate, a young professional, mid-career or in their encore years.
  • Can be in a partnership enterprise, but only an individual partner with controlling interest may apply to the Fellowship.
  • Cannot be immediate family of any current board or staff members of the four Minnesota Initiative Foundation program partners. Immediate family includes spouse, parent, grandparent, great grandparent, child, grandchild, great grandchild, and spouses of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
  • Must live and work in and their social enterprise must serve one of the four Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions covered by the Fellowship, or within a tribal nation adjacent to one of the four defined regions. We’re looking for individuals committed to Greater Minnesota’s rural renewal.
  • Must have English-language proficiency; all programming will take place in English.
  • Must be eligible for work in the United States. Can be United States citizens, nationals, lawful permanent residents or persons legally residing within the region and who have the following immigration status: refugee, asylee, temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) status. If you aren’t sure if you are eligible to apply based on your immigration status, please reach out to us to discuss further.
  • Come with diverse backgrounds experiences, ability, economic status, and perspectives. Women, non-binary people, minorities, people with disabilities and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. Diversity is a core program value.

Selected Fellows are required to dedicate an average of 20-plus hours per week to this effort. If their enterprise is already operating, at least one-third of that time must be spent working “on the business” rather than working “in the business.” In other words, those people with existing social enterprises will be expected to commit six to seven hours to different work than they might currently be doing. Those hours are focused on venture-building efforts like writing a business plan, completing Fellowship homework, learning and applying new skills that will help ensure the long-term viability of the enterprise. You can learn more here

The Initiators Fellowship serves as a launching pad for the next generation of Greater Minnesota change agents. The program runs for two years. The goal of the program is to strengthen each Fellow’s leadership within their respective communities and to support the growth and development of their social enterprise. Throughout the Fellowship, each Fellow receives …

  • A $30,000 annual stipend for two years; $60,000 in total funding.
  • A $3,000 yearly allocation for technical assistance and professional development; $6,000 total.
  • One-on-one support from an executive-level mentor within their respective region.
  • Access to an ecosystem of support through the collective network of participating Minnesota Initiative Foundation advisers. 
  • Customized enterprise and leadership development training delivered through a series of convenings and virtual meetings.
  • An individualized plan to support personal, professional and enterprise growth.
  • A lifetime network of advocates, colleagues and friends.

Being a social entrepreneur means being more than just a good citizen. While most business owners aim to provide jobs, and many donate to charity, social entrepreneurs have identified a social issue and build their enterprise with social impact at the core of their business model. Social enterprise ventures are profit- and purpose-driven. If you are creating a business with a strong focus on a human, social or environmental benefit, whether for-profit or nonprofit, then you might be a social entrepreneur! Some prominent examples of social ventures—also known as social enterprise initiatives—are Patagonia, a for-profit company that has an environmental mission built into its supply chain, or Cookie Cart, a nonprofit that provides job training to minority youth while selling the cookies they produce. Read our social enterprise fact sheet (PDF) for an expanded definition.

Applicants with a social business idea ready to be tested, in early planning stages, or in operation for five years or less, can apply for the Initiators Fellowship.

Fellow selection is a long and thoughtful process that includes thorough application screening by staff and external reviewers. The pool eventually is narrowed to 16 finalists who participate in Finalist Day during which each participates in one-to-one and group interviews. Each finalist also makes a pitch presentation to a group of selection panelists who offer guidance to the Fellowship Steering Team, which ultimately chooses the Fellows.

Recruitment for the next cohort of the Initiators Fellowships begins in spring 2023. Sign up for the newsletter to stay connected. 

Fellows are selected based on their passion, commitment and potential to meaningfully contribute to their Greater Minnesota community through their leadership and entrepreneurship. They must be dedicated to helping create welcoming, just and equitable communities. They must demonstrate an innovative spirit, perseverance and the ability to contribute to the success of others in their cohort. Fellows are additionally selected to create a balanced, complementary cohort with diverse members who offer diverse ideas from across our four Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions. Lastly, we consider how this program can add value to the applicant. People already well positioned for success may be enticed by the stipend to apply, but we seek high-potential individuals who will strongly benefit from all aspects of the program and dedicate themselves to the Fellowship’s broader success. 

Fellows receive a $30,000 annual living stipend to support them while they participate in the program at least part-time. This stipend can be used for living and learning expenses so they can participate in the program for 20 hours per week. This stipend cannot be used for direct expenses of their social enterprise and may be taxable. Fellows should consult a tax adviser regarding their particular situation. 

Fellows can be in school or working as long as they can regularly dedicate at least 20 hours per week to the Fellowship as described in other FAQs and participate in all the in-person convenings, virtual meetings and trainings. 

This Fellowship is an investment in an individual entrepreneur-leader and not in a team. If your venture is—or you are planning for—a partnership, only the decision-making, managing partner is eligible for this Fellowship.

Recruitment for the next cohort of the Initiators Fellowship will begin in spring 2023. In the meantime, sign up for the newsletter to stay connected.”

Anyone reviewing applications is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement and can only talk about the application with other reviewers or the applicant.

The Initiators Fellowship is a program of the Initiative Foundation, which is headquartered in Little Falls. It is operated in partnership with three other regional Minnesota Initiative Foundations: the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative. The Initiative Foundation oversees daily management and coordination of the Fellowship and our three partner foundations contribute to the program financially, consult on program design and assist with recruitment and selection and support of Fellows in their regions. None of the program partners receive any rights or ownership in any Fellow’s idea or business. The sole focus of all of the partners is to help promising social entrepreneurs more successfully contribute to the Greater Minnesota community.

Video Library

Browse our video library for an overview of the program and hear first-person accounts from former Fellows, mentors and Steering Team members. 

Learn business planning concepts in a session with Julie Anderholm, Initiators Fellowship consultant.

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Program Details

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Why the Fellowship?

Jeff Wig, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, shares the goals of the Initiators Fellowship program. 

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What is Social Enterprise? 

Jeff Wig, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, shares the Initiators Fellowship definition of social entrepreneurship.

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Who Should Apply?

Jeff Wig, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, explains the characteristics and qualities of an Initiators Fellowship applicant

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Why Apply? 

Jeff Wig, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, shares the benefits of being chosen as an Initiator Fellow. 

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What's My Time Commitment? 

Jeff Wig, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, talks through the flexible nature and time commitments of the Fellowship

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Why be a Mentor? 

Jeff Wig, former vice president of entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, explains the benefits of serving as aInitiators Fellowship mentor. 

Being a Fellow

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The 2020-2021 Cohort Graduation

Hear from the 2020-2021 Initiators Fellowship graduates about the impact the two-year program has had on their lives and businesses. 

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Erin Schutte Wadzinski, Alumna

Erin Schutte Wadzinski, alumna, shares how the Fellowship has impacted her leadership skills and business. 

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Rachel Stone, Alumna

Rachel Stone, alumna, discusses her business and the benefits of the Initiators Fellowship. 

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Anne O'Keefe Jackson, Alumna

Anne O’Keefe Jackson, alumna, discusses how the mentoring piece of the Fellowship was a positive experience.

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Hamdia Mohamed, Alumna

Hamdia Mohamed, alumna, discusses her business and the role the Initiators Fellowship played. 

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Annie Deckert, Alumna

Annie Deckert, Initiators Fellowship alumna, shares how the Fellowship has elevated her leadership skills and shaped her business acumen. 

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Hudda Ibrahim, Alumna

Hudda Ibrahim, Initiators Fellowship alumna, explains how the Fellowship has benefited her business and personal life. 

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Pitch Day 

Annie Deckert and Hudda Ibrahim, Initiators Fellowship alumnae, share their views on Pitch Daythe last step in the selection process. 

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Brain Trust Advisers

Annie Deckert and Hudda Ibrahim, Initiators Fellowship alumnae, share the benefits of the Brain Trusta gathering of regional leaders whose advice and insights encourage the Fellows’ growth and development. 

Being a Mentor

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Former Mentor Traci Tapani

Traci Tapani, former Initiators Fellowship mentor, shares all of the benefits of mentoring a Fellow.  

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Former Mentor David Monroy

David Monroy, former Initiators Fellowship mentor, shares the personal growth he experienced as a mentor. 

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The Mentor-Fellow Relationship 

David Monroy, former Initiators Fellowship mentor, and Annie Deckert, Initiators Fellowship alumna, talk about the rich relationship they‘ve developed through the Initiators Fellowship program. 

Webinar Recordings

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Initiators Fellowship Overview

Watch the first of three webinars to gain a detailed overview of the Fellowship program, the process, the benefits and the participant expectations.

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The Application Process

Watch the second of three webinars to gain a detailed overview of the Fellowship program application process, the benefits and participant expectations.

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Initiators Fellowship Recap and Q&A

Watch the last of three webinars to gain a quick overview of the Fellowship program and hear a Q&A with webinar participants. 

Helpful PDFs

To help you tunnel into the details, we have a host of fact sheets about the Initiators Fellowship that you can print or download to peruse at your leisure. 

Helpful Links

Explore helpful links to learn more about the Fellowship—from its inception to the expansion of the program to serve more of Greater Minnesota. Additional links will help to strengthen your understanding of social enterprise ventures and the role they play in society.