The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange today announced that 11 participating Philadelphia-area entrepreneurs have received a total of $80,000 in additional funding to support their growing businesses.
Launched in March 2022, the Founders Exchange is a community-focused business accelerator program supporting BIPOC media entrepreneurs through training, one-on-one coaching, and grantmaking. Each participating entrepreneur received $10,000 in initial support and the opportunity to apply for follow-on grant-funding.
The Founders Exchange is a project of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund with the support of the Independence Public Media Foundation.
Entrepreneurs participated in two rounds of follow-on funding over the course of the five month program. Each time the participating founders submitted funding applications and pitched their projects to their fellow founders, building on the coaching and training provided by Black & Brown Founders. In the spirit of peer learning and collaboration, the founders submitted questions and recommendations on their colleagues’ presentations to Institute and Knight-Lenfest Fund staff members, who made the final funding decisions.
As the program progressed, the funding applications became more strategic and specific to each founder’s needs as the entrepreneurs re-evaluated their business models, approaches to time management, and tactics for reaching customers.
“It was so impressive to observe how the Founders applied the concepts and insights they gained through their coaching sessions and the visiting entrepreneurs who joined their bi-weekly meetings to share knowledge with them,” said Lenfest Institute Program Director Shawn Mooring. “I was especially impressed by the growth we saw in how the founders invested in their organizational infrastructure and long-term sustainability. ”
The entrepreneurs applied for funding to support general operating expenses as well as specific projects. The funding includes:
- Alex Lewis (Rowhome Productions): $7,500
- Staffing, technology
- Joshua Meekins (Mike Jay Films): $7,500
- Program support, collaboration (Higher Than 7)
- Jean-Pierre Brice (CMP Radio): $8,500
- Staffing, equipment
- Anis Taylor (Higher Than 7): $10,500
- Staffing, equipment
- Kristal Sotomayor (Sotomayor Productions): $9,990
- Marketing/branding, staffing
- Shameeka Sawyer (5 Shorts Project): $7,500
- Indah Nuritasari (Indonesian Lantern) $3,000
- Overhead costs (office space)
- Sofiya Ballin (Black History Untold): $7,500
- Consulting, project development
- Sheila Aguilar (Alebrije Motions): $4,970
- Staffing, business incorporation, consulting
- Lauren Settles (We Talk Weekly): $9,740
- Project support
- Kaia Shivers (Ark Republic): $2,500
“It has been gratifying and remarkable to witness the founders’ growth, in particular the increased confidence and clarity in their businesses and in themselves,” said Diana Lu, director of the Knight-Lenfest Fund. “As entrepreneurs and job creators, this is a tremendous group of industry leaders and gamechangers. We’ve visited several founders on-site and in action — and I am in awe every time I look around and see a roomful of new jobs, knowing that we played a small role in catalyzing this network of media makers dedicated to fostering new talent in Philadelphia.”
The Founders Exchange programming is led by Zebras Unite Co-op and grounded in the Black & Brown Founders Bootstrapping Bootcamp training curriculum. This multi-pronged approach has supported a strong community of entrepreneurs of color who are helping reinvent local media in the Philadelphia area. They focus on developing deep relationships with their audiences, identifying stable revenue streams, and continuing to build brand awareness to connect with community members.
“As a local media entrepreneur and founding member of Zebras Unite, I am moved by the ways cooperation and collaboration have contributed to the design and success of this program,” said Community Catalyst and Project Lead Jos Duncan Asé. “Working to catalyze the Philadelphia media entrepreneurship community with the support of a national team of powerhouse leaders, Mara Zepeda, Adrien Schless-Meier, Deldelp Medina and Jennifer Mizgata, has provided us with a better understanding of what media entrepreneurs need and how those needs can be met with support, collaboration, infrastructure and being paired with the right opportunities.”
“As entrepreneurs, we often overlook the spiritual and emotional toll the work takes on us,” she continued. “Having access to funds and a community to dream with can be healing and can offer hope and peace of mind. Seeing not only the external growth but the internal journeys the members of this cohort have taken has been affirming and inspiring to witness.”
About The Lenfest Institute for Journalism
The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to develop sustainable solutions for local journalism. The Lenfest Institute is a non-controlling parent organization of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Spotlight PA, and it supports journalists and news organizations serving local communities in Philadelphia and around the United States.
About The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund
With a focus on sustainability and equity, The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund is designed to strengthen local journalism at scale, by supporting journalistic excellence and serving the information needs of communities. The Knight-Lenfest Fund collaborates with news organizations, leaders and communities to grow capacity and meet journalism’s technology, business, and audience realities of the future. It believes that journalism is at its best when it is of service. The Knight-Lenfest Fund is a joint venture of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. For more information, please contact Knight-Lenfest Fund Director Diana Lu at [email protected].
About The Independence Public Media Foundation
The Independence Public Media Foundation funds and supports creative, community-centered media and media making across Greater Philadelphia. The Foundation’s goals reflect an expansive definition of media, including journalism, digital literacy, and creative expression, as a pathway for building power with communities. Through grant-making and other programs, IPMF supports building and strengthening networks of people who are creating and sharing information, ideas, and stories for change and justice.