How The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange invested in Philly’s media entrepreneurs of color

Lessons from the 2023 class of the community-grounded accelerator program

December 6, 2023

Crystal Cheatham at the 2023 Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange graduation. Photo by Zamani Feelings.

The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange just completed its second year of programming, and it has established itself as an impactful initiative that fosters the growth of media entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.

The Founders Exchange is a community-grounded accelerator program of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, with additional support from the Independence Public Media Foundation. The program supports BIPOC media founders with a specific focus on those who are using news and information to reshape a more inclusive journalism and media landscape.  

In 2023, 12 entrepreneurs joined the Founders Exchange. Their businesses included internet radio stations; multilingual news sites in Spanish, Kreyòl, and Chinese; and outlets focused on environmental justice, religion, and more.  

The program blends grant funding with a robust curriculum from Black and Brown Founders, meaning participants not only receive financial support but are also equipped with the critical skills, insights, and expertise necessary to create sustainable growth. This integrated approach has resulted in the allocation of $585,000 in direct funding to Philadelphia-based media entrepreneurs in 2022 and 2023. 

This in-depth report explores the program’s coaching assessments, outlines key findings, and provides strategic recommendations as the Founders Exchange prepares for a third year of programming in 2024. 

Key findings include: 

Increased understanding of the value of work 

The fellows were already aware of the labor invested in their business, however their participation in the program resulted in a newfound understanding of the intrinsic value that their entrepreneurial work and media contributions to the Philadelphia ecosystem have.  

Innovation in income generation and clarity in pricing 

The educational programming and coaching on income generation inspired the exploration of new avenues for revenue and strategies to expand media products and their customer base.  

“I’m learning how to leverage professional partnerships to win grants, sponsorships and create events that will benefit our bottom line.”

Crystal Cheatham, Our Bible App

The 2023 Founders also participated in the first-ever Revenue Summit, a day of programming on revenue areas such as pursuing venture capital investments, philanthropy, and audience support. 

Shared knowledge increased momentum, strategy, and collaboration 

Programmatic elements led to knowledge that directly influenced budget adjustments. Building upon the learning sessions, the fellows solved business problems and refined their strategies. This was stimulated by the development of a community-centered culture that had a shared terminology and fundamental approaches to addressing challenges.  

Expenses and revenue projections increased 

For many fellows, the program’s deep dive into budgeting was eye-opening. The curriculum empowered them to re-evaluate the needs of both their businesses and their lives in order to grow.  

Compared to the reported revenue of all fellows in March 2023, the fellows’ projected revenue needs increased by 249% in June 2023. This more realistic, scalable budgetary assessment is a milestone for entrepreneurs as it evolves their perspective from that of a solopreneur to the owner of a business whose scalable growth is supported by their first employee, contractor, or small team.  

Click here to learn more about the 2023 entrepreneurs and to access the full report.  

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