Clinton School students Patricia Ashanti, Ganelle Holman, and Molly Bombonato were selected as part of the most recent cohort of the Arkansas I-Fund at Winrock International in partnership with the Economic Development Administration. The I-Fund provides funds for technical assistance and training to enable entrepreneurs to make their ideas, research, and inventions a reality.
The 12-week accelerator program began on Saturday, January 11 at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock and will run through Friday, April 3.
Ashanti and Holman are working together on the Delta Circles WIN team. Ashanti is the founder and CEO of Delta Circles, a nonprofit in the Arkansas Delta region that strives to help build generational wealth for black women. The organization’s Women Increasing Net-Worth (WIN) program, which includes three essential steps, was tested with a group of women in 2017 with positive results. Collectively, the group saved over $10,000 and elevated their credit scores by at least 30 points each.
Now, Ashanti and Holman are seeking to make the existing WIN program accessible through a mobile app.
Bombonato is a part of the Sustainaball team, which is seeking to create quality, staple women’s clothing items that are made to fit each person. The clothing will be made of sustainable materials that fit properly and are designed to last through fashion trends and everyday life.
Mentorship is a critical part of supporting new entrepreneurs, and the I-Fund pairs an experienced mentor with each team. The mentor meets with the team weekly to discuss new challenges. The goal of the mentor is not to manage the entrepreneur’s work but to guide the team along the right path.
The Delta Circles WIN team’s mentor is Jameelah Jordan. Jordan is the CEO and co-founder of Mozak, a real estate virtual assistance and tech company.
The Sustainaball team’s mentor is Korto Briggs, a fashion designer and the creative director at Korto Momolu Originals.
In addition to the Ashanti, Holman, and Bombonato, a pair of Clinton School graduates are involved in the I-Fund process. Karen Zuccardi (’19) is a Program Associate with the Winrock I-Fund and Katie Milligan (‘13) is an instructor with the program.
Zuccardi assists in the implementation of the program and helps create environments for entrepreneurs to thrive. Milligan, who works as Chief of Staff for Start Co., a venture development organization in Memphis, supports building inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in her role with the I-Fund.
The mission of the Winrock I-Fund is to positively impact communities throughout Arkansas and the Delta Regional Authority territory. The program seeks to provide a platform for the creation and launch of high-growth companies, spurring economic development and job creation.
The program’s training is modeled after I-Corps, a program formed by the National Science Foundation in 2011. Thousands of teams nationally have been through I-Corps, and the curriculum is founded on the Lean LaunchPad entrepreneurial training developed by Steve Blank and Stanford University. Entrepreneurs in the I-Fund are taught to develop and document their proposed business model on a lean canvas, and then to test their hypotheses through a rigorous customer discovery process.
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.