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Rosario Dawson teams up with Square to Help Black and Latino Entrepreneurs Move Forward Learn how Square's Forward Accelerator empowers and supports emerging entrepreneurs

By Terry Rice Edited by Dan Bova

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin | Getty Images

Square recently announced the launch of Forward, a business accelerator program designed to help Black and Latino retail entrepreneurs obtain the capital, coaching, and products they need to succeed.

Who are these coaches?

Program mentors include actress, activist, designer, and businesswoman Rosario Dawson; bestselling author and CEO of Sweet July Ayesha Curry, financial advisors and podcasters Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of Earn Your Leisure, and NBA Champion, entrepreneur and Social Change Fund United (SCFU) co-founder Dwyane Wade.

So, it's safe to say that program members will have access to the resources and network needed to succeed.

As per Square, "Forward will support 25 early-stage businesses who will be awarded $20,000 in funding along with exclusive access to trainings developed in partnership with 1863 Ventures, a recognized leader in providing culturally competent business curricula. The training topics will range from leadership and customer development to scaling operations and managing financial growth."

But, the deadline to apply is April 1st, so you'll need to fill out the application quickly.

Need more information? I recently had a chance to chat with Rosario Dawson about the accelerator program and her partnership with Square.

Why Rosario Dawson chose to partner with Square

"This is personal to me and is part of my life's work. When I heard what this team has been building for the past two years in response to what we saw in 2020, during which 41% of black businesses went under, I had to get involved. There's just not a lot of people who actually wanted to put that much in initiative and time and energy behind actually doing something about it."

She continues, "A lot of people said so, but they didn't necessarily create entire programming. And this team has been working diligently for two years to now launch this project to identify and find 25 different black and brown businesses and give them $20,000 and mentorship, financial literacy and all the resources that are needed to solve this critical issue."

Dawson has a history of supporting entrepreneurs and individuals that are often overlooked.

In addition to her partnership with Square, she's also the co-founder of Studio One Eighty Nine, a social enterprise that provides a platform to help promote and curate African Fashion.

The 5 lessons about Entrepreneurship she wishes she learned sooner

Given her extensive experience and desire to help others avoid failure, I asked Rosario to share one lesson about entreperneurship that she wish she learned sooner. True her form, she overdelivered and shared five lessons.

Start small

"To get to that point where you were able to scale and grow is really beautiful. But sometimes you gotta start small. So just don't be afraid to start."

Build a team

"You want to make sure whatever weaknesses you have you hire for or you get mentors for. Don't be afraid to ask questions."

Ask questions and stay curious

"Don't be afraid to ask questions. You won't know the answer unless you ask. And even if you think you know the answer, you can always learn from another perspective in another way."

Anticipate setbacks

"Expect that dip. Because I think the psychological aspect is really a big part of it. And knowing that you're gonna have humps and there's gonna be dips and you need to be able to figure out each level as it comes."

Fail forward

"Failure is gonna be a part of that journey. You're not gonna get it all perfectly. Don't let it stop you from moving forward because you're never going to be perfect out the gate."

Rosario's advice for entrepreneurs who are hesitant to apply for Forward

My father always said "If you ask, the answer will be yes or no. If you don't ask, the answer will definitely be no".

Rosario shared a similar message when I asked her what she would say to entrepreneurs who were hesitant to apply for fear of not being accepted.

"You've already put in the hard work to build your businesses, and the answer is going to be no if you don't apply. And one of the great things that can happen here is you can expose yourself to this company, which genuinely cares about you. And you can potentially just get better at applying for grants and writing about yourself. You never even know, just through the process, what you can get and what you can learn."

And, even if you don't get accepted, all hope isn't necessarily lost.

"There's gonna be a lot of people who are looking at this and maybe that 26th applicant that didn't make it into the 25. But we'll keep them in mind and who knows what ends up happening in the future?"

Next steps

Ready to apply? You can do so on the Forward website but you'll need to hurry. Applications close Apr 1, 2023.

And whether you get accepted or not, I highly recommend checking out the additional resources Square provides to founders. Good luck!

Terry Rice

Entrepreneur Staff

Business Development Expert-in-Residence

Terry Rice is the Business Development Expert-in-Residence at Entrepreneur and Managing Director of Growth & Partnerships at Good People Digital; an agency that provides marketing and monetization solutions for entrepreneurs. He writes a newsletter about how to build your business and personal resilience and personal brand in just 5 minutes per week and created a revenue optimization checklist to help you multiply your income potential. 

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