The first business accelerator for startups in one of San Diego’s most diverse and under-served communities officially opened Monday with 13 local companies.
The CONNECT ALL program supports local entrepreneurs with 4,300 square feet of flexible co-working space, office equipment and support services, but mostly importantly mentors and access to capital.
“The fact that we’re launching this in a historically under-served neighborhood will be a game-changer for the community,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “It will provide unprecedented access to free resources and support that will help entrepreneurs transform their ideas into thriving businesses.”
The accelerator is located at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation adjacent to the Euclid Avenue trolley station. It’s in the district represented by City Councilmember Monica Montgomery, who applauded what she termed “diversity-focused entrepreneurship.”
“Most of these things happen north of the 8, so I’m proud to be here south of the 8,” she said prior to the ribbon cutting.
CONNECT ALL is a partnership of the city, the Jacobs Center and CONNECT, San Diego’s original business accelerator. The city provided an initial investment of $1 million, and has promised up to $500,000 in each of the next three years. The Union Bank Foundation is granting another $300,000.
“It takes a village to launch and sustain a business,” noted Silvia Mah, who founded the Hera Hub accelerator for women before joining CONNECT as its president.
The accelerator program is free, but participants are carefully evaluated before acceptance. A total of 76 entrepreneurs applied to be in the first group of companies, but only 13 made the cut.
Among the products and services in the first group of companies are a donut bakery, high-tech cane for blind people, premium cocktail-making tools, drone-based marketing and natural beauty care.
Rosa Adam, who launched Shukor Bella to popularize ancient beauty products from her family’s native Ethiopia, is one of the entrepreneurs. She told the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting that her goal is to “put old-world beauty into a jar” for American consumers.
“We won’t disappoint you,” she promised.