December 7, 2022

Entrepreneurs Forever Announces New Funding from Henry L Hillman Foundation and Expansion of Cohort Program in Southwest Pennsylvania

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022 - Pittsburgh - Today Entrepreneurs Forever announced a multi-partner effort to help nearly 100 existing small business owners in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties to substantially grow their businesses. The Henry L Hillman Foundation is providing funding for this vital collaboration between start-up accelerators and other service providers in the Southwest Pennsylvania entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

AJ Drexler, CEO of Entrepreneurs Forever, said: “While the number of small businesses in America is growing, we have to do a better job of making sure small business owners are successful. The vast majority of small businesses are non-employer firms, and those sole proprietorships are often not providing family sustaining wages to their owners. For truly small businesses, knowing where to find peer support and a relevant network of fellow entrepreneurs can be impossible. That is where Entrepreneurs Forever comes in. We’re building long-term, meaningful connections between business owners and providing a curriculum that will help them grow past the start up stage. I want to thank the Henry L Hillman Foundation for their generous support to bring our program to nearly 100 business owners in Southwest Pennsylvania, and to all of our partners who are helping us deepen and expand our work.” 

In the U.S. 81 percent of small businesses are non-employer firms, meaning they are a sole proprietor or only have one employee: the owner. Revenue for non-employer firms actually declined between 2000 and 2019. The average non-employer firm has a revenue of less than $50,000 annually and the employer compensation is barely $26,000 - a salary that would put a family of four below the federal poverty line. There are lots of resources locally and nationally designed to help start ups, and cohort groups exclusively for leaders of mature businesses with annual revenues in the millions. Entrepreneurs Forever is uniquely designed to offer a critical but previously missing piece: cohort support for businesses in the “grow up” phase. 

Juan Garrett, Executive Director of Riverside Center for Innovation, said: “Our mission is focused on helping small businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans flourish in Western Pennsylvania. As a premier economic development agency in the region, we recognize that entrepreneurs in our network will benefit greatly from securing access to the Entrepreneurs Forever program. We know so many business owners who are beyond the startup or ‘accelerator’ phase, but they’re not multi-million dollar firms - yet. With expert facilitators and meaningful peer connections that can help business owners overcome whatever challenge

they’re facing, we believe Entrepreneurs Forever is going to help the small business owners in our network go to the next level.” 

Kathy Lokay Ellis, SCORE Pittsburgh Certified Mentor and Chapter Chair said: “SCORE has helped small business owners in Pittsburgh and the region for decades through our signature program of one-on-one mentor support, in addition to workshops and other resources. We recognize that there are times when a mentor can be the most effective person to help a business overcome a specific challenge, but there are other times when a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs are the right fit. Entrepreneurs Forever builds a relationship within its cohorts, so over a period of years the members can bring a range of issues to the group. As businesses evolve, so will their needs and the hurdles they’re facing on any given day. That’s why we applaud the dynamic curriculum and support that Entrepreneurs Forever offers and will continue to refer small business owners to this exciting program. Congratulations on your expansion in Southwest Pennsylvania.” 

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Entrepreneurs Forever’s mission is to equalize economic opportunity by connecting often-overlooked small business owners with the peers, skills and support they need to grow to become family and community-sustaining businesses. Entrepreneurs Forever’s most recent member surveys show the program alumni have nearly doubled their own compensation, increased revenue by 63%, and hired on average 3.7 more employees.

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