Founder Forward Taps Economic Development Leader to Lead Growing Organization as Executive Director
- Previously Envolve USA, newly rebranded organization advancing equity and access in entrepreneurship ecosystems, announces new leadership amid continued growth
NEW YORK, USA, July 5, 2023 – Founder Forward, a nonprofit dedicated to building a platform for equity and access for underrecognized and underfunded entrepreneurs in the United States, has announced the appointment of Dr. Lisa-Marie Pierre, a seasoned leader in economic development, as its new Executive Director.
Launched in 2015, the nonprofit was founded by global business group Libra Group in response to a call-to-action from President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to address opportunity gaps in under-invested communities. Today, Founder Forward is one of 10 philanthropic initiatives supported by Libra Philanthropies, an independent foundation that aims to catalyze solutions that drive change, overcome systemic barriers, and address unmet societal needs.
Founder Forward aims to bridge the access gap for the “mighty middle” – underrecognized and underfunded Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs in overlooked regions in the United States. To date, the program has supported over 500 early-stage entrepreneurs, dispersing approximately $1 million in non-dilutive funding, and providing over $45,000 in pro bono services and in-kind support.
Beyond financial support, Founder Forward is focused on building a platform that drives change and delivers support to communities of entrepreneurs at scale. It accomplishes this through a tech-enabled community platform and corporate partnerships that provide non-extractive funding, resources, and expert advising. This includes the curation of founder cohorts that have built into their business models solutions to today’s most pressing community challenges. Founder Forward’s most recent cohort partnership will highlight 12 Black and Brown founders who have incorporated environmental justice considerations into their business models.
A seasoned leader who has worked in community economic development throughout her career, Dr. Pierre most recently served as an innovation strategist at Luminary Labs where she worked on future of work, future of education, and infrastructure projects for the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Prior to joining Luminary Labs, she was an economic development program manager for the Division of Workforce Development & Continuing Education at Bronx Community College/CUNY, where she helped the division win $500,000 in funding for the Blackstone LaunchPad program, managed the Ascend New York City program, strengthened community relationships through the Jerome Avenue Revitalization Collaborative, and provided strategic direction on entrepreneurship programming at the college.
Dr. Pierre joins the Founder Forward team at a pivotal time when the business community and society at large have become more aware of the institutionalized roadblocks to creating diversified entrepreneurial ecosystems and equitable wealth building pathways in historically underinvested communities.
“Dr. Pierre’s vision and on-the-ground experience in research and programs is exactly what is required to address the equity gaps that persist in the business and the startup ecosystem in particular. We are excited to have Dr. Pierre bring her expertise and passion for these issues to take Founder Forward to the next level,” said Jen Clarke, executive director of Libra Philanthropies. “We are proud to support Founder Forward as one of our 10 philanthropic initiatives, which recognizes that growing and scaling a business does not stop at technical assistance, and is creating a unique and enduring community of practice between founders and partners.”
“When you support Black, Latinx, and Indigenous founders, you invest in building economic impact and community wealth. These founders have the drive and skills to unlock broad market, social, cultural, and economic opportunities in their communities,” said Dr. Pierre. “By supporting BIPOC founders, we’re joining the fight against an economy designed to block their progress. We are embracing the idea that diverse entrepreneurs can build scalable businesses on their own terms and have a sustainable impact. I’m eager to play a role in developing entrepreneurial ecosystems that will benefit not only founders, but their communities and future generations.”
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About Founder Forward
Founder Forward is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating the next generation of diverse founders by creating wealth and equity through support services that catalyze the growth of BIPOC owned and led businesses and startups. Founder Forward addresses systemic market barriers that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous entrepreneurs face across the country, specifically the lack of capital, advising, and resources during the start-up launch years. Founder Forward is one of 10 philanthropic initiatives supported by Libra Philanthropies, an independent foundation that aims to catalyze solutions that drive change, overcome systemic barriers, and address unmet societal needs. Visit founderforward.org.