The Greater West Dayton Incubator
Call to Action
On April 19, 2017, the University of Dayton’s (UD) president, Eric F. Spina, and vice president for diversity and inclusion, Lawrence A. Burnley, met with several Black community leaders at the Miami Valley Urban League for a Listening and Learning Dialogue. The first of many candid and difficult conversations occurred with community members participating in a SWOT analysis of the past, present, and future relationship between UD and Dayton’s Black community.
A white paper was produced in 2018 to introduce the concept of GWDI and how it could directly benefit Black entrepreneurs—and so it was born. GWDI is housed in the L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the UD School of Business Administration and is operated in partnership with Dayton’s Entrepreneur Center, a local technology incubator and small business development center. Operations began in March of 2020, with the main facility and satellite location created to support underrepresented entrepreneurs from the Greater West Dayton community through space, consulting, capital, and training that leveraged community-university partnerships through engaged students, faculty, and staff. Seeking to ensure access and a sense of belonging for under-resourced entrepreneurs, the GWDI actively pursues strategic connections in the startup community between Greater West Dayton and Downtown Dayton.
The GWDI serves entrepreneurs on a continuous, rolling basis. Our initiatives vary according to program and funding. Key programs include:
- Flyer Consulting: Students from the L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership provided more than 1,500 pro bono consulting services between 2020 and 2021 to underrepresented entrepreneurs through the GDWI. This program is available during the academic school year.
- Flyer Pitch Competition: This annual competition is sponsored by UD’s Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and GWDI in partnership with PNC Bank and The Entrepreneur’s Center. A portion of the funding from the competition is dedicated to under-resourced founders to help launch, scale, or sustain their businesses, and it runs between October and April.
- Black Founders’ Nights: This is an evening dedicated to networking, education, and resource sharing for Dayton-based Black entrepreneurs. It is open to the public and occurs once a month.
- Black Business Month: During August, the GWDI honors Black entrepreneurs through community partner events in Greater West Dayton.
- Startup Grounds: Opened in September 2021, Startup Grounds is a cafe located inside of The Hub, a joint venture of The Entrepreneurs Center and UD’s Crotty Center. It is a new bistro featuring food from local underrepresented, minority-owned, and woman-owned vendors who have a product ready for wholesale so they can gain exposure and placements in grocery stores or coffee shops.
- Cultural Capital Microlending Program: The recently launched program aims to provide loans for entrepreneurs who may not be ready for traditional funding through a bank. Under-resourced business owners have an opportunity to apply for up to 15,000 USD.
The GWDI is a physical resource for underrepresented entrepreneurs located in an underserved area of Greater West Dayton. We connect our entrepreneurs with existing resources in the startup ecosystem and bring other new resources to the table, including co-working, funding, mentoring, and coaching. Since our launch in March 2020, we have:
- Provided 70,000 USD to Black founders through our Flyer Pitch Competition and an additional 20,000 USD to community initiatives.
- Developed hands-on, real work experience for UD students to provide more than 1,500 hours of pro bono consulting services to women and Black entrepreneurs through Flyer Consulting.
- Increased the representation of Black founders in the regional startup ecosystem that are housed within our regional co-working and office space from an average of 7-10 percent to 30 percent through outreach.
- Created dedicated events for more than 100 community-based founders to network, learn, and engage in conjunction with our partners in the startup ecosystem.
- Raised 250,000 USD to provide nontraditional microloans for underrepresented entrepreneurs in 2022.