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Walton family think tank opens application for Pine Bluff entrepreneurial program to access up to $5,000 in startup funds

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By Arkansas Delta Informer – Aug. 1, 2022 – Bentonville-based Heartland Forward and Builders + Backers today (Aug. 1) announced the opening of applications for 10 Pine Bluff residents to access up to $5,000 to help them turn ideas into potential businesses or ventures. 

The program brought to the Delta through Heartland Forward’s Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT) and the first-of-its-kind Idea Accelerator program powered by Builders + Backers, is designed to make it as easy as possible for anyone to experiment with entrepreneurship.

Applicants are not required to submit a business plan or have a pitch deck for their idea. This returning cohort of five builders is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to funding and supporting 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. The cohort is supported by the Walton Family Foundation. 

Launched in October 2019 as a first-of-its-kind “think and do” tank spearheaded by members of the Walton family, Heartland Forward was founded to focus on advancing economic performance in the center of the U.S.


“In the last few months, we’ve been so encouraged by the progress our builders have made in putting their innovative ideas to action and addressing the issues facing their communities,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “We’re thrilled to be continuing our partnership in Pine Bluff and welcoming a second cohort of builders as part of our commitment to support 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. As we continue to rebuild our post-COVID economies, local entrepreneurs will be key to successful economic growth and problem solving, and we look forward to seeing what exciting ideas this next cohort brings.” 


Anyone who has a creative and unexpected idea for solving a problem facing the Pine Bluff community can complete an application here. Residents must apply August 15, 2022. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on September 22, 2022. 


“We’re excited to continue our partnership with the Pine Bluff community,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “As expected, we’re finding really interesting ventures growing out of the small experiments our builders are running. But, perhaps more importantly, we’re seeing builders leave our program with the realization that they don’t have to wait for someone else to solve a problem or launch a business – they can do it themselves. We’re excited to get the second cohort underway and to see what new ventures, initiatives and companies emerge when you unleash and fuel thousands of experiments across the country.”


At the heart of the CGPT are the Builders + Backers four program pillars, designed to mobilize and equip Builders through: 

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program. 
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media, and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders. 
  • Buildership Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities. 

The program was first piloted in Tulsa and Oxford, Miss., in the summer of 2021, and since, there have been nearly 150 builders across 11 cities. To learn more about the Builders, see here

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