Breaking Barriers for Local BIPOC Businesses: 2023 Vogt Awards

Equitable access to capital is not easy to come by, especially for Black-, Indigenous-, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led businesses. From getting financial loans, connecting to angel investors, and the absence of generational wealth knowledge, many of these early-stage businesses feel resources are out of reach.

That’s where the Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards steps in. “I don’t come from a business background,” said Ricky Mason, CEO of 2020 Vogt Awards recipient BrainSTEM. “The mentorship and education provided by the Vogt Awards helped fill in the gaps we had as a high-growth startup.”

This year marks the 23rd year of the Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards. This 10-week accelerator program enables six early-stage businesses to receive capital, mentorship, and $25,000 in non-dilutive grant funding.

The program is funded by the Vogt Invention and Innovation Fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville, an endowment established in 1999 thanks to businessman and philanthropist Henry Vogt Heuser Sr. The Fund strengthens Louisville’s economic health by supporting innovative businesses and inspiring entrepreneurship. The Fund’s originating $5 million principal is still intact after distributing 102 grants totaling more than $3.8 million, with 38% of those funds going to women or founders of color. Vogt Awards continues to push boundaries in the philanthropic and startup communities to close the racial wealth gap by helping BIPOC entrepreneurs access the resources they need.

The Vogt Awards have been recognized community-wide, nationally, and internationally in the startup community. “I moved from Boston to be part of the Louisville entrepreneurial community,” said Akhil Suresh Nair, Founder & CEO of 2022 Vogt Award Recipient Xena Intelligence. “The Vogt Awards seemed like a right of passage. Most successful startups here seemed to go through this accelerator program. I wanted to be part of this community because I didn’t find this in Boston. The Vogt Awards is not just about the financial aspect, but about being among and supported by like-minded individuals.”

Unlike other business accelerator programs, the Vogt Awards allows founders to retain full ownership of their businesses. Early-stage businesses can benefit from the following:

  • Startup coaching from some of Louisville’s most experienced advisors
  • Mentor matching with later-stage entrepreneurs and investors
  • High-caliber networking with Louisville’s startup community
  • Investor pitch preparation
  • Strategic introductions to angel investors, venture funds, influencers, customers, and partners

In addition, recipients will participate in weekly business workshops led by curated subject matter experts on topics such as financial modeling, product/market fit, lead generation, and sales. To cap it all off, founders will present their business at this year’s Demo Day in October 2023. Demo Day allows founders to present their business plans to angel investors, local business leaders, and community members.

“I have gotten so much out of the Vogt Awards,” said Amber Fields, Founder of Black UX Labs. “I’ve been held accountable and challenged to think bigger and broader for my business. From refining my elevator pitch to deciphering my unit economics, and completely pivoting my business product and model, the program has given me the tools and confidence to scale my business over time.”

Want to apply to be in this year’s cohort? Submit your application by May 30, 2023. We’re looking to invest in the people who bring new ideas or the invention of a new product or service to move us forward. Learn more at