The applications have now closed. We are very humbled by the 80+ applications handed in by you and and would like to thank you for your time and energy. You will hear back from us in Mid-June.
Are you an impact entrepreneur identifying as FINTA* (female, inter, non-binary, trans, agender) currently building a social business in the field of Empowerment & Participation?
Would you like to join a community of other FINTA* and diverse founders to exchange and learn together?
Do you have a first proof of concept for your business and are seeking support to strengthen your USP, build networks and build partnerships?
If so, Empower Now is here to support. Our six-month virtual or hybrid incubation programme, developed in partnership with tbd* and our intersectional advisory board of FINTA* founders, is designed by and for FINTA* founders who are marginalised and /or face (multiple) discrimination working towards a more inclusive, equitable and participatory society. We especially encourage founders from the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities, founders with disabilities, health conditions or neurodiversity to apply.
We, the team building and hosting the Empower Now incubator, are all FINTA* with multiple discrimination backgrounds who have experienced the ups and downs of founding or running businesses and we would like to host a space for you to learn and grow together with us. For us, this means learning to grow your business sustainably, but equally important being in a space that allows us to grow together as people and to support each other along the way.
Intersectionality is important to us. That is why Vera (she/her) and Idil (she/her), who are part of the team from Impact Hub Berlin side, are joined by our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board, who are co-designing the incubator with us along the way. You can read about Fox (they/them), Kave (she/her), Wadzanai (she/her), Hedda (she/no pronouns), Henriette (she/her) and Amrei (she/her) here.
It needs strong allies to address (structural and institutional) discrimination. We want to support you with the necessary knowledge, contacts, guidance and confidence to successfully transform your initial business idea into a validated and tested product or service, featuring a clear USP. With that, we want to support you in getting ready to partner with relevant stakeholders and to build strong networks with other organisations working in your field. Support will include:
It needs strong networks to implement change. We want to build a community of FINTA* entrepreneurs and allies online and offline:
The success of a business does not only depend on start-up-specific knowledge and network access. An elementary part of the incubator will be the handling of barriers and structural discrimination, your own wellbeing and resilience.
We are searching for impact-driven founders who:
Note: Non-profit or charity organisations that aim to create an impactful business model are also welcome to apply.
Empower Now's jury consists of our advisory board and IHB team members.
We are publishing all selection criteria in our application form. You will be able to see which criteria are matched to which question. Here is an overview:
Why FINTA* founders?
FINTA* and other discriminated groups face structural and institutional barriers when starting businesses, with female founders facing well-known barriers such as lower funding, childcare, and sexism. Inter, trans and gender non-conforming founders experience additional discrimination and are often left out of “female” empowerment programmes. Awareness of inclusive language and pronoun usage is increasing, but it is not yet the norm. Additional discrimination is also experienced by FINTA* founders who are part of LGTBQIA+ and BiPOC communities, as well as by disabled or neurodivergent FINTA* founders. We want to support FINTA* founders facing multiple discrimination working on topics around participation and empowerment – and highlight their strengths and contributions to society.
For the first round of this incubator, we would like to support communities locally. We have a wide network of Impact Hubs around the world, that are offering programmes in other countries and we are happy to make introductions.
Which legal form will be accepted for this incubation programme?
We support social businesses, meaning you are for-profit but reinvest your profits into your business or social causes, or meaning that you are non-profit with a financially sustainable business model (or have an idea how to make your business financially sustainable in the future).
Can I apply to the incubation programme with a team, or do I need to apply as an individual?
We accept applications from solo-founders and co-founders. If you are several FINTA* co-founders, we can offer you up to four spots.
How can I apply for this incubation programme, and what is the application process like?
You can apply via this form. You can find all application questions with their matching selection criteria as a PDF here or as an Excel file here. If you don’t feel comfortable using Typeform, you will be able to answer most answers in Excel – you will however need to answer the first few questions on Typeform. Please get in touch with Idil if you have any questions ([email protected]) and we are happy to help.
Will it weaken my application if I am openly sharing the struggles and challenges I am experiencing as a FINTA* founder?
No. This will show awareness of where we can support you and your willingness to learn. We also want to value your lived experience in this incubator as a strength. Following the idea of “nothing for us, without us”, we have integrated leveraging your lived experience in order to support your community with your venture/initiative as a selection criterion.
Do I need to self-identify my gender and other identity markers in order to be able to participate in the programme?
You do not need to specify your gender identity or any other identity if you do not feel comfortable doing so. By applying, we will trust that you understand that this incubator is designed for FINTA* founders facing multiple discrimination. Everyone in our team has lived experience as FINTA* facing discrimination and we know how important it is that you feel comfortable sharing (or not sharing) lived experiences and identities. There will be a few questions that go beyond business questions. The purpose of asking these questions is to make sure that we can host a safe(r) space for FINTA* founders from LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities, FINTA* founders with disabilities, health issues and neurodiversity, and other aspects leading to marginalisation, discrimination or exclusion. We strive to create an inclusive and welcoming space where all participants can express their thoughts, needs, and emotions freely without fear of judgement or discrimination. You only share what feels right to you.
How do you protect my identity and personal information?
How can you support me if I feel discriminated against, excluded, or otherwise harmed during the programme?
We are here to support you. Please refer to our code of conduct, a living document that we can shape and adapt as a cohort in the programme – including a conflict resolution protocol.
Where will the incubator take place?
The incubator is accessible fully online. If you are based in Berlin, you are welcome to join in person and join the incubator in a hybrid format. We will use Zoom, Slack and Miro to work together and are open to other suggestions. We will do our best to lower barriers to participation by having flexible hours, making sure that we have enough breaks (latest after one hour), welcoming switching off your cameras, and giving the opportunity to work in small groups if that feels more comfortable for you. We will encourage everyone to state their needs by sending around a survey at the beginning of the programme.
Are there any fees I need to pay or do you take equity from my business?
No, the programme is for free and we don’t take equity from you.
How long is the incubation programme, and what are the time commitments required?
The incubator is a 6-month part-time programme starting in Mid-July and running until the end of January 2024. You will need to invest a minimum average of 4-5 hours per week. We will try to keep the hours flexible and to schedule dates in advance so that you can plan around it. After that, you will be part of tbd*’s Wellbeing & Resilience Fellowship for another six months, to make sure that you have access to after-care and stay connected to the community.
What language will the programme be in?
The programme will take place in English, therefore you should be able to follow the programme in English. If you feel more comfortable with another language, we can make sure that we match you with a German-speaking mentor and will give our best to accommodate other languages for mentoring if needed. We are very aware that not every person speaks English, unfortunately, we cannot accommodate a multilingual programme at this point in time, this includes sign language. It is not easy for us to realise that we cannot accommodate every need, and we are considering this when looking for future funding. We do appreciate your feedback if you would like to share your thoughts. If you’d like to partner with us to make translation possible in the future, get in touch!
Is there any financial support available to participants in the incubation programme?
Unfortunately, we are not able to give you a monthly stipend. We are however happy to provide financial support for travels to Berlin, childcare or individual needs that may arise upon request. Please let us know in the application form if you have any specific requirements.
Can I participate in the incubation program while still working?
Yes! As long as you can commit to an average of 4-5 hours per week. We will do our best to plan all dates in advance.
What do you mean by partnership readiness?
We want to support you in getting ready to partner with relevant stakeholders and build strong networks with other organisations working in your field. Partners could be:
Will I receive mentorship and guidance from successful FINTA* entrepreneurs?
Yes, we will match you with a mentor to guide you throughout the incubator. We will also host peer learning sessions within the cohort so that you can learn from and with each other, and we will connect you with our community of social entrepreneurs, of whom many are FINTA* founders. You will also meet our advisory board of successful FINTA* founders.
Will the incubation programme help me connect with potential investors and funding opportunities?
It will be our common goal to help you build partnerships, also with potential investors and donors if this is something you are interested in. We have a large community of impact investors and can make introductions on an individual basis if fitting.
Will I have the opportunity to showcase my business idea to a wider audience upon completion of the incubation programme?
Yes, we will have a virtual or hybrid closing event/demo day where you will present your business to a relevant audience. During the incubator, we will do our best to connect you to relevant stakeholders and you will be portrayed on our website and on our social media channels.
This project is supported and funded by the Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland (SEND e.V.), our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion ecosystem partner.
Thank you, SEND e.V., for making this incubator possible and for the great and trust-based collaboration.