BALSA Foundation December 2016 Newsletter
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From the
Executive Director

As 2016 draws to a close and we begin our third year, we’re sending our first newsletter to share our successes and let you know about exciting plans ahead!

This has been a busy year for The BALSA Foundation! We received 280 applications for two rounds of the BALSA Grant and selected 20 finalists, reviewed 44 Idea Support requests, and 360 people downloaded our Entrepreneur’s Roadmap - and that’s not counting the new Spanish language version! We stayed busy with more than 25 outreach events, sharing our programs with aspiring entrepreneurs.  

2016 has been transformative in less visible ways too. We held our annual elections, elected new members to our Advisory Committee, and updated our Mission and Vision statement. We launched a new web site, and are sharing our stories on our blog, on social media, and now a newsletter!

2017 promises to be even more exciting! We start the year with the opening of the BALSA Grant - we’ll be accepting applications January 1 - 15. We’ll keep improving our programs and expanding our reach, working to empower first-time entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses - especially those who need and can benefit from our help the most.

With best wishes for a joyful, prosperous, and safe 2017 --

Matt Wyczalkowski

Executive Director
BALSA Foundation

Mission and Vision 

We thought hard about the first-time entrepreneurs we most want to serve while recently revising our Mission and Vision statements. These updates reflect our passion for promoting social equity in the St. Louis region by supporting first-time entrepreneurs from underserved communities who need and can benefit from our help the most.  

Read more about our new Mission and Vision here.

BALSA Grant Opens January 2017!

On January 1 we are accepting applications for the BALSA Grant!  The deadline to share with us your business idea is January 15, and we’ll announce the next round of BALSA Grant finalists in early March!

We will award at least $10,000 in cash and $30,000 of professional services to ten finalists. BALSA Grant finalists will receive one-on-one mentoring and participate in our expanded Learning Series workshops, designed to develop practical skills and supportive networks which are so important for success.

You can find more details, including sample applications, for the BALSA Grant here.

2016 BALSA Grant Awards Ceremonies

We awarded two rounds of the BALSA Grant in 2016 and awarded over $20,000 in cash grants and $50,000 in professional services to 20 finalists! The finalists then participated in a Learning Series, learning the skills to grow their business and connecting with fellow entrepreneurs and resources.
Congratulations to our Spring 2016 BALSA Grant finalists! Read more!

Congratulations to our Summer 2016 BALSA Grant finalists! Read more!

Past Finalist Feature

Bonnidette Lantz, owner of Lightenstein, is a Summer 2016 BALSA Grant Finalist. Bonnidette creates lamps that are works of art, and since receiving the BALSA grant her business has grown exponentially. She explained that the BALSA grant is not just about the money but also about connecting with entrepreneurs, sharing experiences, coming up with ideas, and learning new ways of thinking.  “I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunity of working with the BALSA Foundation.” Read more here!


Idea Support

Idea Support offers free feedback to budding entrepreneurs in the St. Louis community. It helps anyone improve their business idea in preparation for the BALSA Grant application, to get general feedback on their promising idea, and to get connected with other experts and programs in the St. Louis community.

We’re happy to announce that we’ve recently updated Idea Support! We’ve made it more user friendly to apply, and the feedback more useful and comprehensive - all to better serve the needs of our entrepreneurs. Learn more and submit your idea to Idea Support here!

Idea Support relies on the help of 70 Idea Supporters - individuals with significant business or entrepreneurial experience who volunteer their time and expertise to help entrepreneurs get started. We are grateful to their generous help, and to Theresa O. Owuor, Ben Filas, Mark Katerberg, and Alina Oltean for their work upgrading the Idea Support program.

Announcing the Spanish Entrepreneur's Roadmap

This summer we worked with the Mosaic Project, the International Institute, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to translate our popular Entrepreneur’s Roadmap into Spanish. This accessible document will provide our Spanish-speaking neighbors with a practical guide for starting a business. Read more here!

Officer Elections

In September we elected a strong, experienced team of officers for one-year terms. Matt Wyczalkowski was re-elected as Executive Director with the remaining positions filled by new officers - all bringing experience and passion for supporting first-time entrepreneurs. The team will work on solidifying the Foundation’s role in the community, especially through additional outreach efforts, and ensuring the long-term stability and sustainability of the Foundation. Read more here!
From Left to right, Matt Wyczalkowski (Executive Director), Brittany Riehlman (Outreach Director), Theresa O. Owuor (Program Director),Wyatt Gutierrez (Finance Director), and Reyka Jayasinghe (Technology Director)

Advisory Committee

We have re-established our Advisory Committee and elected new members to provide The BALSA Foundation Board of Directors with advice, guidance, and support from prominent citizens across a spectrum of St. Louis communities. This group of eleven influential leaders and accomplished professionals will advocate for and champion the Foundation and its mission, forge strategic connections, and identify and utilize opportunities for improvement and growth.

The BALSA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. We rely on the energy and generosity of the St. Louis entrepreneurial community to operate. Here are ways you can help:

  • Be an Idea Supporter. Idea Supporters review business ideas of first time entrepreneurs in a critical but constructive way, and are the backbone of our Idea Support program. Idea Supporters have significant business or entrepreneurial experience and are willing to write a thoughtful review roughly once a month or two.  See list of Idea Supporters.
  • Contribute to the BALSA Grant Fund and In-Kind Donations. The BALSA Grant awards up to $5,000 in non-dilutive grants as well as professional services from local companies. We welcome both financial and in-kind donations to help fund the BALSA Grant. See past sponsors, donate here or contact us.
  • Spread the Word. Being a recognized resource for first time St. Louis entrepreneurs is central to our success. We prioritize outreach to minority, immigrant, and other under-resourced communities.
We have many other ways to get involved, and are always looking for good teammates.  If you’d like to help, get in touch!
Copyright © 2016 BALSA Foundation, All rights reserved.


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The BALSA Foundation · 4240 Duncan Ave. · Ste. 110, Room 101 · St Louis, MO 63110 · USA

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