November 16, 2021

Oregon Community Foundation Launches Thriving Entrepreneurs Fund with $580,000 Investment

OCF Supports Minority and Women-Owned Businesses with Priority Funding

Coinciding with National Entrepreneur’s Day, Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) announces an inaugural round of $580,000 in grant funding to support “Thriving Entrepreneurs” throughout Oregon. OCF grants to 28 Oregon-based nonprofits will provide coaching, mentoring, technical support and training to entrepreneurs who aim to grow companies and contribute to Oregon’s economic vitality. The OCF grant awards prioritize organizations and programs serving people of color, women and rural entrepreneurs.

Studies[i] show that a company with a diverse leadership team outperforms less diverse peers. Diverse companies show stronger innovation and make more profit.[ii] Women own 50% of businesses and employ a significant number of people. However, female founders received 2% of venture capital to grow and scale their businesses, and this number hasn't changed in the past decade.

“At Oregon Community Foundation, we believe philanthropy should play an active role in supporting entrepreneurship for economic vitality in Oregon,” says Su Embree, OCF board member, cofounder of Emerging Leaders, and former owner of DHM Research. “Small businesses help communities by keeping talented people in Oregon. Owning a small business can be key to individual and family prosperity – it's often a pathway to get out of poverty. Supporting entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurs of color, women and those in rural communities, is an investment with significant returns for all of us.” 

With National Entrepreneurship Month underway, Oregon Community Foundation is calling attention to small business innovation, particularly women, rural and minority-owned business ventures. Following is a snapshot of some of OCF’s Thriving Entrepreneur grantees helping to deliver innovation in Oregon:

Centro Latino Americano | Cambios Business Program | $25,000

To support a business class for Latino business owners that focuses on financial literacy, covers all aspects of developing and managing a business, and assists clients with final business plans.

“OCF’s Thriving Entrepreneurs grant allows Centro Latino Americano to expand the number of classes we offer, and further promote the advancement of Latino entrepreneurs in Lane County,” says Janice Daniels, Development Director, Centro Latino Americano. “This support goes a long way towards broadening connection with Latino-owned businesses and continuing to enrich and diversify our community.”

PBDG Foundation | Link Project | $25,000

To support the Link Project, a rural-urban partnership supporting women and people of color construction entrepreneurs.

“Oregon Community Foundation’s Thriving Entrepreneurs grant to PBDG will leverage other public investments to support important capacity building and training for entrepreneurs of color and women in Oregon’s construction industry as well as equitable job creation,” says Kenechi Onyeagusi, Executive Director, Professional Business Development Group.

Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship | Invent Oregon | $25,000

To host and manage the Invent Oregon (InventOR) Collegiate Challenge, a competition for Oregon college student innovators. Students form teams, develop concepts and prototypes to tackle problems that affect people’s lives, communities, or world challenges.

PSU Center for Entrepreneurship

“By providing early exposure to invention and entrepreneurship education to women and underserved groups, we have an opportunity to quadruple Oregon's pipeline of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs,” says Juan Barraza, Director, Student Innovation, Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship. “Oregon Community Foundation's continued support of Invent Oregon is seeding the next generation of Oregon college entrepreneurs, creating solutions that will solve problems in our communities and around the world.”

According to the Small Business Administration, 99% of businesses in Oregon are classified as small businesses and employ over 55% of the workforce. See a complete list of OCF Thriving Entrepreneur grantees (as of November 16, 2021) here:

“Entrepreneurs were among the hardest hit by the pandemic. If we are going to fully recover, and even bounce forward to a more equitable future, funding provided by Oregon Community Foundation will make a difference in helping entrepreneurs thrive and prosper in each of their communities,” says Celia Núñez, Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry Executive Director and volunteer member of the OCF Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant Program Review Committee.

These inaugural OCF grants respond to significant demand for training, access to mentors and assistance accessing capital.  OCF’s Thriving Entrepreneurs Fund is open for contributions online at: 

[i] McKinsey & Company, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, May 19, 2020,
[ii] Portland Business Journal, VCs pumped $398M into Portland-area companies in Q1, women founders landed just 1.6% of it,