Supporting Minority Entrepreneurship in the Philadelphia Region

Applications for Cohort 3 will open later this year – please contact us if you have questions

The Raynier Institute & Foundation, a Seattle-based philanthropic organization with Philadelphia roots, has partnered with Drexel University and the University City Science Center to improve access to capital for minority entrepreneurs in the area. The institutions are collaboratively managing a seed fund created by a $500,000 grant from the Foundation, which was founded by an heir of Philadelphia transportation and real estate magnate Peter Widener, and supports programs of high merit for the betterment of humanity.

The fund is intended as a step toward addressing persistent inequality in minority business ownership by providing access to funds, guidance and networks early in the entrepreneurship process. A recent study by a pair of venture capital rating groups suggests that while the disparity in start-up funding has been improving, the fact remains that over the last five years, less than a quarter of new businesses have been started by minority entrepreneurs.


A three-person organizing committee, consisting of representatives from the University City Science Center, Drexel’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship and Drexel’s Office of Research & Innovation, collaborate through a working group that evaluates applicants seeking capital and entrepreneurial support resources. The selection process utilizes a combination of the organizing committee’s expertise, supplemented by key community members with a history of cultivating and supporting minority entrepreneurs. Drexel manages investments, with all returns reinvested back into the fund.

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“We know that entrepreneurs need capital to propel their ideas into reality. Seed funding in the initial stages of a new venture is critical not only to survival but also to the ability of the firm to pivot as needed,” said Donna DeCarolis, PhD, founding dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel, who will serve as co-administrator of the fund with Aleister Saunders, PhD, Drexel’s executive vice provost for innovation and research. “This seed fund, targeted at underrepresented entrepreneurs, will accelerate innovation and job creation among minority entrepreneurs in our region. We are grateful to the Raynier Institute & Foundation for their generosity in support of minority entrepreneurs.” 

About the Raynier Institute & Foundation: Since its founding in 1994 by philanthropist James Widener Ray, the Raynier Institute & Foundation has awarded more than $41 million to non-profit organizations, primarily in Seattle and Philadelphia, that serve the areas of animal welfare, arts and culture, education, the environment and health care and human services. 

For more information about the Raynier Institute & Foundation, visit:

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