Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator: National

The 2024 application window has closed.
Ali Simeto, along with a group of judges and representatives, is holding a big check from the American Heart Association showing his 1st place win at the ETS Maryland Black Farmers Business Accelerator finale.

Your chance at up to $75,000 in grant funding is here!

The six-week National Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator is an intensive training and grant program to help you scale your health impact-focused business within a condensed timeframe. Despite its short duration, the accelerator packs a punch! It will challenge you to evolve your business model, accelerate your progress to scale and craft a compelling brand story to take your fundraising to the next level.

Congratulations to our 2023 National Business Accelerator finalists. Meet the founders and grant recipients

What are we looking for?

The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator is looking for a diverse pool of entrepreneurs, companies and organizations who are driving change and health equity in their communities. Applications will be accepted from social and digital health tech entrepreneurs, non-profits and for-profits making a health impact and addressing a social determinant of health (SDOH).

Interested founders should have a business that focuses on health equity and social determinants of health in one of the following areas:

  • Education
  • Healthcare access
  • Food security
  • Neighborhood conditions
  • Transportation
  • Environmental quality
  • Employment/economic stability
  • Housing
  • Health innovation/technology

Information Session

Learn what to expect throughout the application process and beyond.

Watch the recorded info session

Accelerator Benefits

1st place: $50,000 | 2nd place: $12,000 | Fan favorite: $5,000 | Non-grant recipients: $1,000 stipend

You have a chance at up to $75,000 in grant funding.

This nationwide, highly competitive experience will give you the opportunity to receive non-equity funding. Grant funding is just the beginning! The American Heart Association’s Center for Health Metrics will evaluate your business model. The evaluation will create a baseline to enable you to make critical decisions, refine your strategies and maximize the effectiveness of the accelerator.

The accelerator includes a six-week training experience in which you will elevate your unique competitive advantage to deliver a compelling brand story that encourages interest from stakeholders and potential investors.

At the invitation-only showcase finale event on October 9, you will have the opportunity to present your brand story, answer questions and receive feedback from a panel of judges as well as other founders, business leaders and potential funders and VCs.

Frequently Asked Questions


You will complete five phases during the six-week training:

Discover Your Health Impact Moonshot

You’ll pinpoint the core problem you’re solving and craft a concise 10-word statement. A moonshot tackles a monumental challenge with a radical solution powered by breakthrough technology.

Business Model Design and Analysis

Our expert team will thoroughly evaluate your brand’s vision and proposed health impact solution(s). Using advanced data analysis, we’ll provide a detailed impact assessment report. The report is a vital foundation, empowering you to refine your brand’s strategies.

Customer Experience (CX) Design

After crafting a powerful moonshot and envisioning its realization, you will dig deeper into understanding your “customers” or community through scientific and qualitative research. You’ll learn the skills to identify subtle cues that provide invaluable insights, enhancing the impact your brand delivers.

Value Mapping and Design

Value Mapping and Business Model Analysis offer insights vital for strategic decision-making, innovation and boosting your brand’s competitiveness. By understanding value dynamics within your community’s ecosystem, you’ll adapt your business model to better meet community needs — maximizing your brand’s potential impact.

Brand Storytelling

We will work together to determine — based on outcomes from your CX and Design Thinking work — how best to align the brand’s type and experience. We’ll focus on your brand, brand type and the customer experience you must deliver to achieve optimal results. Together, we will craft an impactful three-minute narrative that can be shared at the showcase.

Who should apply?

  • U.S. citizens 18 years or older
  • Founders of nonprofit or Pre-seed, Seed or Series A startups
  • Must be a health impact-focused business and address one or more categories of the social determinants of health in the U.S.
  • Innovation must apply to improving health equity
  • Must be the founder or CEO


  • Application: May 1 – June 28
  • Evaluation: June 29 – July 26
  • Top founders notified by: July 30
  • Pre-accelerator: August 5 – 9
  • Training: August 12 – September 20
  • Showcase Event: October 9

Innovate or Die Podcast

Listen to Pamela Garmon Johnson, National Vice President, Health Equity Impact and Partnerships describe how the Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator transforms communities on the Innovate or Die podcast. The business accelerator has helped over 150 businesses and granted over $1M.
a video frame from the Innovate or Die podcast showing the two hosts and Pamela Garmon-Johnson
headshot of Kwamane Liddell against a grey background

How Success Happens Podcast

Listen as Kwamane Liddell, founder of Thrive Link and 2023 Business Accelerator candidate, shares his journey from trauma nurse to accomplished business leader and healthcare lawyer. Witnessing the impact of barriers to social determinants of health, he created ThriveLink, which empowers families to enroll in health insurance, food stamps, and discount medication programs via phone. Join us as Kwamane shares his story of dedicating his life to addressing healthcare disparities and the impact the business accelerator had on his business.

Tune into this episode of the How Success Happens podcast

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Get ready to apply.

Explore the Empowered Innovation Academy, our complimentary online learning platform.

Our team can’t wait to work with you.

Michelle Raphael

American Heart Association, Business Accelerator Lead

Michelle is a highly experienced program development and marketing strategist that will be the main point of contact for the Business Accelerator founders. Over the past 12 years, she has been instrumental in advancing health equity initiatives at the AHA and overseen the accelerator from inception to management of all facets of the program’s operations. Her responsibilities encompass strategic planning, program development, relationship management and operational leadership.

Under Michelle’s guidance, the Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator has achieved remarkable growth and success. What began as a modest initiative distributing $35,000 in grants has rapidly expanded — now funding over $1.3 million into its eighth year. The accelerator has also attracted underrepresented founders from across the health equity and digital tech landscape, underscoring Michelle’s adeptness at cultivating a vibrant and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Arika Cason

American Heart Association, Senior Lead

Arika Cason is a 25-year accomplished veteran in program development, marketing, and communications. She is a key strategist and implementer of the Empowered to Serve initiative, successfully leading the charge for health equity programs, including the business accelerator. Over the past ten years, she has been a critical part of advancing health equity at the American Heart Association and supported the accelerator from inception to oversight of all components of the program’s operations. Arika works alongside Michelle in strategic planning, program development, partnership management, and operations of the Empowered Business Accelerator.

Pamela Garmon Johnson

American Heart Association, VP of Health Equity and National Partnerships

Pamela Garmon Johnson is driven by a mission to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Through her work, she connects and scales community-centered health equity solutions for transformative change. Pamela partners with brands committed to sustainable and intentional community impact. With 26 years of experience catalyzing change in the health sector, she brings an empowering and innovative energy to her work, particularly valuing innovation and technology for advancing health outcomes. Currently serving as the VP of Health Equity and National Partnerships at the American Heart Association, Pamela is dedicated to identifying opportunities to close care gaps and improve access to heart health resources.

Christa Chambers-Price

Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator Program Architect and Facilitator

Christa’s career journey — from Army National Guard combat telecommunications specialist veteran to FBI Headquarters fingerprint analyst to thriving brand storytelling and marketing strategist — spans more than 25 years.

Since 2017, she has been instrumental in designing the curriculum and leading the training for the American Heart Association’s business accelerator. Christa specializes in challenging the founder’s cognitive biases, improving a brand’s focus and competitive advantage, and brand storytelling. She transforms ambitious ideas into scalable solutions.

Under Christa’s guidance, accelerator alumni have achieved notable success, including acquisitions and securing substantial funding in Seed, Series A and B rounds.

Christa is a proud alumna of the University of Michigan and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business’s Leadership and Innovation program, where she further honed her leadership skills and innovative thinking.

Michelle Raphael

A professional headshot of Michelle Raphael

American Heart Association, Business Accelerator Lead

Arika Cason

A professional headshot of Arika Cason

American Heart Association, Senior Lead

Pamela Garmon Johnson

A professional headshot of Pamela Garmon Johnson wearing a navy blazer and blue and white striped blouse

American Heart Association, VP of Health Equity and National Partnerships

Christa Chambers-Price

A professional headshot of Christa Chambers-Price

Empowered to Serve Business Accelerator Program Architect and Facilitator

Support the Accelerator

Join us in helping make health equity a reality. We invite you to support our innovative founders by providing access to capital, mentorship, and resource networks.