Learn More about the Business Accelerator

What is the AHA’s EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™?

This intense business leadership training and grant opportunity, designed to help solve health disparities, challenges a diverse group of entrepreneurs, startups and nonprofits to develop community-based solutions that change behaviors, expand access to care and improve long-term health in historically excluded communities.

What is EmPOWERED to Serve™?

EmPOWERED to Serve is a platform to drive change through health justice and empowerment in communities, inspired by American Heart Association multicultural volunteers across the country. These committed ambassadors, together with AHA staff, are addressing gaps in health equity through advocacy, policy, education and social change.

How does EmPOWERED to Serve relate to the AHA’s 2024 impact goal?

In alignment with the American Heart Association’s 2024 impact goal, ETS focuses on fulfilling our commitment to expand diversity research opportunities for underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in science and medicine and to invest in community-led solutions to address health inequity and structural racism.

Why is the American Heart Association offering this grant opportunity?

Many factors affect a person’s health. People living just five miles apart can have a difference in life expectancy of more than 20 years due to factors such as employment, income, access to a quality education, social support and community safety — these contribute to about 40% of health outcomes. The AHA recognizes that there are leaders in historically excluded communities who are already working to address these factors, and we want to provide the resources needed to scale up their impact.

What are the rules and guidelines of the Business Accelerator?

  • Applicants must submit a business model via the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator Application Hub between May 3 and July 16. (The application cycle is now closed)
  • The online entry must address a social factor that affects a community’s ability to achieve equitable health and well-being.
  • Business models that are submitted must target the needs of a specific community listed on the website or identify a different community.
  • Top entries will be selected to present their refined business models at the Association’s EmPOWERED to Serve Finale on Oct. 21, 2021.

What is Entre-SLAM?

Entre-SLAM is an American Heart Association vendor contracted to deliver business storytelling and other training to Accelerator participants. Entre-SLAM helps businesses hone their “pitching” skills when presenting a business model or concept. Since 2012, Entre-SLAM has worked with over 1,000 startups and other companies.

How is this different from a pitch competition?

While a pitch competition gives entrepreneurs a chance to pitch a business concept, business storytelling blends the personal narrative with the business brand model. Entre-SLAM  provides specialized training to help participants tell a blended, compelling story to prepare them to compete at the finale.

What are the key dates?

  • May 3-July 16 — Applications accepted
  • July 17-Aug. 5 — Application review
  • Aug. 6 — Participants announced
  • Aug. 6-Oct. 8 — Eight-week training
  • Oct. 4-Oct. 21 — Fan Favorite voting
  • Oct. 21 — EmPOWERED to Serve Finale virtual event

How many participants will be selected, and how much will they be granted?

Top participants will present their business models at the Finale Oct. 21 before a panel of judges during a live virtual event. The judges will select two awardees, and the Fan Favorite will be announced. Grants totaling $65,000 will be awarded to the top two finalists and the Fan Favorite to fund their business concepts. Top candidates are invited to work with their local AHA office to help implement their concepts.

What will the judges consider when selecting awardees?

Our judges will consider these factors when selecting the top entries and, ultimately, the two top awardees:

  • How well does the business model/concept address social health barriers?
  • Does the concept have the potential to scale?
  • Can it easily be introduced in other communities?
  • Does the competitor clearly define what success looks like and how funds will be managed?
  • Does the competitor exude passion and enthusiasm about the concept and its potential impact?

The American Heart Association is a large organization with considerable funding. Why is it relying on external businesses, individuals and organizations to assist in this effort?

To effect meaningful change in the communities the AHA serves, we understand that we must collaborate with and value the knowledge of organizations and individuals who have deep community connections. Tapping into and providing resources to community talent will give us the best opportunity to work together to devise solutions to address social health risks.

Impact and Need

"I would have to say my experience was simply great and impactful. I enjoyed every step of the process from intake to learning about the importance and skillset of storytelling. Along with being nominated as a candidate and meeting some amazing people from around the country that are all doing awesome things in their communities, along with receiving the third-place grant and being able to use those funds to help my organization move forward."

2017 Urban Business Storytelling Competition Grantee Cecil Wilson, Goffers Inc