Wednesday, March 17, 2010

$50,000 for Social Entrepreneurs

The Hitachi Foundation is searching the country to find young social entrepreneurs making an impact in their communities. The foundation is especially looking for new social enterprise start-ups that focus on helping move people out of poverty and into "mainstream America."

The award is offered by the Yoshiyama Program, which is named after Mr. Hirokichi Yoshiyama, the Chairman of Hitachi, Ltd. Upon his appointment as Chairman, he established the Hitachi Foundation. Upon his retirement with the donation of personal funds from his pension, he expanded his foundations reach and created the Yoshiyama Award for Exemplary Service to the Community. This award was operated by the foundation from 1988-2008. In 2008, the Yoshiyama Program was established. This program goes beyond the Yoshiyama Award for Exemplary Service in that the Program does not just honor young people for the changes they have made, instead, recognizes and rewards young people for the changes they are making. It also differs in that it focuses the award on young entrepreneurs and their quest to help low-wealth individuals in a targeted community in the US, overcome one or more barriers to economic security.
The Yoshiyama Program will select 6 entrepreneurs who will each receive $50,000 and technical resources to strengthen their business. The cash award will be dispersed over a two year period. The Foundation will provide a peer learning/mentoring network. This would include helping with the development of a marketing plan, financial management, leadership training, general management, and human resources policies.

The Program aims to discover the next generation of young business leaders. Along that vein, the Program seeks to identify 18-29 year olds who have formed financially viable businesses that create jobs, supply goods or services, or use internal management practices. While the Foundation recognizes business leaders of all ages are being productive in fostering substantial change, the Hitachi Foundation has a history of honoring young people, and seeks to continue that tradition.

There are a few stipulations to being eligible for the Program. Your business has to have generated some income. The Yoshiyama program is focused on businesses that are 1-5 years old and have been generating income for at least the last 12 months. If your business has not yet reached that milestone, the Program encourages applicants to apply in the future when they have.

The Yoshiyama Program will also document the stories of the selected young business leaders and put them in a position to serve as examples of how to run a financially sustainable business. The program hopes that the promotion of these young leaders and entrepreneurs will cause others to learn from. Furthermore the Program hopes to inspire the creation of other businesses that will strengthen the community.

If interested here is the timeline:

March 22 - Round 1 applications due
April 16 - Round 1 judging complete
June 7 - Semifinalist applications due (This portion of the application will include a phone interview, further documentation and references)
July 16 - Semifinalist judging complete
September 9-10 - Finalist presentations and interviews with judging panel- Washington, D.C.
September 24 - Prize recipient notification
Early-mid November - Yoshiyama retreat and Awards Banquet

What do you think, could your business use $50,000?

Photo courtesy: Winnermoney

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