ST. LOUIS — A new St. Louis-based startup accelerator has launched to exclusively help fund and sustain businesses led by black and Latino founders.

The Elevate/Elevar Accelerator on Jan. 16 named the 10 companies that are a part of its initial cohort. The six-month accelerator program is an initiative spearheaded by WEPOWER, a local nonprofit focused on developing equitable education, economic, health and justice systems.

Charli Cooksey, founder and CEO of WEPOWER, said her organization sees entrepreneurship as a key lever to foster economic inclusion.

“We see entrepreneurship as a tool to spark good jobs in communities where there aren’t good jobs,” she said.

The accelerator is designed to help solve a funding gap for minority founders, with research conducted by WEPOWER ahead of the accelerator’s launch finding that 74% of entrepreneurs polled said access to capital was a challenge for them.

The Elevate/Elevar Accelerator is targeting fast-growing industries that pay workers a living wage, Cooksey said. The program is focused on helping startups in the IT and health care fields, construction and food prep, and retail. 

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