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Meet 2 St. Louis entrepreneurs who just received $50k from UMSL’s DEI Accelerator

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Miya Norfleet
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St. Louis Public Radio
From left: Cami Thomas, founder of My Friends and I; Kay Wells, founder of Posie Pots; and Michael Butler, director of operations at UMSL Accelerate

Few are brave enough to take a bright idea and turn it into a business. And, even when people try — the odds of success decrease when the founder looking for investors is a person of color or immigrant born.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Accelerator aims to make a difference. In its third year, the UMSL DEI Accelerator has awarded $50,000 non-dilutive grants to six local businesses and each of the founders will benefit from an eight-week business development program.

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Miya Norfleet
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St. Louis Public Radio
Cami Thomas, founder of My Friends and I, and Michael Butler, director of operations at UMSL's DEI Accelerate

Kay Wells, founder of Posie Pots, received one of the grants. Named after her family’s matriarch, Posie Pots will be able to buy more 3D printers to increase production of made-to-order self-watering planters.

Another grant recipient, Cami Thomas, founder of My Friends and I, shared how the accelerator will support her video production business and others in St. Louis. “That economic ripple effect can be felt from the moment [my clients] land until the moment that we're done.” Thomas said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “That means when there's an ad, they're hiring St. Louis talent, St. Louis caterers, they’re staying at St. Louis hotels, taking St. Louis-driven Ubers. … And I want the impact to go past just me and my immediate people who are a part of my crew.”

UMSL Accelerate Director of Operations Michael Butler knows how critical it is to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds. “Being an African American … I started my first business in ‘96. And I struggled to get the right support. I struggled to get that funding,” he said. “I am so proud UMSL has, I think, some of the greatest faculty and alumni around, and that has given us a great opportunity to find the resources to help our founders.”

To learn more about UMSL’s DEI Accelerator, My Friends and I, and Posie Pots listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or clicking the play button below.

Meet 2 St. Louis entrepreneurs who just received $50k from UMSL’s DEI Accelerator

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

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