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WePower Wraps Up First Business Accelerator For Black, Latino Entrepreneurs

La'Crassia Wilderness is an entrepreneur and owner of Butter Love, and all-natural skin care products.
La'Crassia Wilderness
La'Crassia Wilderness is an entrepreneur and owner of Butter Love by L.C., an all-natural skin care line.

When St. Louis nonprofit WePowerlaunched a few years ago, it aimed to set up a business accelerator to uplift entrepreneurs in underinvested areas such as north St. Louis. And beginning in March, its six-month accelerator, Elevate/Elevar, did just that.

The first cohort wrapped up the program late last month. Ten entrepreneurs went through an immersive program and learned from experts about how to access capital, connections and strategies to create living-wage jobs in the region.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske explored this mentorship program. Joining the discussion was Yoni Blumberg, WePower’s director of entrepreneurship and strategic initiatives. He said companies in the Elevate/Elevar cohort averaged a 350% increase in sales.

“Most people came into the cohort as the only entrepreneur — [a] solopreneur. And one thing we focus on a lot in the program is growing your team, working more on your business than in your business and thinking about what you can outsource or hire for. And so that helps some people grow and scale their businesses,” he explained.

La'Crassia Wilderness, entrepreneur and owner of Butter Love by L.C., also joined the program. She touched on how the business accelerator helped triple her organic skincare line’s monthly sales between March and August.

“Mostly Butter Love’s sales were strictly pop-up [driven]. And I had some online traction but not a lot. … So I had to pivot really hard when the pandemic happened, because I couldn't do any face-to-face sales with my customers, which I thought was going to hurt my business,” she said.

“But it actually ended up being great because I had to find new ways to connect with my customers with those systems that I put into place, those marketing strategies that I put into place, and also the connections that I had to kind of create organically and authentically with my customers.”

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 hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.