Eagan, Minn., July 6, 2023— The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, hosted its third annual Minnesota EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ finale event at General Mills last month. The Accelerator empowers local entrepreneurs and businesses that are creating solutions to health equity in Minnesota through funding and training.

Through six weeks of MBA-style training leading up to the event, the candidates learned how to focus and grow their businesses and organizations. They used this training to present a five-minute business pitch at the finale event in front of a panel of judges. While all the finalists received $2,000 to further their work in closing the health equity gap, they competed for First Place and Fan Favorite recognition.

Katelyn France, founder and CEO of Scientists Making Your Life Easier (SMYLE), LLC, took home first place. She received an additional $1,500 and will advance to the national business accelerator in October for a chance to win $50,000. Her medical technology and mentorship-focused company produces accessible and lifesaving medical equipment.

The panel of expert judges scored each candidate on the presentation of their business story, innovation, business scalability and health impact. The judges included Haitham Hussein, MD, Associate Professor of Vascular Neurology at the University of Minnesota and board president of the American Heart Association - Minnesota, Katie Lawler, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Ethics Officer at U.S. Bank, and Kate Gallagher, R&D Director at Cheerios.

Andrea Bishop Thomas, executive director of Mount Olivet Lab School, Inc. received this year’s Fan Favorite award. Voting was conducted online by the public the week leading up to the event. Mount Olivet Lab School Inc. provides nutritional food and wholesome, structured activities for children and families in Minnesota.

In addition to France and Bishop Thomas, the finalists of this year’s Minnesota business celerator included Friendly Vang-Johnson, founder and principal of Friendly Hmong Farms; Jennifer Timm, founding director of Bridges Health; Nichol Dehmer, founder and CEO of YardHomesMN; Phillip McGraw, founder of Living Naturally Abundant and William Swanstrom, Consultant of River Valley Health Services.

 “I was extremely impressed by the breadth of issues being addressed and creativity of the solutions," Lawler said of the candidates. Hussein added, “It was certainly the most competitive of the three years that I’ve judged.”

The Minnesota EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™ is presented by Cheerios.

To learn more, visit empoweredtoserve.org/minnesota


About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   


For Media Inquiries:
Lisa Cole: 715-379-5633; lisa.cole@heart.org
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)
heart.org and stroke.org