DALLAS, Oct. 18, 2019 — According to a recent report by the Kauffman Foundation, specific social factors such as geography, gender and race contribute to the performance and outcomes of entrepreneurs’ business ventures. To combat those barriers, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, yesterday awarded approximately $100,000 in training and grants to empower entrepreneurs whose innovative ideas address health disparities in under-resourced communities.
During a ceremony held yesterday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., nine social entrepreneurs presented their business solutions designed to help close health disparity gaps. The top candidate, Russell Fearon, co-founder of Sugex, a wearable device that helps people manage their diabetes, received a $50,000 grant as well as an additional $5,000 for receiving the highest number of fan votes. Second place recipient, Jeremy Goss, received a $20,000 grant in support of The Link Market, which addresses food insecurity and transportation barriers by providing affordable groceries at metro stations.
Now in its third year, the EmPOWERED to Serve Business AcceleratorTM has trained more than 30 entrepreneurs in an eight-week MBA-style course focused on market positioning, brand development, fundraising and other business strategies to enhance the viability of their projects.
“The past two months have been life changing for me,” said Russell Fearon, co-founder of Sugex, a wearable device that helps people manage their diabetes. While the financial gift will propel my business to greater heights, the knowledge I have gained, mentors I have met and connections I have made, will pay dividends.”
Through the Accelerator, the Association has supported entrepreneurs whose solutions provide healthy fruits and vegetables to those living in food deserts, develop education programs that help barbershop patrons advocate for their health and create STEM opportunities to improve the quality of education.
“These changemakers are disrupting the status quo by getting to the root of the barriers that prevent people from living healthy lives,” said Lawrence Griffith, technology entrepreneur, philanthropist and American Heart Association EmPOWERED to Serve volunteer. “Together, we will build powerful partnerships to change behaviors, expand access to resources and improve long-term health.”
Nearly 50 million people in the United States are forced to choose between paying rent, buying medicine and eating healthy foods. Social factors, including neighborhood, economic position and educational status impact health by as much as 80%. Under-resourced and low-income populations have a higher risk of developing heart disease, the number one killer of all Americans.
Entrepreneurs and innovators with community-based solutions can get involved by becoming an EmPOWERED to Serve ambassador at empoweredtoserve.org. The application deadline for the 2020 National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator will be announced in the Spring.
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:
Susan Young: 214-706-1508; Susan.Young@Heart.org
Luz Varela: 214-706-4852; Luz.Varela@Heart.org
For Public Inquiries:
heart.org and strokeassociation.org
 Hw Hwang, V., Desai, S., and Baird, R. (2019) “Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs: Removing Barriers,” Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: Kansas City