$1 million grant will be used to fund program to help businesses owned by women and people of color expand e-commerce operations
FedEx announced the launch of the FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab, a new program developed in collaboration with Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF), a leading nonprofit organization providing small business owners with access to capital, networks, and coaching. The program is designed to help diverse small business owners who are looking to develop or expand their e-commerce operations as they continue to adapt their business models in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on women and entrepreneurs of color.
The program will provide intensive hands-on learning to a cohort of 150 small business owners across the U.S. through a series of workshops and one-on-one coaching by e-commerce experts. They will receive free technical support in setting up and maintaining their virtual stores, as well as support with marketing, managing promotions, customer service, managing orders and fulfillments, and product photography. Participants will also receive a $2,000 business grant to launch and grow their e-commerce business. In addition, AOF and FedEx will also develop a series of virtual seminars on more advanced e-commerce topics, as well as an online learning hub featuring on-demand virtual learning courses, open to any small business owner seeking to expand their e-commerce expertise.
The FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab aims to support small businesses owned by women and people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. As a result of more consumers shopping online during the pandemic, eMarketer reports that e-commerce volumes grew by 33 percent in 2020. Through this program, FedEx hopes to connect diverse small businesses with the tools, resources, and experts that can help them navigate online sales and forge a new path to growth.
“It is no secret that the pandemic has had a significant impact on small business owners, especially women and people of color. Through our new collaboration with AOF, we are helping to level the playing field and get these small businesses back on their feet, which is especially important as record growth in e-commerce volumes continue,” said Brie Carere, executive vice president, chief marketing and communications officer, FedEx. “With the launch of the FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab, we’ll not only help individuals meet customer needs in new ways, but also provide comprehensive programming that will equip them with the tools to navigate through these uncertain times.”
The intensive, hands-on learning experience will be open to 150 small business owners who are new to e-commerce and is scheduled to run over the course of five months, beginning in September 2021. This timeframe will ensure that participants receive support with holiday marketing and promotions as well as technical support in all aspects of managing holiday orders, traditionally the busiest time of year for e-commerce.
Technical support, order fulfillment and initial hosting of their online stores will be delivered in collaboration with 37 Oaks, a Chicago-based social enterprise founded by Terrand Smith, that helps small businesses owned by women and people of color prepare for distribution through diverse growth channels. At the end of the experience, participants will be prepared to take what they have learned to launch their own online store. This new program builds upon the FedEx commitment to support businesses as they build out their e-commerce operations, which has included a collaboration with the SCORE Foundation to develop educational resources for small business on the topic of e-commerce.
“Together with FedEx, we have the opportunity to help elevate the voices of entrepreneurs that often go unheard,” says Luz Urrutia, CEO, Accion Opportunity Fund. “By offering access to resources and opportunities and providing tailored support, we can prepare these communities for future growth and ultimately develop more equitable economic opportunities for a diverse range of businesses.”
Cohort participants must not have an existing active e-commerce presence, currently produce and sell a packaged product (either shelf-stable, pre-packaged food or non-food general merchandise such as fashion, beauty or home décor), earn less than $500,000 in annual revenue and be willing to commit to full program participation. More details about the application process will be available in June, and you can sign up to be notified when the application is live here.