New Revivalists

How local entrepreneurial ecosystems are rebuilding shared prosperity from the bottom up

1839 Methodist camp meeting during the Second Great Awakening l J. Maze Burbank

New Revivalists is a series from ImpactAlpha and Village Capital profiling the people, places and institutions reviving entrepreneurship — and America.

A great entrepreneurial awakening is rolling across America.

It may not show up yet in the statistics, which put the rate of new business starts at a 40-year low. But the entrepreneurial revival is clearly visible in cities and rural areas far from coastal hubs in Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. These new businesses are leveraging place, untapped talent and technology to serve local needs, rebuild manufacturing, create jobs, share wealth and restore neighborhoods.

To put faces to this emergent movement, ImpactAlpha has teamed with the business accelerator and investor Village Capital to produce profiles of more than two-dozen such New Revivalists. They are urban and rural. They are people of color and white. They are women and men. They are homegrown and newcomers. They are solving real problems and building growing businesses.

Ecosystems

As heroic as the entrepreneurs themselves are the accelerators and advocates, investors and civic leaders who are building the institutions and ecosystems to help entrepreneurs succeed. Together, they are The New Revivalists.

The New Revivalists are place-builders. In New Orleans, Propeller’s Andrea Chen is helping local storefront owners participate in the Big Easy’s comeback.

They are expanders, breaking down barriers of race, class and gender. In Colorado, the Telluride Foundation’s Marc Nager is opening up access and opportunities for rural entrepreneurs.

They are coinvestors, like Backstage Capital’s Arlan Hamilton, who are overcoming implicit biases to shift capital to overlooked founders, sectors and geographies.

The New Revivalists are civic leaders, advocating for policy and providing leadership to support entrepreneurship in underinvested communities. Carmen Rojas of the Workers Lab in Oakland is championing workers in the 21st century economy.

And of course they are business builders, like MPower’s Mike Davis and Manu Smajda, who are leveraging financial technologies to help immigrants to America finance their education.

New identity

To the New Revivalists, inclusion adds value. Racial equity is a growth market. Low-income communities? Good borrowers. “Flyover country”? Undervalued assets. Citizens emerging from prison? Untapped talent. Knocking down the barriers that have kept entrepreneurs down are the next growth opportunities. Like the original Great Awakening, the New Revivalists are breaking down barriers and shaping an American identity.

These New Revivalists shared their stories and their lessons with a team of journalists and writers that includes Sherrell Dorsey, Amy Cortese, Megan McFadden and Oscar Perry Abello as well as ImpactAlpha’s Jessica Pothering, myself and David Bank.

When the American economic revival story is written, it won’t have been exclusion and division, nor out-of-town corporations, that brought shared prosperity back to cities and communities across the country. It will be the new revivalists, who believe in entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as a way of rebuilding America from the bottom up.

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