Do you have a business idea that has the potential to solve a BIG problem? Do you have a big idea that could help your business but need time and expertise to develop your plans? EGK Starters will help agile, adaptive, and high-growth potential startup businesses in Birmingham, Alabama (and the surrounding areas) tackle these issues. EGK Starters is based on previous work developed at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom and Armenia.

We’re glad that you’re interested in applying to EGK Starters! This page gives a detailed overview of our inaugural 2021 program. You can join our waitlist to be the first to know when our application for the next cohort opens.

What we look for in founders

We’re looking for Black and brown small business owners and side hustlers who want to grow their businesses but may not feel in the best position to do so.

An ideal participant fits in at least one of the following descriptions:

  • You are interested in scaling up your business but are too intimidated to make the first big step.
  • Your small business or side hustle has a loyal customer base, and you are considering pursuing this full-time. You want the financial freedom that comes with being your own boss, and you have the drive to scale your business.
  • You want to position your company for future investments that’ll help you grow your business faster.

The details

EGK Starters is a fully-funded opportunity for Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color-led (BIPOC-led) high-growth potential startup businesses in Birmingham, AL. Through a series of design-led and action-focused interventions delivered online over five months, we will help you develop your potential for innovation and increase your understanding of how to overcome your barriers and challenges amid the COVID-19 crisis.

During the sessions, a team of expert practitioners and researchers will use innovation tools to help you challenge your current thinking, investigate blind-spots, and generate new opportunities to create value.

The EGK Starters team will help you:

  • develop new ideas, concepts, products, services, strategies (and more) within a concentrated time period
  • consider new ways of working, supported by our innovation tools and approaches
  • create a plan of action to enable change and move positively towards your business vision
  • communicate your business proposal to Angel and Venture Capital investors

The sessions include two Design Sprints that work as catalysts for change and inspiration for innovation. In these fast-paced events, you will work alongside our innovation team to explore your organization’s challenges and opportunities, participate in collaborative activities to develop rich insights, and find early-stage solutions to the problems you face.

The timeline

The inaugural 2021 batch will consist of five-months of virtual sessions delivered in three phases for Birmingham, AL-based, BIPOC-led startups.

The 2021 Timeline

Phase I: Exploring Innovation Opportunities [Mar - Apr 2021]

Through 10 hours of an action-focused intervention, we’ll meet individually with each startup weekly. We describe each session below.

  • Triage (3 hours): to capture business basics and explore strategic innovation. The team will review findings and identify key areas for exploration through Design Sprints.
  • Design Sprints (2 x 3 hours): Challenge-based activity. The team will use a range of innovation tools and methods to help startup founders focus their knowledge, resources, and skills to solve the challenge.
  • Review (1 hour): Three weeks later, the team will meet founders again for a structured conversation to reflect on key learnings and next steps.

Phase II: Developing and Communicating Innovation Opportunities [Apr - Jul 2021]

In the second phase of the program, startups will meet monthly for mentoring, workshops, and more. Startups will check-in with the project team to discuss their process towards reaching the business goals outlined in Phase I. We hope to pair each startup with a mentor (a seasoned entrepreneur, consultant, or angel investor).

Additionally, participants will develop a communication strategy for their business as they prepare for a final pitch at the EGK Starters Closing Demo Day in August 2021.

Phase III: EGK Starters Closing Demo Day [Aug 2021]

The Closing Demo Day is an experiential learning opportunity for BIPOC-led startup founders to improve their pitching skills, with the potential to earn seed funding (first-round funding) for their venture.

Call for participation

EGK Starters is a fully-funded opportunity for Birmingham, AL-based BIPOC-led small businesses of high-growth potential.

Applicants Must Meet the Following Criteria:

  • At least one member of your company’s capitalization table (those who have equity/ownership in your company) MUST be Black, Indigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC) AND have at least 20% equity/ownership
  • Commit to the entire five-month program to qualify to pitch at the EGK Starters Closing Demo Day for a startup grant

Program Benefits:

  • Free business consultation with expert practitioners and researchers
  • Slack group for learning, engagement, and resource sharing among the BIPOC-led startup cohort community
  • Free goodie bag (includes a zipper pouch, bookmark, and business planner)
  • Free kit (tripod, microphone, and light) for recording your business elevator pitch on your smartphone


Join our waitlist here to be the first to know when our application for the next cohort opens. Read the FAQ here or contact us at for further details.

The application process:

  1. The first step is to complete our written application.
  2. If you’re invited to interview, you’ll be sent a link to book a time to meet for 15-minutes. The interview is intended to be a general conversation. We want to learn more about your business, why you want to attend EGK Starters, and what you hope to gain from the experience.