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NBA legend Dwayne Wade has been a committed activist for social causes since his retirement. Photo: @Dwyane Wade.

Square, Earn Your Leisure launch Forward alongside Dwyane Wade, Rosario Dawson, and Ayesha Curry

Forward is out to accelerate financing and business advice for Black and Latino entrepreneurs.

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With the mission to expand access to resources and break down various economic and social barriers, Square and Earn Your Leisure recently partnered with star power in the form of NBA legend Dwayne Wade, actress Rosario Dawson and Ayesha Curry to launch Forward. The new accelerator will provide 25 businesses in their initial growth stages with $20,000 and exclusive access to training developed with 1863 Ventures.

Wade stated:

We launched the Social Change Fund United with the goal of creating a more fair and equitable society in part through economic investment and efforts to support minority-owned businesses.

Topics included in the Forward training range from leadership development and customer acquisition to scaling operations and managing financial growth. It's a plan that will enable Black and Latino entrepreneurs with retail stores to get the capital, advice and products they need to meet their goals.

An opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs

Square also recently released a new report that revealed more than 5 million applications for new businesses were submitted in 2022. Black and Latinos opened more businesses than any other demographics.

Despite the significant boost, Black and Latino business owners continue to face systemic barriers that prevent them from achieving their long-term goals, especially when it comes to raising capital. As a result, the closure rate of Black- and Latino-owned businesses is much higher than white business owners.

“By partnering with Square today to launch Forward, we’re meeting those goals and helping to ensure that entrepreneurs of color have the opportunity to make their business ideas come to life in a lasting way. As a business owner myself, I understand how critical it is to have the right tools and mentorship when getting started,” added Wade.

Get to know: Forward

Members of the inaugural cohort will receive Square checking and savings accounts, Square hardware, attend private mentoring classes, and work one-on-one with advisors to discuss their unique business needs.

The program's renowned mentors are joined by financial advisors and podcast hosts Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of Earn Your Leisure. American Express will also support the accelerator through funding and training opportunities for program participants.

“Because Square succeeds when our sellers succeed, we’re fully invested in providing entrepreneurs of color with the tools they need to thrive. At a time when Black and Brown entrepreneurs are opening more businesses than anyone else, Square is helping to create a space where great ideas and hard working sellers can get the support and coaching required to reach the next level. Forward is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication from talented employees across the Square organization who are committed to seeing minority-owned businesses make it past the start up stage and go on to thrive,” said Naomi Wheeless, Global Head of Customer Success for Square.

Open enrollment

The Square ecosystem provides sellers with a single, easy-to-understand space for any business, giving them access to different capabilities, such as getting loans through Square Banking, contacting customers through Square Marketing, and managing staff through Team Management and Square Payroll.

To qualify, retail businesses, with a founder or CEO that identifies as Black, African American, or Latino, must be in the apparel and accessories, health and beauty, housewares and furniture, or food and beverage industries.

The business headquarters must be in the U.S. and it must have three years of operation under its belt.

“Latinos open businesses at a rate about 55% higher than their white counterparts, and still have a harder time staying in business and getting the support they need to grow. By launching Forward today, we’re eager to help entrepreneurs of color in the retail sector overcome systemic barriers and make their budding businesses grow,” highlighted Dawson. 

Forward applications can be submitted from now until April 1, 2023.

Those who are interested can review the full list of requirements and apply here.

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