Meet America’s New Digital Entrepreneurs: the students, the fully employed, the previously unemployed, the retired, the stay-at homes, and millions more who are turning their passions and ideas into businesses and brands overnight at unprecedented rates. They make up a significant portion of the more than 4.4 million new businesses formed in the U.S. in 2020, which is more than any other year on record, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the first increase in entrepreneurship since the 1980’s. This new generation of entrepreneurs all share one thing in common: they use digital solutions like ecommerce marketplaces to turn their dreams into a reality and start and run their businesses, and they are doing nothing short of revolutionizing global retail along the way.
Starting a business is unquestionably one of the most difficult and rewarding undertakings for any person, and many turn to Alibaba.com to access the nearly $24 trillion global B2B ecommerce market. To help these new digital entrepreneurs succeed on their own terms, Alibaba.com has partnered with Hello Alice, a resource platform that aims to help small businesses through every step of the entrepreneurial journey, in our first-ever Alibaba.com Grants Program, which offers hands-on support from real ecommerce experts and a total of $500,000 in cash grants. The idea is to equip the New Digital Entrepreneurs in the Entrepreneur Economy with the capital they actually need to get started and grow. We were inspired by the fact that 44 percent of new digital entrepreneurs report needing $5,000 or less to establish their businesses in the first six months.Ultimately, 50 amazing U.S.-based grant recipients received double that, or $10,000 in cash each, as part of the inaugural program.
More than 12,000 entrepreneurs applied for the grants in only six weeks, and more than half of the applicants were solopreneurs, meaning they run their businesses themselves. All applicants gained access to theAlibaba.com Digitization Sprint for Retailers to learn about key business topics, such as ecommerce basics, marketing and customer engagement, sourcing and supply chain, finance and operations as well as overall business growth.
The talent and drive of this new generation of digital entrepreneurs is made clear through the 50 recently notified grant recipients – who span dozens of industries, business structures, finance levels, and showcase diverse business strategies. 80% of the Alibaba.com Grants Program recipients are people of color and 78% are women entrepreneurs. Importantly, 90% of recipients shared that the vast majority of their teams hail from historically underrepresented groups, including persons with disabilities, military veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Our esteemed panel of judges from across the ecommerce ecosystem poured over the applications to score them on everything from how well they demonstrate the market opportunity, to their business model or product innovation, to their plan for how to use the funds if they receive it.
Among the judges are myself; Elizabeth Gore, President and Co-founder of Grants Program partner Hello Alice; TJ Hyland, the Director of Global Partnerships at Elevate Brands; Ines Belakhdar, the Founder and CEO of conscious fashion retailer Bynes NY; and Tatiana James, ecommerce expert, all of whom were chosen to bring a diversity of perspectives to the process of awarding the grants to outstanding businesses.
The 50 Alibaba.com Grants Program recipients include entrepreneurs with business plans to help create a more healthy, sustainable, beautiful, knowledgeable or equitable world.
“I represent a sector of socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs who are ditching disparities in the 9-to-5 workforce and pursuing entrepreneurship to create a better quality of life for themselves and their families,” said Tenita Strand, owner of Alabama-based Status Co, a leather accessories studio. “My trajectory also inspires others how to start a business on a shoestring budget and access resources to grow a reputable, stable company.”
“Being a part of the Entrepreneur Economy means that a person such as myself, who would have not been given this opportunity years ago, now has the ability to make a difference in this society and in this world,” said Sierra Williams, owner of SHE Support Heal Empower, a solopreneur focused on postpartum products for women of color. “It means that while there is an opportunity for me to grow, there is also the opportunity to lift others up with me so that more people can make an impact for our future and present generations.”
I think you will find the 50 recipients as inspiring as I do, and I invite you to read about each and every one of them and follow their journeys on Alibaba.com.
At Alibaba.com, our mission is to make it easy for businesses to do business anywhere, and we are proud to empower the New Digital Entrepreneur and the entrepreneur economy, which will shape our shared future.