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Truist Foundation announces $1.5M investment in Accion Opportunity Fund's program for minority first-time truck owners

The Foundation also announced its second-annual Inspire Awards Challenge, which takes place this fall.

Truist Foundation announces $1.5M investment in Accion Opportunity Fund's program for minority first-time truck owners

The Truist Foundation has announced a $1.5 million investment in Accion Opportunity Fund.

The investment will help Accion Opportunity Fund pilot a Down Payment Assistance fund to help Black and Latinx individuals, as well as women, become first-time truck owners and entrepreneurs in Maryland and Georgia, as part of its overall strategy to close gender and racial wealth gaps.

Accion Opportunity Fund, based in San Jose, California, is a non-profit bank that provides capital, coaching, and networks to small businesses owned by people of colour, women, and/or low-to-moderate-income entrepreneurs.

“Truist Foundation recognizes the need for more tangible resources for women and people of colour entrepreneurs,” Lynette Bell, president of Truist Foundation, said in a statement. “Truck drivers quite literally drive our economy. We are honoured to partner with Accion Opportunity Fund to ensure that more first-time truck owners have a path toward affordable capital. This new Down Payment Assistance program will help create quality job opportunities in our communities and propel our local economies forward.”

Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Truist Financial chairman and CEO Bill Rogers, and Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia gathered last week at Coppin State University — an HBCU in Baltimore — to announce the union.

The partnership hopes to open up barriers to the transportation industry and help diverse founders enter what has historically been a lucrative industry for business owners.

Trucking is responsible for most of the overland freight movement in the United States, with the market worth US$732.3 billion in 2020, according to Statista. At that time, there were over 902,000 truck drivers employed in the U.S., which is less than the industry requires. Additionally, driver costs are the biggest challenge the industry faces. AI-focused solutions have not fully been implemented nationally, though progress has been made.

That said, the global artificial intelligence (AI) in the transportation market is expected to reach $3.87 billion by 2026 and could grow at a CAGR of 15.8 per cent between 2021 and 2026, according to Market Data Forecast.

While it's unclear how AI advancement will affect opportunities in the industry, the fact remains: people of colour they are more likely to be denied credit or approved for smaller amounts than white business owners, according to a statement.

“The collaboration between Accion Opportunity Fund and Truist Foundation aligns with our commitment to financially empowering our minority and women entrepreneurs in the trucking industry,” Mayor Scott said in a statement.

Scott added that small business ownership, which includes self-employed truckers, is a proven path to building household wealth and financial security.

“A few months ago, we announced a $10,000 hiring and retention bonus to eligible existing and new city employees who require a commercial driver's license (CDL) to work. Now, through the Accion Opportunity Fund, we are equitably providing access to affordable capital that allows truck drivers to establish wealth for themselves and scale their businesses. It is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Truist Foundation announces second annual Inspire Awards Challenge

Golden statue award in display.

The Truist Foundation has also announced it is launching its second Inspire Awards Challenge, a pitch contest and grant program for non-profit organizations supporting racialized entrepreneurs in undercapitalized communities.

Applicants are encouraged to submit their businesses from now until Aug. 7, 2023, through MIT Solve — an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Truist Foundation is thrilled to bring back the Inspire Awards Challenge for a second year, as we see this initiative as a pathway to opening the aperture of our grantmaking pipeline to more innovative non-profit organizations,” Lynette Bell, president at Truist Foundation, said in a statement. “Through our collaboration with MIT Solve, we're able to learn from and uplift the next generation of community-led solutions to build stronger ecosystems of support around small businesses nationwide.”

Last year, the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) was named the top recipient of the inaugural Inspire Awards $250,000 grant.

The grant supported AWBI's 1,000 Black Businesses Campaign, which supports the growth and scale of Black-owned enterprises through technical assistance, workforce development, research, and data sharing.

“Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative is honoured to be the inaugural winner of the Truist Foundation Inspire Award,” Natasha Battle, program manager of grants and projects at AWBI, said in a statement. “The exposure from this recognition is allowing AWBI to leverage additional support and relationships, as well as accelerate our goal in supporting Black-owned businesses and building Black wealth.”

This year, the Truist Foundation and MIT Solve will conduct a six-month wraparound support program for a cohort of seven non-profit finalists. The program includes a comprehensive needs assessment, learning and development modules to help refine business plans, measurement training, and access to a network of resource partners and coaches.

Following the completion of the program, the finalists will be invited to a live pitch event and ceremony.

Then, the first-place non-profit will receive a $250,000 grant to actualize their project, while $150,000 goes to the second-place winner and a $25,000 grant to each of the runner-up teams. Plus, finalists are invited to a two-day Truist Leadership Institute retreat and the annual flagship Solve at MIT event, held in May each year.

“Working with the Truist Foundation to help extend the reach and support in the communities it serves has elevated talented non-profit leaders and centred their efforts as key drivers to systemic change,” Michelle King, portfolio lead of strategic and partner programs at MIT Solve, said in a statement. “At MIT Solve, we look forward to continuing our work in identifying innovators who are leveraging tech and can use this opportunity to catalyze their work.”