Innovation Hub

Chapman University’s Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship Awarded $1 Million CalOSBA Grant to Establish Inclusive Innovation Hub for Orange County

Chapman University’s Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics was recently selected as the Inclusive Innovation Hub for Orange County, made possible through the support of the 2023 Accelerate California Round 2 Grant Award.

 This $1 million grant, to be disbursed over four years, will empower the Leatherby Center to focus on fostering entrepreneurship in underserved communities, including female founders, people of color and veterans. While promoting economic growth is a primary objective, the Inclusive Innovation Hub’s mission extends beyond innovation to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in the entrepreneurial landscape.

 The 2023 Accelerate California Round 2 Grant Award Announcement, administered by the California Office of Small Business Administration (CalOSBA), aligns with Governor Gavin Newsom’s goals to promote economic development and empower underserved communities. This grant represents a significant step towards increasing the representation of these underserved groups in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, addressing disparities in access to funding and resources.

Female founders represent 49% of all startups, yet they receive only 3% of venture capital funding (Harvard Business Review). First-generation immigrants start businesses at a 27% higher rate than Americans who are not immigrants (Forbes). More than 64,000 veterans reside in Orange County. As veterans often have challenges finding employment, yet are disciplined and have leadership skills, they are prime candidates for entrepreneurship. ( Orange County, CA)

Cynthia West, Ph.D., Director of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics shared, “We are honored and grateful to have been chosen for this grant award. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a mission near to my heart. We hope to coach female founders, people of color, vets and other underrepresented populations so they may compete better for investment funds, or simply start businesses that provide them with economic independence. We are excited to begin the work with the broader community to achieve our lofty goals.”

The Inclusive Innovation Hub will serve as a pivotal resource for aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of their background. With a strong focus on the Orange County community, the grant enables the Leatherby Center to open its doors beyond Chapman University, extending its support to the broader community.

The foundational components of the Inclusive Innovation Hub programs at Chapman University encompass:

Entrepreneurship Preparation: A comprehensive program tailored to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge required to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys.

Mentorship Program: A diverse mentorship network, featuring professionals from the community, such as tax attorneys and successful entrepreneurs, who will guide and support aspiring business owners.

Entrepreneurs in Residence: Weekly office hours provided by experienced entrepreneurs, offering valuable insights and guidance to hub participants.

Startup Cohort: A semester-long program designed to turn ideas into reality, culminating in the Panther Cage Competition in the spring, providing a platform for innovative projects to gain recognition and support.

About Chapman University

Founded in 1861, Chapman University is a nationally ranked private university in Orange, California, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles. Chapman serves nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, with a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students can choose from 123 areas of study within 11 colleges for a personalized education. Chapman is categorized by the Carnegie Classification as an R2 “high research activity” institution. Students at Chapman learn directly from distinguished world-class faculty including Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur fellows, published authors and Academy Award winners. The campus has produced a Rhodes Scholar, been named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars and hosts a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. Chapman also includes the Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine. The university features the No. 4 film school and No. 60 business school in the U.S. Learn more about Chapman University:

About The Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics
The vision of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship is to inspire, educate, and empower the next generation of talent to have an entrepreneurial mindset. To teach students how to innovate and take risks, whether they are starting their own venture, or working inside a corporation. Through our curriculum and our incubator, we provide hands-on experience to the next generation of talent, teaching them how to develop, scale, and launch their own ventures as future global citizens in the world economy. 


Carly Murphy

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