Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > Ups Ignite Programs Fuel Women-Owned and Diverse-Owned Companies to Be Unstoppable

Ups Ignite Programs Fuel Women-Owned and Diverse-Owned Companies to Be Unstoppable

January 1, 1970
Black Enterprise
Kay Rose
April 1, 2022

UPS planted its flag last November as a proud supporter of diverse small business owners and is committed to working tirelessly to empower them through leadership programs.

They have since made good on their word. Through the recently launched UPS Ignite program, 140 outstanding innovators now have access to mentors, coaching, executive-level education, leadership programs, and a wealth of other resources.

One of these Small Businesses is Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. Founded by brothers Collin, Ryan, and Austin, with support from their parents Patrick and Celena Gill. Celena is now part of the UPS Ignite executive education program with Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

“It is of the utmost and paramount importance for minority businesses to have support. Oftentimes, many of us do not have adequate access to capital or a blueprint for building a successful business,” said Celena Gill.

“Young minority entrepreneurs are especially in need of support and resources because many of them haven’t had enough time to build up their own funds to start their businesses or to create a solid network of business peers and advisors. Without this vital support, many young minority entrepreneurs are finished before they even start.”

There is more work to still do. Diverse small business owners still face daunting challenges regarding access to capital.

  • University of Michigan: non-Black owners are 30X more likely to get federal relief than their Black counterparts
  • ProjectDIANE: The median seed round for a Black woman founder is 1/20th that of the national median

These figures are staggering. It is no secret that all stakeholders in the economy step up and provide solutions to address this disparity. Enter UPS and the ACCION Opportunity Fund.

Capitalized businesses have the best opportunity to scale.

The two organizations have partnered to increase access to capital for diverse founders. 10 of the aforementioned 140 fearless founders in the UPS Ignite program will receive a $10,000 grant to help grow their businesses. Other diverse founders will enjoy access to small business loans, business advising, and a host of other digital tools.

UPS wanted to tackle the lack of access to capital for diverse small business owners head-on. It needed a partner that checked three boxes; a mission to empower diverse communities, an innovative business model, and a proven track record.

It found all three in Accion.

  • The CDFI works tirelessly to create an inclusive and accessible financial system.
  • Through its non-profit business model, the company reinvests funds from borrowers’ repayments into other businesses seeking support. (A business that takes out a loan is therefore creating additional opportunities for other small businesses in their community and beyond.) As a result, UPS expects to be able to provide even more grants throughout 2022.
  • Accion has originated 20,000+ loans in its 27-year history, with 60% reporting an increase in sales after securing the loan.

Black business owners know the impact this partnership can have. This is the beginning of UPS’ work. Small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy, and the world’s largest transportation provider wants to do its part to empower them, including those who face unique challenges on their journey. Kevin Warren, UPS chief marketing officer, said it best, “By investing in diverse SMBs, David & Goliath can be a real thing.”

To learn more about the program, please visit:

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