Sainsbury’s has launched a £1m incubator program for black-led start-ups to help ethnic minorities overcome industry hurdles.
The supermarket promises to support entrepreneurial food and drink businesses “who are looking to grow but face one of the many barriers that may be holding them back” with the free 16-week Thrive with Sainsbury’s scheme.
“Whether it’s insufficient funding, a lack of social capital and networks, or limited industry knowledge and experience, it’s difficult to launch a new brand on such a large scale without access to the right support, and these challenges are often felt even more acutely than black and ethnic minority business owners,” the company said.
“Thrive with Sainsbury’s has been designed specifically to help overcome these obstacles by offering a tailored support program delivered by expert partners.”
Sainsbury’s will select nine successful applicants to receive a grant of £20,000 each, as well as practical one-to-one support and group training opportunities during their transition to supermarket shelves.
There will then be further funding at various stages throughout the process, up to a value of £105,000, for each brand that succeeds in making the Sainsbury’s shortlist.
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Sainsbury’s Director of Food Innovation Silica Shelley-Manso said: “A key focus of our Win in Food strategy is to bring innovation to our customers and at Sainsbury’s we have always been passionate about looking for new or emerging brands.
“As an inclusive retailer, we believe that to offer great food and drink for everyone, it has to be made by everyone.”
Thrive with Sainsbury’s, which is run in partnership with Foundervine and Mission Ventures, is open to any food and drink business that is founded by “a person who identifies as black ethnically or by origin”.
“We know that despite the power of ideas and potential among Black founders, opportunity and success can often be hindered by ethnicity, which is why we’re starting with this group of underrepresented founders first,” said Shelley-Manceau.
Successful candidates must have new products tailored to the retailer’s customer base as well as a vision for expanding their business in the future.
“We hope this will help them grow and successfully maintain their brands and businesses,” added Shelly-Manseau.
“This is a new approach for us and our hope is that it will bring both significant change to the retail sector and enable us to bring more innovation and a wider range of products to our customers.”
The program is part of the company’s ambitions to become a more inclusive business. Applications close on 16 August 2022.