STEEP: STEM Entrepreneurial Excellence Program
A business incubator program supporting the need for greater inclusion of underrepresented women in STEM and STEM-enabled businesses
The Julian C. Madison Building LLC, WSU STEM Innovation Learning Center, TechTown and the Midwest I-Corps are pleased to announce STEEP: Supporting the Climb - A business incubator program for Black- and African-American women entrepreneurs in STEM, science, tech, and beyond as they aspire to increased growth, measurable sustainability, and capital investment in their businesses.
STEEP Detroit is a 10-month business incubator program for Black/African-American women entrepreneurs or small-business owners of science, tech, or tech-enabled companies. STEEP Detroit is designed to support the particular needs of Black/African-American female business owners and entrepreneurs in the science, tech, or tech-enabled sector in preparing their business to be sustainable, growth- and investment-ready, and customer-focused.
STEEP Detroit engaged participants in two consecutive cohorts in 2021, with cohort #1 having ended in May, and cohort #2 ending in September.
Cohort #1: Applications opened on October 29, 2020, and the deadline was at 11:59 p.m. on December 1, 2020.
Cohort #2: Applications opened on March 22, 2021, and the deadline was at 11:59 p.m. on April 12, 2021.
Sign up for STEEP Detroit:
STEEP Detroit cohort #1 and #2 have ended. We thank the numerous individuals who came together to launch this pilot initiative, from the founding partners, the program staff, to mentors and coaches, and many industry professionals.
Cohort #1 program timeline:
- October 29, 2020: Virtual Informational Session
- October 29, 2020: Application opened
- December 1, 2020: Application closed at 11:59 p.m. EST
- January 2021: Cohort #1 kick-off
- May 2021: Cohort #1 Showcase & program completion
Cohort #2 program timeline:
- March 22, 2021: Application opened
- April 6, 2021: Virtual Informational Session
- April 12, 2021: Application closed at 11:59 p.m. EST
- May 2021: Cohort #2 kick-off
- September 2021: Cohort #2 Showcase & program completion
STEEP Detroit recognizes that from energy and construction to hair care to app-enabled personalized herbal supplements to intuitive UI supports for business or community needs, Black/African-American women are a necessary and underrepresented asset in science, tech, and tech-enabled industries – and these businesses exist within our community, ready to move to the next level.
STEEP Detroit supports early and mid-stage businesses with intensive training in customer discovery and refinement, business brand, traction and identity, personal brand and identity, and capital-ready and operations upgrade boot camp. STEEP Detroit also includes connections to powerful Black/African-American female business role models and decision makers, community and network capacity building among participants, and access to powerful entrepreneur support tools and network that extend beyond program.
Participants engage in weekly training sessions, monthly networking and/or expert presentations opportunities, and a "boot camp" (2-day intensive) session. Additionally, participants are expected to complete self-directed learning related to their specific business needs. STEEP Detroit includes a $500 participation stipend.
STEEP Detroit recognizes that in addition to the typical challenges of managing and growing a sustainable business, Black/African-American female entrepreneurs and business owners face additional challenges as they navigate the business impact of the intersectionality of race and gender on community, capital, and network. STEEP Detroit deliberately addresses these challenges by incorporating frank discussion, authentic navigation tools, and strategic network building opportunity, preparation for diverse capital investments that provide particularly powerful supports for Black/African-American female business leaders.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Is there a cost to STEEP Detroit?
There is no cost to participants for STEEP Detroit. We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for their generous support of this program.
- I am not sure if I am a science and tech business. What kind of businesses and entrepreneurs are eligible?
At STEEP Detroit we believe most sustainable businesses include some kind of "tech" in their business, and we believe that, when supported, Black/African-American women are as likely to succeed in "deep tech" as their counterparts.
STEEP Detroit is open to applications from 'tech-enabled' companies, such as companies that use an app or virtual interface for customer personalization or companies that schedule exclusively in the virtual space. We are also open to established companies transitioning into the virtual space beyond online marketing, such as to provide new online services or sell products online at scale in established or businesses-exclusive marketplaces. We are also seeking non-traditional science and tech businesses who are using technology in interesting ways to improve their service or product.
STEEP Detroit also supports traditional science and tech companies of all sectors including but not limited to medical and wellness companies, hair and body care, niche science and tech service and product supplies, energy, construction, and manufacturing. We define "science and tech" broadly inclusive of but not limited to biology, chemistry, agriculture, medical, and computer, robotic, data science, and advanced manufacturing technology. Additionally, we are also seeking "deep tech" companies that have/are in process of commercializing new technologies and scientific discoveries, unorthodox high-tech solutions, and innovative re-imagining of current technologies.
- What is the time commitment? What time are the classes and sessions?
STEEP Detroit is designed with deliberate considerations of the fullness of schedule of modern women. Generally, most sessions will be early evening, with the potential for occasional weekend sessions. Participants are expected to attend regular weekly sessions and occasional monthly 'highlights' event. Weekly sessions focus on tools and topics to position your business for things such as sustainable growth and capital investment. Monthly networking and highlights events provide exposure to successful business owners, access to networks of individuals and organizations that can support your business, and provide additional space for "real talk" on topics particular to Black/African-American women entrepreneurs. In total, this is an approximately 25 hours per month commitment. STEEP Detroit will host a virtual kick-off event to begin each cohort. The kick-off for cohort #1 took place in January 2021, and the kick-off for cohort #2 will be in June 2021. STEEP Detroit will host a boot camp for participants near the end each cohort. The boot camp programming will be held over 2 days.
- Must I attend all classes?
While we acknowledge scheduling challenges of participants, it is critical that participants engage in all training sessions for STEEP Detroit to have its intended impact on the growth and increased sustainability of your business. Participants must attend 85% of all training sessions synchronously (at the scheduled day and time) with their colleagues. For participants who must miss a session due to scheduling conflict, all virtual sessions will be recorded and in-person sessions will either be recorded or summarized in written form. Participants who miss a session must review recording or notes of each missed session. The boot camp includes personalized encounters with coaches. Therefore, the boot camp will not be available as a recorded or noted session and must be attended in its entirety.
- Is this a virtual or in-person program? How will COVID-19 pandemic impact this program?
This program has been planned with both virtual and in-person options, and will be executed with the safety of our participants and our trainers, coaches, and experts in mind. The first 4 months of the program is confirmed as virtual and all trainings and special sessions will be live and interactive online. We will review the science of the pandemic, the rules and protocols of the state of Michigan and all participating partners every 2 months to determine if in-person options will be used.
- How do you define a "small business"?
STEEP defines a small business broadly as a business positioned for growth whose owner-operators will benefit from intensive, informed training that supports increased sustainable growth, preparation for capital investment, and broadened network building designed to support Black/African-American women entrepreneurs in STEM, science, technology, and technology-enabled businesses.
We do not define a small business strictly by its age or size. Particular industries may require more daily operating or growth capital than others, but STEEP recognizes that the need for support in sustainable growth tools, networks, and capital access is not as simple as calculating daily operating costs or current staff levels. We also recognize that business of any age can be considering the use of a new technology, refreshing a previous innovation, or pivoting to a tech-enabled platform – and be considered "young" because of these shifts. Additionally, STEEP recognizes that the intersection of race and gender in business ownership has unique implications that may nullify traditional age and size definitions of "small business."
If you think your business is "too big" or "too small," please reach out directly at email@example.com. We are happy to talk with individual applicants prior to submission.
- What if I just have an idea and not an actual business yet?
STEEP aims to support current businesses. If you are still in the idea stage, we recommend exploring other programs provided by STEEP program partners that support idea-stage entrepreneurs.
- How does STEEP define Black/African-American woman-owned business?
STEEP defines Black/African-American woman-owned business as a business that is 51% owned and operated by a Black/African-American woman or Black/African-American women.
- What do you mean by Black/African-American? What do you mean by woman?
STEEP honors each of our rights of ethnic and racial self-identification and description. In seeking Black American and African-American applicants, STEEP welcomes applications from American women of the African Diaspora and/or women who self-identify as Black American or African-American, inclusive of those of African, Caribbean, and South American heritage.
STEEP honors each of our rights of gender self-identification and description. In seeking women applicants, STEEP welcomes applications from those who identify their gender as woman or female.