A total of $500,000 in grant support will fuel new participants in the entrepreneur economy. Recipients were selected from a pool of more than 12,000 applicants who submitted their product idea or go-to-market strategy for consideration by Alibaba.com’s panel of judges.
One of the winners was Ulviyya Nasibova, founder of Uli’s Gelato, a small-batch gelato production facility and California-based gelato storefronts. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Nasibova said she made a necessary pivot to a more ecommerce friendly model as foot traffic slowed down. However, she added, navigating the new space meant struggling to afford the necessary resources to make her delivery process profitable.
Nasibova said, “For the past year I have been doing nothing but taking out loans and spending money on an exciting pivot to ecommerce, and this grant makes a huge difference in being able to bring my pivot to closure! The fact that we are innovating despite all of the obstacles thrown at us shows the resilience of the larger entrepreneur economy!”
The Alibaba.com Grants Program, created in partnership with Hello Alice, the largest community of underrepresented entrepreneurs in the US, aims to provide capital and resources to new digital entrepreneurs who are starting businesses online. Forty-four percent of these entrepreneurs said they needed $5,000 or less in the first six months of launching their business and program applicants underscored this need in their applications, citing raising capital as their top business challenge of 2021.
In addition to the opportunity for grants, the thousands of applicants all have access to the Alibaba.com Digitization Sprint for Retailers, gaining an insight into ecommerce basics like sourcing, digital advertising and supply chain management.
“Today’s new digital entrepreneurs are erasing the boundaries of what’s possible and changing the way we think, work and live,” said John Caplan, president of North America and Europe of Alibaba.com and judging panel member.
“At Alibaba.com, it’s our mission to make it easy for businesses to do business anywhere, which is why it’s an honor to support this group of incredibly inspiring entrepreneurs with start-up capital to catalyze their businesses and grow on their own terms. We can’t wait to see what these entrepreneurs accomplish.”
The group of 50 grant recipients includes entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and walks of life.
“Starting a business is challenging no matter the circumstances,” said Elizabeth Gore, president and co-founder of Hello Alice.
“But we know certain socioeconomic factors can make the entrepreneurial journey even more difficult. That’s why we’re proud to share that almost 80% of the Alibaba.com Grants Program recipients are people of color and about 78% are women entrepreneurs. Importantly, almost 90% of recipients shared that the vast majority of their teams hail from historically underrepresented groups, including persons with disabilities, military veterans and LGBTQ+.”
Following the close of the application period in late October, applications were evaluated by Alibaba.com’s judging panel from across the ecommerce ecosystem.
Applications were reviewed based on the entrepreneur’s demonstration of the market opportunity, the business model/product innovation, and their plans for using the funds to grow their business.