Ford Motor Company Helps Bring the Idea Accelerator to West Tennessee
January 1, 2022

Ford Motor Company Helps Bring the Idea Accelerator to West Tennessee

Memphis, Tenn. Heartland Forward, Builders + Backers, the CO, Epicenter Memphis and Ford Motor Company Fund, are proud to announce the opening of applications for 20 West Tennessee residents to access training, resources and up to $5,000 to help them turn ideas into potential businesses or ventures. Anyone in Fayette, Hardeman, Haywood, Lauderdale, Madison, Shelby and Tipton counties with a creative and unexpected idea for solving a problem facing their community is encouraged to apply.

The Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator Program powered by Heartland Forward is designed to make it easy for anyone to experiment with entrepreneurship. Applicants are not required to submit a business plan or have a pitch deck for their idea. This new cohort of 20 Builders is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to supporting 1,000 Builders across the heartland by 2023. 

“Problem solving with an entrepreneurial mindset will be key to rebuilding our post-COVID local economies, and the Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator has already proven to be a successful, meaningful way to accelerate the entrepreneurial thinking needed to help our communities thrive,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to West Tennessee as part of our commitment to support 1,000 Builders across the heartland by 2023. We’re confident this next cohort of Builders will have the innovative thinking and ideas to create real change in their communities, and we look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the months and years to come.” 

Those interested can apply here. The application deadline is Friday, December 30, 2022. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on January 26, 2023. 

“Entrepreneurship is seeing a problem that exists and experimenting with a solution to address it,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. "Millions of Americans see problems and solutions everyday while driving our kids to school, shopping online or waiting on hold to speak to a doctor. And we say, 'someone should fix this or build that.' Unfortunately, that's where millions of ideas end. We're excited to partner with Heartland Forward and the Ford Motor Company Fund to help get 20 of these ideas in West Tennessee from concept to action."

“Ford is a committed partner to our new neighbors in West Tennessee and we are thrilled to be working with Heartland Forward to invest in the region,” said Ford Motor Company Fund economic mobility director, Mike Schmidt. “We believe in building pathways with people who have historically had limited opportunities for business development and ownership through access to capital and training. Through these new partnerships we hope to help bring aspiring entrepreneurs’ dreams to life.” 

"TheCO is excited to partner with the Ford Motor Company Fund, Heartland Forward, Builders + Backers and Epicenter to bring this opportunity to West Tennessee. Turning ideas into action is our jam and we know this program will aid in surfacing some amazing growth for West Tennesseans," said Lisa Garner, Executive Director of theCo.


“We welcome the additional resources that the Builders + Backers program will offer entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Memphis and West Tennessee region, including those served by theCO,” said Jessica Taveau, president and CEO of Epicenter. “We’re grateful that Ford Motor Company Fund and Heartland Forward recognize, as we do, that investing in founders in this region and connecting them to opportunities can change lives and grow our economy.”

At the heart of the program are the four pillars, designed to mobilize and equip Builders through: 

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program.
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership™, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders.
  • Buildership Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities.

The program was first piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi in summer 2021, and since, there have been over 300 Builders across 15 cities. To learn more about The Builders, see here. 

About Heartland Forward:

Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit

About Builders + Backers:

Builders + Backers invests in exceptional entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures to power an entirely different future - one where technology creates value for many instead of capturing it for a few. Through proprietary programming, Builders + Backers also inspires and equips people to best seize the opportunities of our digital era - from experimentation and solving problems in their local communities to starting new ventures that could scale. By backing the most creative builders across the country, we can shape the digital future to be one in which more people participate and thrive.

 About Ford Motor Company Fund

As the automaker's philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund has been supporting local communities for more than 70 years. Working with nonprofit organizations, community partners and across the Ford network in the U.S. and in 43 countries, Ford Fund provides resources and opportunities that advance racial equity and empower people to reach their highest potential. Since 1949, Ford and Ford Fund have invested more than $2.2 billion in initiatives that ensure basic needs are met, provide access to essential services, offer tools to build new skillsets and open pathways to high quality jobs. For more information, visit or join us at @FordFund on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.