Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Accelerators

By Imani Williams

Starting and growing a small business can be a challenging journey, filled with hurdles and opportunities. One of the most powerful tools available to entrepreneurs, particularly for black entrepreneurs, is a small business accelerator. But what exactly are these accelerators, and how do they differ from other funding opportunities? Let's dive in.


What Are Small Business Accelerators?

Small business accelerators are programs designed to support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship, and financing. These programs typically last for a few months, leading up to an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to a room full of investors.

Key Features of Accelerators include:

  • Mentorship: These programs give you access to experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders who provide guidance and support.
  • Networking: Accelerators often provide opportunities to connect with potential investors, customers, and other startups.
  • Education: This is where accelerators truly shine compared to other investment opportunities. You’ll attend workshops and seminars on various aspects of running a business, from marketing to legal issues.
  • Funding: Accelerators offer seed funding in exchange for equity, helping startups to get off the ground.

How Are Accelerators Different from Other Funding Opportunities?

While accelerators provide funding, they are distinct from other funding opportunities. Let’s talk about that in more detail.

- Venture Capital: Venture capitalists invest larger sums of money in exchange for equity, often seeking high returns and typically investing in more mature companies. Click here to learn more about Venture Capital.

- Angel Investors: These are individual investors who provide capital for startups in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt. They usually invest at an earlier stage than venture capitalists but do not offer the structured programs of accelerators. Click here to learn more about Angel Investors.

- Grants: These are non-repayable funds provided by governments, corporations, or foundations. Unlike accelerators, grants do not involve giving up equity and do not typically offer mentorship or networking opportunities. Click here to learn more about Small Business Grants.

- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding involves raising capital through small contributions from a large number of people, typically via online platforms. Unlike small business accelerators, which provide structured programs, mentorship, and funding to startups in exchange for equity, crowdfunding relies on public support without offering equity or intensive guidance. Click here to learn more about Crowdfunding.

- Small Business Loans: Small business loans don’t offer startups mentorship, resources, and equity-based investment like accelerators. Instead, small business loans are funds provided by banks or other financial institutions that businesses must repay with interest over a set period. Click here to learn more about Small Business Loans.

- Pitch Competitions: Pitch competitions are events where entrepreneurs present their business ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win funding, resources, or other support. Unlike small business accelerators, which provide ongoing mentorship, pitch competitions are single events focused on winning immediate prizes based on the strength of the pitch. Click here to learn more about Pitch Competitions.

How Black Entrepreneurs Can Secure an Accelerator Opportunity

1. Research and Identify the Right Accelerator

Not all accelerators are created equal. Some are more focused on certain industries, stages of development, or demographics. Look for accelerators with a history of supporting black entrepreneurs or have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

Here are a few you might be interested in

2. Prepare a Strong Application

Include these fundamentals in your application

  1. Business Plan: Have a clear and concise business plan that outlines your market opportunity, business model, revenue projections, and growth strategy.
  2. Pitch Deck: Develop a compelling pitch deck that tells your story, highlights your unique value proposition, and showcases your team's strengths.
  3. Traction: Demonstrate traction with metrics such as customer growth, revenue, or partnerships.

3. Leverage Networks and Resources

    Your Network is your Net Worth! Expand your network as much as possible and take advantage of the opportunities specifically for us!

    • Mentorship: Seek out mentors and advisors who can provide guidance and potentially make introductions to accelerators.
    • Community: Engage with entrepreneurial communities, both online and offline. Attend events, participate in forums and network with other entrepreneurs.
    • Resources: Utilize resources designed to support black entrepreneurs, such as the Black Founders Network, Minority Business Development Agency, and organizations like Blavity and Afrotech.

    4. Highlight Your Unique Story and Perspective

      Accelerators are looking for founders who bring unique perspectives and innovative solutions. Emphasize your personal journey, the challenges you've overcome, and how your background informs your business approach.

      5. Be Persistent and Resilient

        The application process can be competitive and challenging. Rejection is part of the journey. Learn from feedback, refine your approach, and keep applying.


        Small business accelerators offer a powerful combination of funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities that can propel your startup to new heights. For black entrepreneurs, these programs can provide crucial support and resources to overcome systemic barriers and succeed in the competitive business landscape. By researching the right accelerators, preparing a strong application, leveraging networks, and highlighting your unique story, you can secure an accelerator opportunity and unlock your business's full potential. 

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