Michigan Founders Fund announces inaugural Community Trailblazer Awardees, recognizing Black leaders advancing racial justice

An organization led by startup founders and investors awards $15,000 and in-kind resources this Giving Tuesday and encourages other business leaders to do the same

ANN ARBOR, Mich.--()--Michigan Founders Fund (MFF), a nonprofit that provides startup programming and support to high-growth entrepreneurs, has awarded its first statewide effort in philanthropy for Black trailblazers advancing racial justice. MFF members are tech founders and investors who have pledged 1% of equity, carry or profit into a fund for Michigan-based grantmaking.

MFF is making this announcement on Giving Tuesday to encourage other business leaders to make contributions to the three awardees. This year’s awardees are:

  • Dr. Shakara Tyler, Jerry Hebron, Tepfirah Rushdan, Erin Johnson and Danielle Daguio, co-stewards of the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, who provide grants and technical assistance to Black farmers to purchase the land they farm.
  • Courtney Smith, Detroit Phoenix Center, who is meeting the critical and emergent needs of minority youth at risk or currently experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
  • Leon Al-Alamin, MADE Institute, who provides comprehensive services to Flint citizens returning to the community from the criminal justice system.

Awardees will have the opportunity to engage with the MFF network in ways that can help further their mission - from working alongside Detroit Black farmers on service days to advising formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs on business growth strategies.

“I personally know the impact of not having access to quality resources and mentors,” said Leon Al-Alamin, founder of MADE Institute, who was also formerly incarcerated. “At MADE Institute, we keep people from falling through the cracks and need to collaborate with leaders across Michigan who can provide tools, mentorship, resources, and financial support to help others succeed. My team and I are looking forward to collaborating with MFF and seeing where the opportunities take the organization and the people we work with.”

MFF’s grant fund grows as founders and investors who have made the 1% Michigan Pledge make financial contributions upon the completion of a liquidity event. To make this year’s award possible, Bank of Ann Arbor is a title sponsor.

“We are honored to be part of this initiative as we know how important it is to advance racial justice in our state,” said Michael Cole, Bank of Ann Arbor Group President. “These three trailblazers are doing invaluable work and we are looking forward to collaborating with them over the next year to further advance their efforts.”

This program was led by an advisory council of leaders who have expertise in racial justice and grantmaking. Members of the council include: Erika Block, MFF Pledged Member and Sticky Lab’s Principal, Mark Greer II, Transforming Power Fund’s Co-Executive Director, Jamila Martin, Movement Voter Project’s Michigan State Advisor, and Alisha Opperman, Michigan Community Resources’s Chief Program Officer.

“Our members are trailblazers in entrepreneurship who believe, collectively, we can make positive impacts on the broader community,” said Sarah Craft, MFF Community Director. “This is also a call to action to all tech leaders across Michigan to look within this Giving Tuesday and do what you can to contribute, not just today, but all year. It’s everyone’s role to ensure that Michigan is a place where all people have access to a safe, successful, and high quality life.”

To make direct contributions to the three awardees, visit their websites:

High-growth founders who are interested in getting engaged can learn more at www.MichiganFoundersFund.org.

About Michigan Founders Fund

Michigan Founders Fund (MFF) is the state’s founder community. Together, we are committed to fellowship, cultural intention, and funding solutions that uplift communities across the state where we live and operate. MFF’s mission is to grow the presence of successful high-growth ventures and advance civic leadership in Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by (1) creating a strong, inclusive, and active founder-to-founder support network to help leaders succeed in their ventures, (2) driving a for-purpose, founders-for-founders and founders-for-community culture, (3) providing founders with a simple mechanism for philanthropic giving and opportunities to become community leaders in parallel to being business leaders. MFF creates programs for founders and investors to advance relationships, the ecosystem, and startup success. The MFF network of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have pledged 1% of equity, profit or investment carry from their businesses into a fund for state-based grantmaking. To date, the organization has nearly 70 pledged members.


Trista Van Tine, Executive Director, trista@michiganfoundersfund.org

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Trista Van Tine, Executive Director, trista@michiganfoundersfund.org