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… as Sainsbury’s invests £1m in UK’s first incubator for Black-led businesses

Sainsbury's: £1m investment in Black-led innovators

Sainsbury’s has launched a free 16-week incubator programme for Black-led start-up businesses, with a £1,000,000 commitment to supporting their transition to supermarket shelves. 

Created and delivered in partnership with Foundervine and Mission Ventures, the programme is open to entrepreneurial food and drink businesses seeking to grow but facing one of many barriers that might be holding them back. 

Whether it’s inadequate funding, lack of social capital and networks, or limited industry knowledge and expertise, it’s tough launching a new brand on such a large scale without access to the right support, and these challenges are often felt even more acutely by Black and ethnic minority business owners. Thrive with Sainsbury’s has been designed specifically to help address these obstacles, offering a bespoke programme of support delivered by expert partners. 

Nine successful applicants to the programme will receive a welcome grant of £20,000, as well as more than 150 hours of practical one-to-one support and group learning opportunities with a variety of subject matter experts during the process. Each participant’s journey will be tailored to their specific needs and there will be additional funding available at various stages throughout the process, up to the value of £105,000 per brand that makes its way to a listing at Sainsbury’s.  

It’s open to any food and drink business that’s been founded by a person who identifies as being of Black ethnicity or heritage. They must have an exciting new product Sainsbury’s customers will love, an ambition to grow and scale-up to supermarket level distribution and a vision for what the future of their brand could be. 

Thrive with Sainsbury’s forms an essential part of the retailer’s mission to become a truly inclusive retailer where people love to work and shop, says the company. With a focus on increasing diversity within its supplier base and ensuring customers can easily access products that better suit their needs, this programme will result in up to five breakthrough Black-led brands hitting Sainsbury’s shelves in 2023. 

Applications for the programme open today (19th July 2022) and hopeful participants can apply here Applications will close on 16thAugust 2022. 

Silika Shellie-Manso, Director of Grocery Innovation at Sainsbury’s says: “A key focus of our Win in Food strategy is to bring innovation to our customers and at Sainsbury’s we’ve always been passionate about seeking out new or emerging brands. As an inclusive retailer, we believe that to offer great food and drink for everyone, it should be made by everyone. We know that despite the strength of ideas and potential amongst Black founders, often opportunities and success can be hindered by ethnicity, which is we are starting with this group of the most underrepresented founders first.

“By working with brilliant partners, Mission Ventures and Foundervine, to launch Thrive with Sainsbury’s we’re able to give start-up brands access to quality support and services to which they ordinarily would not have access to. Our hope is that this will help them grow and successfully sustain their brands and businesses.

“It’s a new approach for us and our hope is that it will drive both meaningful change within the retail sector, while also enabling us to bring more innovation and a broader range of product to our customers. I would encourage anyone who relates to this to apply and am looking forward to seeing what pioneering products are out there.”

Cecil Adjalo, Chief Operating Officer at Foundervine, adds: “At Foundervine, our purpose is to build opportunities in underserved communities that help tomorrow’s leaders shape the future. We do this by removing the social and economic barriers to innovation and connecting today’s leaders with major organisations like Sainsbury’s. We’re extremely excited to partner with Sainsbury’s and Mission Ventures to create an incubator that will lead to more black-led brands being placed on Sainsbury’s shelves.

“As one of the most important industries in the UK, representation in the grocery sector has the potential to create immense social change. Thrive by Sainsburys opens up the possibility for black-led brands to become household staples across the country, to ignite conversations about supplier and supply chain diversity.”

Louis Bedwell, Managing Director at Mission Ventures says: “At Mission Ventures, we believe that entrepreneurial ideas and talent are equally distributed, but right now, the opportunity is not. As a group of entrepreneurs with more than 80 years of industry experience, we’re excited to use our knowledge and expertise to drive forward a new generation of innovation. Partnering with Sainsbury’s and Foundervine delivers additional strength to our business support offer that will not only create a new range of delicious food and drink products but also help to create a fairer and more equitable food industry.”

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