Houston among five cities selected to mentor small businesses

Local small businesses have an opportunity, for the next month, to win some valuable guidance and some operating cash to grow.

LadderUp is a program developed by the e-commerce delivery service Shipt, being introduced in five cities, including Houston.

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The goal is to help small retailers, particularly black and minority entrepreneurs, level the economic playing field to improve their chances of success. 

When we met Annette Njau, last spring, she was single-handedly designing and selling her African-inspired fashion and accessories on the internet. She told us her business was a daily learning experience. 

"This is all of our funds in this business, and it ties up a lot of opportunity to do other things," she said in 2022. 

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Shipt's new LadderUp program offers to accelerate the learning curve for entrepreneurs in the Grocery & beverage, Floral, Gift, and Health & Beauty categories. 

"We were really thinking about how do you level the playing field and provide access to individuals, who often might not be able to engage in those spaces," Shipt's VP of Economic Development & Social Impact said. 

Existing businesses are eligible to apply in Birmingham, Atlanta, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Houston, which Shipt says has the fifth-highest percentage of minority-owned startups in the country. 

"That's something that matters to us," Abdullah said. "So, of course, we're excited about the program, and we think that Houston already plays a big part of our business, and we're excited to partner with the community with that."

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Businesses selected for the program will receive 8 weeks of instruction about sustaining growth, being efficient, marketing, finances, and business law. They'll also get access to Shipt services and $5000 for the business, when complete. 

The bigger issue, Abdullah says, is trying to improve the health of the total retail picture. 

"We're looking for retailers who have a compelling entrepreneurship story," she explained. "A strong connection to their community; and can really articulate how LadderUp will help their business grow and meet the needs of their customers." 


Shipt expects to select about 10 businesses, in total, for the program. 

Applicants need to have been in operation for at least two years, with a valid business license and at least $150k in annual operating revenue. 


Applications are being accepted through March 6, 2023, and classes begin in May. To learn more and apply, click here.