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Grand Farm Partners with Heartland Forward to Bring Builders + Backers Entrepreneurship Program to North Dakota

Heartland Forward

An institute for economic renewal.

Grand Farm has partnered with Heartland Forward to launch the Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator program in North Dakota and announced the opening of applications for 10 North Dakota residents to access up to $5,000 to help them turn ideas into potential businesses or ventures.

This program, brought to the region through Heartland Forward’s groundbreaking Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT) and the first-of-its-kind Idea Accelerator program powered by Builders + Backers, is designed to make it as easy as possible for anyone to experiment with entrepreneurship. Applicants are not required to submit a business plan or have a pitch deck for their idea. The cohort of 10 builders is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to funding and supporting 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023.

Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward, recently spoke at TEDxFargo 2022 about how the heartland must embrace entrepreneurship and priorities for post-Covid regional economic development.

“Problem-solving with an entrepreneurial mindset will be key to rebuilding our postCOVID local economies, and our Community Growth Program and Toolkit 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 Fargo, North Dakota 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.”

“We’re excited to partner with Heartland Forward to bring this program to our region,” said Brian Carroll, Director of Grand Farm. “Encouraging and fostering ideas is critical to igniting the thinking process that will lead to new businesses. This is the type of early stage entrepreneurship we need to continue encouraging and that will ultimately result in real solutions.”

“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 every day 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 Grand Farm to help get 10 of these ideas in North Dakota from concept to action.”

At the heart of the CGPT are the Builders + Backers four program 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 the summer of 2021, and since, there have been nearly 150 builders across 11 cities.

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 factbased 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 actionoriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit

About Builders + Backers:

Builders + Backers invests in exceptional entrepreneurs who are building globalscale 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.

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