BEMIDJI -- Of 16 social entrepreneurs chosen as finalists for the Initiators Fellowship, four are from the northwest Minnesota area.

Launched in 2016, the Initiators Fellowship is a two-year program where entrepreneurs receive executive-level monitoring, leadership training and ongoing education to advance their mission-driven business or nonprofit endeavor. Additionally, each entrepreneur receives a $30,000 stipend.

In total, 85 entrepreneurs applied for the 2022-2023 Fellowship program. Of the 16 finalists, eight will move on to be chosen for the program, two of which will be from the northwest Minnesota foundation.

The two from the northwest region are guaranteed as each of the four Minnesota Initiative Foundations will have a pair of fellows. The four foundations include the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, the Southwest Initiative Foundation, the West Central Initiative and the Initiative Foundation of central Minnesota.

"We were blown away by the many folks during important social enterprise work throughout Greater Minnesota," said Brian Voerding, Initiative Foundation vice president of inclusive entrepreneurship. "We had a tough job narrowing the pool, and we look forward to the finalist day when we can meet the finalists and learn even more about their work."

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The four from northwest Minnesota include:

  • Erika Adams of Beltrami County. Adams plans to start a company called Sustainable Solutions to help businesses and government entities discovery economically sound and sustainable ways of doing business.
  • Daniel Barrientez Jr. of Beltrami County. Barrientez earned a degree in culinary arts after his release from incarceration in 2010. He plans to start a food truck company and create jobs for former felons.
  • Karie Kirschbaum of Norman County. The former Mayor of Gary, Minn., Kirschbaum intends to build a network connecting government agencies and community organizations to integrate young people and new Americans into Greater Minnesota communities.
  • Brenna Rollie of Polk County. Rollie's business is Aham Love Yoga and she has a goal to use the company to increase health and wellness for rural Minnesota communities. Hoping to build a culture of community-building and healing, Rollie looks to provide classes, hold community events and create youth camps.