Elevating Entrepreneurs


UBS Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, Americas is dedicated to providing under-resourced, high-potential individuals with access, advice and education to help develop more enterprising communities. One way this is achieved is through signature philanthropic initiatives and strategic partnerships in our global focus areas of entrepreneurship and education.

UBS Elevating Entrepreneurs is a portfolio of programs and partnerships committed to bringing the right resources, to the right business owners, to help spur economic growth and contribute to a more inclusive landscape for entrepreneurs everywhere.

Project Entrepreneur


Project Entrepreneur strives to increase the pipeline of female founders by providing women access to the tools, training and networks needed to ignite bold ideas and build economically impactful companies.

The Rent the Runway (RTR) Foundation and UBS have joined forces to launch Project Entrepreneur, a multi-faceted, multi-year, national initiative that aims to increase the number of high-growth businesses founded by women through our venture competition, digital hub, summit series, entrepreneurship workshop weekend and accelerator.

In 2015-2016, the inaugural year of Project Entrepreneur, 400 aspiring female founders participated in Summit Series events in New York, Washington DC and Austin, TX. Project Entrepreneur received 485 submissions for the Venture Competition, and the top 200 female applicants attended the Weekend Intensive in New York City on April 9-10, 2016. The 2 days of interactive workshops, inspirational talks and networking culminated in a Pitch Competition. The 3 winners – Cake, Full Harvest and Komae – joined the Rent the Runway team from May-June at their offices for a 5-week accelerator.

Project Entrepreneur

Project Entrepreneur Components

Venture Competition

Opening September 12, 2016, with an application deadline in November 21, 2016, this annual online competition is for women who aspire to build a high-growth company using an existing prototype or beta technology. The strongest applicants will be invited to the Weekend Intensive, and top candidates will pitch to accelerate their ventures at RTR.

Digital Hub

Hosting the Venture Competition, the Digital Hub will support women – at any entrepreneurial stage – who aspire to build a high-impact business whether or not they are ready to enter the competition. The Hub is Project Entrepreneur's content repository for education modules, articles, blog posts and inspirational videos.

Summit Series

In fall 2016, two half-day venture creation conferences are taking place in New York and Los Angeles. RTR co-founders, UBS executives, prominent female entrepreneurs and educators will provide in-person training and network building for audiences of 150-200 women at each event.

Weekend Intensive & Pitch Competition

In April 2017, following the Summit Series, up to 200 top applicants in the Venture Competition will be invited to New York City for a two-day workshop. The highest rated candidates will pitch to investors and established entrepreneurs to compete for one of three spots in the accelerator program.

Project Entrepreneur Accelerator

Three start-ups will be selected from the pitch competition to be incubated inside RTR, accessing expertise and resources for five weeks, with potential to extend their residency to six months.

Community Advisors

To ensure inclusion and engagement of under-represented women, Community Advisors will offer insight to specific opportunities and outreach to the populations they support. Current Community Advisors include: Black Founders; Latino Startup Alliance; HBCU Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship initiative; and Venture for America.

Small Business Support

Small businesses have long served as the backbone of the American economy, and UBS is committed to delivering the firm’s resources, both financial and intellectual, to enable them to grow their companies, create jobs and contribute to their local communities.


Access to Capital

Access to Capital

Access to capital is among the most significant challenges facing small business owners today. To address this issue, and in partnership with VEDC, UBS has made up to $35 million in capital available to small business owners who typically cannot obtain financing from traditional lenders. VEDC is a nonprofit certified Community Development Financial Institution that is a national leader in non-SBA small business loans from $50,000 to $500,000.

Loans are available around the country through the following funds:

Education & Networking

Education & Networking

UBS works with nonprofit content experts to develop education and networking activities for small business owners. In addition to developing and hosting access to capital events with partner VEDC, the firm partners with Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a nonprofit research and strategy organization that supports high-potential urban businesses by providing year-round executive education, networking and national visibility.

Education and networking events are held in New York, Chicago and Miami. 

Strategic Partners

In addition to UBS-led programs, the firm partners with leading non-profits focused on economic growth and job creation through support of early-stage entrepreneurs.

Venture for America

UBS is helping to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs through its long-standing partnership with Venture for America, a nonprofit that recruits top college graduates to work for two years at start-ups in cities with a high potential for revitalization. The firm serves as lead supporter of VFA Launch, an effort to support fellow-funded companies and that provides $150,000 in seed funding to emerging entrepreneurs through the UBS Venture Catalyst Award. UBS colleagues volunteer at VFA's Summer Training Camp, and as selection judges at pitch competitions the firm hosts with the organization.

UBS has also provided funding for Generation Startup. Shot over 17 months by an Academy Award-winner, the film features VFA fellows living and working in Detroit. The compelling documentary, debuting September 2016, delves into the grit, strength, and determination needed to launch a start-up.

Generation Startup
Nashville Entrepreneur Center's

UBS is the lead partner of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center's Diversity & Inclusion initiative. The program includes a scholarship program, speaker series, internship placement and job shadowing as well as hackathons in collaboration with local Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Other program partners include Google for Entrepreneurs, CODE2040 and Kauffman Foundation.

Diversity Inclusion launch party

VEDC is a leading non-profit small business lender that is changing the way small business lending is done by making it more available, sustainable and impactful. As a national small business lender, VEDC has lent $360 million in direct and guaranteed loans to 100,000 small businesses and created more than 27,000 jobs. As a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), VEDC’s mission is to help create jobs and promote economic development in under-served communities. It provides loans and micro-financing options to small businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities, that don’t quality for traditional bank financing.

By investing in VEDC's capacity, UBS was the leading funder of their national expansion from California, to Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Nevada and Utah. To date 84 small businesses have received UBS funded loans, resulting in 1,876 jobs created or retained.

News & Information

September 29, 2015 – Project Entrepreneur Launch, Media Coverage

July 31, 2015 – VFA Blog Post – 2015 Training Camp: Week 5 Recap
From building websites and sharpening their technical skills to personality assessments and emotional intelligence training, VFA Fellows are heading to their cities equipped with the hard and soft skills needed to hit the ground running.

June 9, 2015 Press Release
Chicagoland business opportunity fund helps open fresh catch fish eatery in Gresham community.

May 29, 2015Press Release
Tri-State Business Opportunity Fund helps open Tribeca’s Gunbae.

March 4, 2015 – Miami Herald – UBS, partners roll out Greater Miami Business Opportunity Fund for small businesses
Miami-area small businesses heard details of the new fund that lends $50,000 to $500,000 to qualifying companies and learned about alternative financing at a UBS Elevating Entrepreneurs event.

January 26, 2015Press Release
Sponsored by UBS, the TENN Tour 2015 kicked off in Kingsport on Monday, January 26th, at Meadowview Convention Center. The event featured the ten startup companies who were chosen to participate in this year’s cohort of The TENN, its unique master accelerator program for graduates of Tennessee’s nine startup accelerators.

December 3, 2014Press Release

UBS Provides $5M in alternative financing for small businesses in Florida: VEDC and Neighborhood Lending Partners form Greater Miami Business Opportunity Fund to bring new sources of capital to the local economy.

July 23, 2014 – Memphis Business Journal – The TENN gets a presenting sponsor
Launch Tennessee has received a commitment from UBS that will make the company the presenting sponsor of The TENN, the state’s accelerator program.

July 21, 2014 – The Nashville Post – UBS supporting The TENN
On the heels of setting up shop in the downtown tower formerly known as the Regions Center, global bank UBS has committed to be the presenting sponsor of Launch Tennessee’s The TENN master accelerator program for the next two years.

April 28, 2014 – Press Release
UBS and VEDC announce first small business loan in New York Metro area: Barganza a wholesale distributor of women's handbags will receive a $500,000 loan.

December 11, 2013 – Bergen Record – Small NJ firms can seek loans from $20 million fund
Small firms in the tri-state area gain access to alternative financing.

December 9, 2013 – Crain's – Lender starts $20m small-biz loan program
With cash to lend in the Tri-State area, LA-based Valley Economic Development Center partners with UBS to spread the word.

December 9, 2013Press Release
UBS provides $20 million in alternative financing for small businesses in the New York Metro area.

September 8, 2013  – Crain’s – Hired Guns in Hot Demand
Larry Velez and his company Sinu are featured in this article on the rise, and subsequent benefits, of engaging freelance talent.

August 19, 2013Press Release
UBS and the Chicagoland Business Opportunity Fund provide alternative small business financing in Chicago.

May 5, 2013 – ABC News – Here and Now
MZM Construction Company CEO, Marjorie Perry, speaks on the ABCs of starting a business or growing your position in corporate America.

July 26, 2012 – Research Magazine – UBS offers Big Help for Small Businesses
An innovative UBS program offers pro bono mentoring to help entrepreneurs become successful job creators.

July 5, 2012 – Los Angeles Times – Banks are giving small businesses a helping hand
Fashion designer Alicia Estrada of Stop Staring is getting a boost from the Swiss bank UBS.

March 23, 2012 – The New York Times – Helping Small-Business Owners Find the Perfect Mentor
Vice Admiral Edward M. Straw was a bit skeptical when he was asked to donate his time and expertise to a program that helps small-business owners. He had mentored students hoping to get into his alma mater, the Naval Academy, and service members on their way out of the military.

November 11, 2011 – On Wall Street – UBS and the small business owner challenge
Richelieu Dennis is in the eye of the hurricane. That's what Holly Hendrix thinks when she looks at the recent growth of Dennis' natural personal care products company, Sundial Creations. "Don't micromanage it. Go with it," Hendrix, a UBS Financial Advisor told Dennis, her client of only a few months.

September 16, 2011 – Crain's – Even old-hand entrepreneurs need mentoring
When Kenny Lao found out in July that his Rickshaw Dumpling Bar had won a proposal to open a kiosk in Times Square this fall, he realized that the tight time frame allowed no room for mistakes. "This was an unplanned opening," Mr. Lao said.

Contact Us For more information please contact:

Jamie Sears

Head, Strategic Partnerships & Programs, Community Affairs Americas