The Foundation of a Private Equity Firm Looks to Grow Women-Led Businesses in India

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was established shortly after Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group went public in 2007. Endowed with $150 million from the firm’s employees after the initial public offering, the foundation began funding projects with a primary focus of helping budding entrepreneurs nurture and grow their businesses.

The Blackstone Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative connects what it refers to as "master coaches" with entrepreneurs to help create the foundation for high-growth business that will ultimately spur economic growth and job creation. The foundation tends to fund projects stateside, but it isn’t completely unheard of for Blackstone to fund projects abroad and it looks as if it may be expanding its horizons a bit to least developed countries by awarding a $150,000 grant to TechnoServe.

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TechnoServe is using the $150,000 to support a business accelerator program aimed at growing women-led business in Mumbai, India.

The operative phrase here is “growing” women-led businesses rather than the creation of new ones. Qualifying applicants must have been in business for at least two years, have a nominal annual turnover (for the TechnoServe project in India, that rate is Rs. 5 lakh), and have a minimum of two employees.

Initially, up to 40 businesses that apply for the accelerator program are chosen. After participating in once-a-week training sessions over the course of eight weeks, 20 are chosen for the next phase of support. The program will offer those 20 women 10 months of business training, mentorship, and advisory services geared toward scaling their small and growing businesses.

TechnoServe’s $150,000 comes out of Blackstone’s Innovation Grants program. These grants are awarded to nonprofits supporting entrepreneurship efforts that have a direct economic benefit in the communities in which they operate. The innovation grants program is considered the flagship program of the foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative.

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The Blackstone Foundation awards around $3 million in innovation grants annually, and for the the most part, that money stays within the U.S., but some of it does get funneled overseas. For instance, the foundation recently awarded Behnal Green Ventures in London a $150,000 grant for its tech-focused accelerator program and another $150,000 to the African Leadership Academy in South Africa in support of its entrepreneurial training camps across Africa.

Blackstone’s innovation grants range from $50,000 to $150,000, and very rarely go above that amount. The foundation awards less than 20 innovation grants annually and sometimes offers grantees multi-year support.