Shipt Debuts Local Accelerator Program to Help Small Businesses

LadderUp will aid retailers in Atlanta, Birmingham, Detroit, Houston, D.C.
Shipt LadderUp Logo Main Image
If selected for Shipt's LadderUp accelerator program, small-business owners will participate in an extensive eight-week course, during which they’ll learn from retail industry leaders.

Shipt has launched LadderUp, an accelerator program that aims to give local retailers the necessary tools to succeed in a highly competitive field. 

The germ of the idea for this program came from remarks made by Shipt CEO Kemau Witherspoon last fall at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, where spoke about a set of commitments to reduce food insecurity and boost access to nutritious foods. LadderUp follows through on one of those commitments by helping to increase access to food in underserved communities, particularly for people with mobility or transportation issues. LadderUp also has the goal of supporting local economies by enabling area small businesses, especially those owned by people of color, to grow and compete.

Shipt noted that tech-challenged local retailers told them that they want to take part in e-commerce platforms to better serve customers. The company also cited government research showing that while overall businesses saw earnings decline by 5% to 7% from 2019 to 2020, African American business owners’ earning plunged a whopping 11% to 28% during the same period.

“As a growing tech company that is putting food insecurity and equity at the forefront of its work, Shipt is proud to announce the launch of LadderUp,” noted Witherspoon. “Working with small businesses to build up their capabilities is a key part of our commitment to help create healthier, more resilient and equitable communities. We recognize the unique role that we can play in both combating hunger in under-resourced communities and boosting small, local retailers that are so vital to communities across our country.” 

As part of its commitment to investing in programs focused on leveling the economic playing field for underrepresented populations, Shipt has revealed its goal to achieve at least 50% LGBTQ+ and BIPOC participation in LadderUp. 

Businesses can apply from Feb. 6 through March 6 in the following five cities: Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Detroit; Houston; and Washington, D.C. The opportunity is open to grocery/beverage, health, beauty and floral/gifts retailers. If selected, small-business owners will participate in an extensive eight-week course, during which they’ll learn from retail industry leaders on driving sustainable growth, building a solid financial foundation, building efficiency, marketing, e-commerce 101, using Shipt, and the basic legal knowledge required to run a business. 

For each participating retailer who completes the LadderUp program, Shipt will provide $5,000 to invest in their e-commerce operations. E-commerce company Shopify, which is teaching a course in the program, will give access to its platform for a limited time at no cost to help retailers build an online storefront, streamline operations and optimize inventory tracking. 

“At Shopify, our mission is to make commerce better for everyone,” said Crystal Hunt, senior program manager of partnerships, diversity and belonging at the Ottawa, Ontario-based company. “To achieve this mission, we must bring more voices to entrepreneurship. Together with Shipt, we are reducing the unique barriers facing underrepresented business owners. Through this partnership we will create community and opportunity for the change makers, disruptors and creators of tomorrow, because we know the success of a single entrepreneur can create a legacy, power communities and inspire the world.” 

The rollout of LadderUp builds on Shipt’s existing work to support the communities it serves. In 2022, the company awarded nearly $250,000 in microgrants to organizations focused on food insecurity, economic disparities and youth workforce development.

Shipt is an independently operated, wholly owned subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Target Corp., which is No. 6 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, with nearly 2,000 locations. Founded and based in Birmingham, Ala., Shipt also maintains an office in San Francisco.

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