Got an idea to solve a problem or need in Duluth? Pitch it to 'Builders and Backers Idea Accelerator'

Online applications are open through June 4. Any Duluth resident is invited to submit an idea.

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DULUTH — Entrepreneurs are invited to pitch ideas for how to solve problems in the city.

The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and city of Duluth have partnered with Heartland Forward for the Builders and Backers Idea Accelerator program. It will accept 10 entrepreneurs from Duluth for a three-month period to test their ideas to see if they work. Participants can receive a $5,000 grant from Heartland Forward to fund the test.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon to promote the program, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said it's meant to encourage passionate Duluthians who have great ideas by giving them the resources to act. Chamber President Matt Baumgartner said the program is especially important to bring people to the table who aren't as typically represented as entrepreneurs, including women and Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Applicants do not need an existing business, business plan or pitch to apply. The application at is a short questionnaire about the business idea or solution the applicant wants to target.

Participants will then be able to test the idea in a short-term experiment to see if it is viable. Then, the participants would be encouraged to continue on to larger entrepreneurial contests or organizations, including Innovate 218, Launch Minnesota, Small Business Development Center or the Entrepreneur Fund.


Applications for Builders and Backers Idea Accelerator are due June 4. For more information, visit

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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