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New Jersey Innovation Fellows Program Will Provide Grant Funding and Mentorship to First-Time Entrepreneurs

New Jersey Innovation Fellows Program Will Provide Grant Funding and Mentorship to First-Time Entrepreneurs

NJ Economic Development Association (NJEDA) Resources

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced plans to create a competitive program - the New Jersey Innovation Fellows (NJIF), which will offer mentorship and grants of up to $400,000 to teams of first-time entrepreneurs. The program will provide income replacement so that entrepreneurs can devote their full-time attention to building out their startups. The announcement follows yesterday’s NJEDA Board approval of this new program.

Through the NJIF Program, the NJEDA will support teams of at least three entrepreneurs with mentorship, training, and income replacement capital over a two-year period. The grant funding is designed to replace a stream of income an entrepreneur might forgo to launch an early-stage business. The NJEDA anticipates that support from the NJIF Program will attract innovative ideas and entrepreneurs who would otherwise be unable to pursue the launch of a new venture due to the needs for income or, in the case of a recent graduate, who would choose to accept employment in lieu of entrepreneurship due to socio-economic constraints.

The NJIF Program will award grants of $200,000 per team. Teams may access an additional $50,000 award on top of the $200,000 base award if one entrepreneur verifies residency in a designated Opportunity Zone in New Jersey. Additionally, teams may be awarded an additional $50,000 for each entrepreneur leader who self-certifies as a minority or female entrepreneur or is a graduate of a New Jersey college or university. Qualifying teams may receive additional bonuses of up to $150,000 in aggregate for certifying team members, resulting in a total $400,000 award. To be eligible for the NJIF Program, at least half of the team must certify as “first-time entrepreneurs” and at least two-thirds of the entrepreneur team must be coming directly from the workforce.

In addition to the financial benefits of the program, all entrepreneur fellows will participate in a mentorship program. The NJEDA plans to enter into agreements with the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT’s) New Jersey Innovation Institute and Rowan University’s Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for these universities to design and implement mentorship programs for the fellows. The initial curriculum will train entrepreneurs in such subjects as managerial finance, accounting, and financial statement preparations; human resources development and management; business model design; marketing and customer development; and more. The mentorship will last for the duration of the two-year NJIF Program.

The NJEDA expects to open the NJIF Program application semi-annually in 2023 and 2024.

To learn more about NJEDA resources for businesses, call NJEDA Customer Care at 844-965-1125 or visit and follow @NewJerseyEDA on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

Please reach out to Christina Renna, President & CEO, CCSNJ at if you have any questions.
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