Ashley Garcia
Marketing and Communications Manager

WEPAN Wins $50,000 Prize in SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

WEPAN Wins $50,000 Prize in SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

WASHINGTON, DC (September 24, 2021) – The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) is a winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC).

The GAFC, along with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Catalyst competition, is aimed at spurring investment in underserved communities within the innovation economy at scale, and awarded a combined total $5.4 million to nearly 100 awardees. The winners of the GAFC are accelerators and incubators who proposed targeted assistance to STEM/R&D entrepreneurs from systemically marginalized backgrounds, including women, people of color, rural, and veteran entrepreneurs.

The WEPAN Accelerator will provide entrepreneurial education and support to a diversity of women in engineering and work with key stakeholders to create inclusive and socially equitable entrepreneurship ecosystems. The only accelerator that takes an intersectional feminist approach to supporting women in engineering ventures, WEPAN will support four cohorts of women engineering entrepreneurs through a two-day program, including pitch events, an SBIR/STTR workshop, a HUBZone (an SBA program for small companies that operate and employ people in Historically Under-utilized Business Zones) workshop, and ongoing mentoring support from advisory boards and alumnae networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have been historically excluded from both engineering and entrepreneurship. The WEPAN accelerator seeks to make change at the nexus of these two critical areas of innovation. “The WEPAN team is excited to use the GAFC prize money to carve out more equitable and inclusive STEM innovation ecosystems and support a diversity of women engineers in exploring entrepreneurial pathways,” says Dr. Heather Metcalf, WEPAN Director of Research and Constituent Relations.

WEPAN has over 30 years of expertise in STEM workplace equity and inclusion in research, policy, and programmatic efforts. The WEPAN Accelerator staff is composed of experts who have successfully conducted nationally-recognized entrepreneurship support programming specifically for women in STEM over the last five years.

“Our team has been especially successful in supporting and retaining women of color, women with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ women in STEM entrepreneurship. We have a deep understanding of how women encounter bias and barriers in their pursuit of both STEM and entrepreneurship and how to intervene systemically to create positive change,” says Dr. Ershela Sims, WEPAN Executive Director.


WEPAN is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1990. It is the nation’s first network dedicated to advancing cultures of inclusion and diversity in engineering higher education and workplaces. WEPAN connects people, research and practice. It offers power initiatives, projects and professional development that equips advocates with the tools to create sustainable, systems-level changes that allow ALL in engineering to thrive. To learn more, visit

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