RADICALLY CHANGING ACCESS TO LEGAL RESOURCES IN NORTH CAROLINA
2022 Fall Cohort
The Amalgamation is an ecosystem of underutilized small businesses reimagining government contracting by fostering equitable partnerships. They use an innovative, collaborative approach that elevates solopreneurs, micros, and small businesses, decreases reliance on large primes, and removes many of the barriers they face when seeking government contracts.
The mission at microWatt Energy is to change the way the world gets and uses its electricity while making renewable energy accessible to all. They are beginning with a peer-to-peer solar panel sharing platform that will allow a homeowner to share the economic benefits of their solar panels with an apartment resident in exchange for a green fee.
Social Cascade is a research-based solution for healthcare providers enabling them to stand up an active social media presence with little to no effort. This first-to-market resource allows HCPs to connect with all of their patients every day on the platforms they already use.
Vets to Drones
2022 Fall Workshop
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What's the problem you're trying to solve?
After over a decade of helping startups and entrepreneurs, we’ve noticed the negative effects of not hiring a lawyer early enough in the process. A company that doesn’t protect itself from the beginning is unknowingly exposed to risks ranging from contract disputes, loss of intellectual property, vulnerability of personal assets, employment issues, regulatory obligations, and potential lawsuits. In a recent poll, the cost of legal services was the number one reason for not hiring an attorney at the beginning of a new business venture.
Why can legal services for new businesses be costly?
Legal services are priced based on expertise, experience, and the comprehensiveness of the protection provided. Effective assistance is costly because of the time investment to establish expertise and the long-term value provided to clients. Foundational legal services are often one of the many expenses an early-stage founder encounters.
What about venture capital?
Venture capital remains a relatively small share of funding and targets very specific companies: generally high-growth and high-tech. Most business owners use more traditional funding sources, such as family assets and bank loans, to start their businesses.
Why focus on under-represented founders?
Many new businesses struggle with cash flow. Traditional funding options are available only to those with personal wealth, collateral or connections and carry significant personal risk in case of startup failure. The Minority Business Data Agency found that minority business owners received fewer loans, and with less-optimal rates, than similar-sized white-owned businesses. Without easy access to family assets and bank loans, most under-represented founders are disadvantaged in comparison with their counterparts.
How do Spark Grants help?
Spark Grants provide under-represented founders with the free legal services, resources, and community they need to create and protect their businesses.
What do Spark Grants include?
Each grant recipient receives $2,500 worth of legal services and guidance; participation in a Legal for Business Workshop (4 one-hour sessions covering entity formation, legal risk analysis, IP protection, agreement types, contract negotiations, insurance, best practices, and more); access to a Startup Resource Database including summaries, checklists, templates, and discounts from local business partners; and membership in the Spark Grant Community of early-stage under-represented founders throughout North Carolina to help lift up and support each other.
What is the standard grant cycle?
Spark Grants are available on a bi-annual basis in the Spring and Fall. We follow a cohort model (a first in the legal services industry!) so grant recipients can learn from each other’s questions and insights.
How is this program different from others?
The Spark Grant program is the only (known) attorney-led grant program for under-represented business owners in North Carolina. Being attorney-led allows us to provide direct legal advice unavailable via other local accelerators and bootcamps. The cohort model also allows us to help a greater number of companies than the traditional 1:1 attorney/client model. It’s a fantastic supplement to other programs available to founders.
Why is Liles Law the right law firm to lead this effort?
Liles Law is a female-led, minority-led, entrepreneur-led, carbon-neutral, and B-corp (pending) law firm that has already helped hundreds of new businesses throughout North Carolina. We are well-positioned to radically change the access to legal resources for under-represented founders.
How are you able to provide these grants?
The Spark Grant Program is funded by Liles Law in partnership with local sponsors whose values align with our mission. A big THANK YOU to our current sponsors: The NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic, The UNC School of Law Institute for Innovation, Durham Technical College, Uncompany, Curious, and PowerSecure.
What do sponsorship fees go towards?
100% of sponsorship fees go towards legal services, startup resources, and program administration for grant recipients.
What are the sponsorship levels?
Sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,500 for a Bronze level sponsor. Silver and Gold sponsorship levels are also available. Gold sponsors can sponsor an entire cohort with a theme that aligns with their mission (e.g., sustainability, community-building, biotech, education, health and fitness).
What do the sponsors receive?
We are only looking for sponsors whose values align with our core mission: radically changing the access to legal services for under-represented founders. In addition, sponsors get direct exposure to the local startup ecosystem, marketing opportunities (including social media posts, newsletter advertisements, speaking engagements, networking events, media coverage, and a unique digital sponsor badge), and access to the grant recipients’ pipeline of clients and employees. Most importantly, sponsors are able to to make a significant difference in the business trajectory of under-represented founders in North Carolina.
How can I become a sponsor?
Reach out for more info! We are already lining up sponsors for 2023.
What are your goals?
We provided 4 grants during the initial Fall 2022 grant cycle and with the help of our sponsors hope to provide 20 grants in 2023. The long-term goal is to help more than 100 new businesses each year by 2025.
Understanding that it often takes a couple of years to generate ongoing revenue, our ultimate goal is to have current recipients become future sponsors in a “pay it forward” model.
Who is eligible for a Spark Grant?
Early stage businesses based in North Carolina in need of foundational legal services with at least one founder who is under-represented. We also require a commitment to program participation and community-building.
How can I apply for a grant?
Grant applications for the Spring 2023 cohort will go live early next year!