FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab
The FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab helps women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color sell online and scale their e-commerce through hands-on learning.
Looking for help improving your business e-commerce? Whether you’ve never built a website or you want to optimize your existing online sales, FedEx and AOF are here to help.
The FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab is a multi-faceted program designed to help diverse small business owners, primarily women and people of color, who are looking to develop or expand their e-commerce operations as they continue to adapt their business models in the wake of COVID-19.
Have questions about the FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab? Learn more and reach out to the program organizers here.
FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab Components
Start Selling Online
If you’re ready to start selling your products online for the first time, FedEx and AOF have a great opportunity for you. This fall, 150 small business owners from across the country will be selected to join a cohort program that provides coaching and hands-on support for setting up a virtual store, marketing, customer service, order fulfillment, and more. Selected participants will receive:
- Access to a four month, hands-on workshop series hosted by 37 Oaks
- Exclusive access to e-commerce expert coaches
- Fulfillment and shipping support through the 2021 holiday season
- A $2,000 business grant to support e-commerce growth plans
Note: To apply for this opportunity, you must submit your most recent business tax returns, a copy of your photo identification, and a W9 at the time of application. All documents are required to be eligible for this opportunity. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
Expand Your E-Commerce Expertise
No matter what your experience level with e-commerce is, there’s always more to learn. That’s why AOF and FedEx created an on-demand online course series that allows busy entrepreneurs to learn valuable e-commerce lessons in a quick, interactive virtual environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab?
The FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab is a program developed by Accion Opportunity Fund and FedEx to help small business owners who are looking to develop or expand their e-commerce operations, with a focus on women and entrepreneurs of color. The program has three components to support businesses at different stages in their ecommerce journey:
- Hands-on learning for 150 small businesses that are new to e-commerce: 150 small business owners who do not have an active ecommerce site will be selected to participate in an intensive learning and coaching experience over four months to create an online store and sell their products through this store. They will attend a series of live virtual workshops focused on e-commerce basics over four months and receive one-on-one coaching by ecommerce experts. They will then apply the learnings from the courses and coaching by launching their ecommerce business on the SOKONI They will receive free technical support in setting up and maintaining their virtual stores, marketing, managing promotions, customer service, managing orders and fulfillments, and product photography. At the end of the experience, participants will be prepared to take what they have learned to launch their own online store on any platform they choose. Participants who complete the experience will receive a $2,000 business grant to put toward an e-commerce growth plan that they develop during the program.
- Virtual seminars on advanced ecommerce topics: The second component is a series of four live virtual seminars on advanced ecommerce topics that will take place in the fall and winter. The seminars will feature diverse expert speakers and target small business owners who are looking to refine and strengthen their e-commerce skills in key areas.
- Online learning journeys: The third component is a dedicated online learning hub that features self-serve digital micro-courses on e-commerce topics.
What is the purpose of the program?
The purpose of the program is to help diverse small business owners who are looking to develop or expand their e-commerce operations as they continue to adapt their business models in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on women and entrepreneurs of color.
Who can participate in the program?
The hands-on learning for 150 small business owners is intended to support women and entrepreneurs of color who are trying out e-commerce for the first time or do not currently have an active e-commerce presence. It is for businesses that have packaged products (either shelf-stable pre-packaged food or non-food general merchandise. e.g. fashion, beauty, home décor).
The advanced e-commerce virtual seminars and online micro-courses are open to any small business owners who are interested in learning about e-commerce.
How do people apply for the program?
Interested small business owners can apply here between July 12 and 19. The deadline to apply is July 19 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Who is eligible for the program?
Any small business owner who meets the following criteria can apply for the hands-on learning and grant component of the program:
- Own a business based in the United States
- Currently sell a packaged, shelf-stable product
- Do not currently have an active e-commerce presence
- Currently have an active social media presence for their business
- Currently hold appropriate legal permits to produce and sell their product(s)
- Earned less than $500,000 in annual revenue in 2020
- Have been in business for at least one year
- Be willing to commit to program participation, selling their products through SOKONI’s learning laboratory and marketplace, and selling for the holiday season
How will participants be selected?
Participants will be randomly selected and vetted to ensure they substantially meet all program criteria. Applicants must answer all application questions and provide all requested documentation in order to be eligible. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
Which documents do applicants have to provide to be eligible?
- 2020 business tax return (if you have not yet filed your 2020 return, you may submit your 2019 business tax return)
- Copy of photo identification (driver’s license, state ID, passport, or matricula consular card)
What is the time commitment for program participants?
The time commitment is approximately two hours per week participating in courses and working on development of their store and other course areas from the end of August through early January. This includes nine workshop sessions that will be held every other week during the program, covering a range of introductory topics related to e-commerce. A detailed program schedule will be shared with selected participants.
Who vets the program applicants?
AOF and 37 Oaks will vet applications.
When will participants be notified if they are selected?
All applicants will be notified by August 16 if they are selected for the program or not. The program begins the week of August 23 with a kickoff orientation.
Who will receive the $2,000 grants and what can they be used for?
Participants who are selected for the hands-on learning program will receive a $2,000 small business grant upon completion of the program to put toward an e-commerce growth plan that they will develop during the program. Grants will be disbursed upon completion of the course.
Who is delivering the program content?
The workshops for the 150 participants who are selected for the hands-on learning experience will be delivered by Terrand Smith of 37 Oaks, a Chicago-based social enterprise that helps small businesses owned by women and people of color prepare for distribution through diverse growth channels. Bringing a decade of experience in corporate retail across several national brands, Terrand launched her Chicago-based consulting business in 2016 focused on educating and preparing entrepreneurs for growth through e-commerce, wholesale, storefront, and mobile retail channels. She works with municipalities, community-based organizations, accelerators, incubators and small business owners across the country.
The virtual seminars and online micro-courses will be facilitated by AOF and incorporate expertise from FedEx and other industry experts.
When will the virtual seminars take place that are open to any small business owner?
The virtual seminars will take place in October, November, January and February.
How can I access the online learning modules?
The online learning modules are available here.
Where can people submit questions about the program?
If there is a question that is not answered by the FAQ, please submit the question through this form.