FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab - Accion Opportunity Fund

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.

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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 here.

FedEx E-Commerce Learning Lab Components

Start Selling Online

Powered by nonprofit partner Accion Opportunity Fund and e-commerce consultancy 37 Oaks, this four-month program provides: 

  • Immersive e-commerce courses and workshops 
  • Coaching from industry experts 
  • Networking with fellow entrepreneurs 
  • Online sales support and order fulfillment through the 2022 holiday season 
  • A $5,000 business grant to support e-commerce growth plans 

Shop SOKONI

Meet the participants and support small businesses by shopping on SOKONI.

As part of the Learning Lab, participants have the opportunity to apply curriculum learnings by listing their products on the SOKONI Shop, 37 Oaks commerce development learning laboratory.

 

Learning Lab Application Requirements

Applications for this element of the E-Commerce Learning Lab were open during early summer 2022 and are now closed. To be notified when the next round of Learning Lab applications open, you can sign-up here.

Eligible businesses must: 

  • Own at least 51% of a US-based small business that is in an eligible industry. Please double check our list of prohibited industries here.
  • Have been formally operating the business for at least six months [since January 2022]
  • Currently produce and sell a shelf-stable, legal, packaged product 
  • Have earned less than $500,000 in the business in 2021 

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. 

 

Master E-Commerce with FedEx

Are you already selling online, but you’re looking to take your business to the next level? Watch the Master E-Commerce with FedEx seminar series. Over the course of four seminars, you’ll learn from industry experts and fellow small business owners about: 

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: 

  1. Hands-on learning for small businesses that are new to e-commerce: small business owners who do not have an active ecommerce site can apply to be selected to participate in a beginners’ cohort, an intensive learning and coaching experience 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 theSOKONIplatform. 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 $5,000 business grant to put toward an e-commerce growth plan that they develop during the program.
  2. Virtual seminars on advanced e-commerce topics: The second component is a series of four virtual seminars on advanced ecommerce topics. The seminars feature diverse expert speakers and target small business owners who are looking to refine and strengthen their e-commerce skills in key areas.
  3. 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 beginners’ cohort program for 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 sell 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 courses are open to any small business owners who are interested in learning about e-commerce. 

How DO Entrepreneurs apply for the program?

Applications for the beginners’ cohort program were open in early summer 2022 and have now closed. When applications re-open for the next cohort, entrepreneurs can apply through AOF’s application partner Submittable by creating a free account and completing an online application.

Who Is eligible for the program?

Any small business owner who meets the following criteria could 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 that is not part of a prohibited industry
  • 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 2021  
  • Have been in business for at least six months [since January 2022]  
  • Be willing to commit to full program participation, which includes attending courses and workshops, participating in coaching sessions, and selling their products through SOKONI’s learning laboratory and marketplace for the holiday season 

WHICH INDUSTRIES ARE PROHIBITED FROM APPLYING FOR THE BEGINNERS’ COHORT PROGRAM? 

  • Adult entertainment including strip clubs, escort services, adult bookstores, and businesses whose principal business is the sale of pornography 
  • Tobacco stores, smoke shops, cigarette & cigar retailers and wholesalers, cigarette stands 
  • Firearms sellers, merchants, retailers, or wholesalers; ammunition sales; gun clubs; shooting ranges 
  • Marijuana related businesses; cannabis dispensaries, marijuana crop farming, edibles, CBD products 
  • Massage parlors, saunas, or hot tub facilities 
  • Illegal activities 
  • Gambling and betting activities, racetracks 
  • Real estate investment companies (residential and commercial), house flippers, hotels, businesses whose principal source of revenue is rental income 
  • Banking and financial institutions; central banking; other monetary intermediation; trusts, funds, and similar financial entities 
  • Merchant service companies, merchant sales organizations, payment services 
  • Lending businesses; payday lenders, title lenders, other credit granting 
  • Small Business loan brokers 
  • Check cashers 
  • Bail bonds 
  • Pawn shops 
  • Collection companies/lawyers or debt consolidation firms 
  • Multi-level marketing companies or businesses based on pyramid sales plans 
  • Nonprofit organizations 
  • Religious organizations, churches, temples, mosques and shrines and other services provided specifically for the religious community 
  • Activities of political organizations 
  • Transportation of hazardous materials 
  • Oil and gas exploration/securities 
  • Rideshare (i.e. Uber/Lyft drivers)  

How are participants selected?

Participants are vetted to ensure they substantially meet all program criteria. Applicants must have answered all application questions and provided all requested documentation in order to be eligible. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. 

WHICH DOCUMENTS Do APPLICANTS HAVE TO PROVIDE TO BE ELIGIBLE?

  • Front-and-back copy of photo identification (driver’s license, state ID, passport, permanent resident card, matricula consular, tribal card, military ID, or trusted traveler ID) 
  • For businesses 18 months or older, the most recent business tax return (2020 with extension or 2021) 
  • For younger businesses, a business license or registration document (articles of incorporation for LLCs, S Corps, and C Corps; sole proprietorship formation; fictitious name statement or DBA; EIN registration; city, state, or federal license to do business; or relevant professional license) 
  • Most recent bank statement from a business bank account 

What is the time commitment for program participants?

The time commitment is approximately three hours per week participating in courses and working on development of their store and other course areas from early August through mid-December.  

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 vet applications. 

When will participants be notified if they are selected?

All applicants were notified on July 20, 2022 if they were selected for the program or not.

Who will receive the $5,000 grants and what can they be used for?

Participants who are selected for the beginners’ cohort program will receive a $5,000 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 courses. 

Who is delivering the program content?

The workshops for the beginners’ cohort 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 are facilitated by AOF and incorporate expertise from FedEx and other industry experts. 

When will the virtual seminars that are open to any small business owner take place?

The virtual seminars took place in October 2021, November 2021, January 2022 and February 2022. You can watch recordings of these seminars here. 

How can I access the online learning modules?

The online learning modules are available here.

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