AUSTIN, TEXAS — Naturally Network has partnered with NielsenIQ to offer a national fellowship supporting minority-owned consumer products startups. The M/O (Minority-Owned) Fellowship is a 12-week program that provides resources, tools and community for underrepresented, early-stage founders.

Seventy-seven percent of venture capital-backed founders are white, according to Crunchbase data, yet a quarter of consumers shop minority-owned brands. Diverse entrepreneurs face higher barriers to entry, according to NielsenIQ, a global informational services company for consumer brands and retail industries.

“The fellowship will help foster diversity and empower minority-owned businesses to reach long-term success,” said Kymberly Graham, vice president and head of diversity initiatives at NielsenIQ. “We are proud to serve as the main sponsor of the inaugural national M/O Fellowship and support diversity in the CPG industry.”

Participants will be matched with an adviser team offering cross-functional expertise and feedback during the program. A virtual weekly class will cover foundational business lessons.

The M/O Fellowship debuted last year at Naturally Network affiliate region, Naturally Austin, in collaboration with SKU, the consumer products accelerator. Zach and Delisa Harper, married co-founders of Funky Mello, a brand of vegan marshmallow cremes, were among participants.

“We applied for the fellowship because we felt that it would help us access and find the tools we need to become successful business owners,” the Harpers said. “We also wanted to meet and know more business owners who are just starting out. We wanted to be challenged to think in different ways so we can better anticipate future hurdles and face them with confidence when the time comes.”

Sixteen spots are available. Eligible companies must be 51% minority-owned, in business for under five years, and have had at least $5,000 in revenues in the previous year. Applications are open through Aug. 31, online at Naturally Network’s website.

Naturally Network is a collaborative community advancing the natural and organic products industry, representing eight affiliate regions and reaching more than 20,000 entrepreneurs, employees, suppliers, service providers, investors and natural products champions.