Dan Lauer receives Champions for Diversity and Inclusion Award from the St. Louis Business Journal
The St. Louis Business Journal held its 18th annual Champions for Diversity and Inclusion Awards last week at the Chase Park Plaza. Dan Lauer, the founding executive director of the UMSL Accelerate at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was among 14 honorees, including individuals and nonprofit organizations.
Lauer, who has been highlighted for his work with entrepreneurs and diverse business owners before, was grateful for the honor – the second time the Business Journal has recognized the success of the UMSL Accelerate program this year.
“It means it’s our chance to be heard by the community and lead on something really important,” Lauer said. “What the community is saying is, ‘Keep going,’ and we’re trying new stuff. The community is saying is we’re doing good work, and they’re affirming us to keep pushing forward.”
The Champions for Diversity and Inclusion Awards were created to recognize those taking action to create more socioeconomic equity in St. Louis. Business Journal Editor Erik Siemers explained why the publication believes this type of acknowledgement is necessary.
“This is a city that has had a long, challenging history with racial division,” he said. “DEI is an important issue and a core aspect for all business in every city, no matter where you are. I think it’s especially important for St. Louis. We see it as our opportunity to use our platform to celebrate people who are actually doing outstanding work in this field, in the hopes that the examples they set can be examples for others to continue that work everywhere else.”
DEMIblue Founder Michelle Robinson and Flipstik Founder Akeem Shannon, both past participants in UMSL Accelerate’s DEI Accelerator program, were present to support Lauer. The two attribute the growth of their businesses to the support they received from Lauer and the the program, which included $50,000 in non-dilutive capital.
Shannon now has his product in several retailers, including Target, and is grateful for the assistance he’s received from UMSL.
“I’m here mostly to support Dan,” Shannon said. “He’s been an incredible resource over the past year and a half. Since being in the program, I credit his connections with a lot of the progress that we’ve made over the past year, especially this year, from getting into retailers, to investors, to industrial designers, all kinds of stuff. When applying for the program, I was thinking, ‘Oh, 50 grand? Great, I’ll take it.’ But it’s been so much more than that.”
Lauer and the DEI Accelerator program helped Robinson’s business, a line of vegan nail polishes, experience significant business growth as well, helping to get her product into boutiques throughout St. Louis and on Walmart.com. Robinson is also grateful for Lauer’s provision.
“Dan has been a true supporter of DEMIblue through UMSL Accelerate, providing us with resources and connections to help us scale,” she said. “An investment like that isn’t something a business like mine would normally receive. So, I wanted to be here to support him and to continue to support UMSL.”
The award connects to one of the tenants of UMSL business programs: its commitment to supporting a diverse business landscape in St. Louis. Joan Phillips, dean of the UMSL College of Business Administration, applauded Lauer’s contribution to socioeconomic equity.
“The SLBJ Champion’s for Diversity award reflects Dan’s strong commitment to DEI as evidenced by the success of the UMSL DEI Accelerator,” she said. “The entire College of Business Administration celebrates Dan’s well-deserved honor.”
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