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T. Rowe launches new program to advise, fund Baltimore startups

Participants in the Moonshot program attend the program’s final event at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. (Courtesy of T. Rowe Price)

In its newest initiative to support entrepreneurship in Baltimore, T. Rowe Price is supplying small business and nonprofit leaders with a resource only it can provide — access to T. Rowe employees and alumni. 

T. Rowe Price’s Moonshot program, delivered in partnership with Baltimore Corps, provided training and mentorship from T. Rowe employees and partners, as well as funding, to four nonprofits and four for-profit startups in the area, all of which are led by Black founders. The organizations were given the opportunity to receive advice and training on any topic they needed assistance with, be it pitching, finance or technology.

For Bree Jones, the founder of Parity, a nonprofit dedicated to rehabilitating homes in West Baltimore to increase access to affordable housing, one of the issues she focused on was learning how to build her organization’s staff. She had never interviewed, hired or on-boarded a worker before this point — for a long time, she was Parity’s only employee — and T. Rowe advisers helped her through that process. Parity has now brought on a staff of six.

“If you’re a startup organization, these are things that you’re learning for the first time,” Jones said, adding that her advisers at T. Rowe provided “amazing support.” 

The program culminated in an event held last month where the founders were able to present their organization to a swath of former and current T. Rowe Price employees, including senior leaders. 

The presentations weren’t traditional pitches — T. Rowe didn’t want to make companies it was already supporting have to sell themselves, according to John Brothers, president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Rather, the founders were invited to present their work in whatever format felt most comfortable, whether it be something closer to a TED Talk or a fireside chat. Held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Downtown Baltimore, the event’s food and entertainment were also supplied by local vendors and artists in an effort to also spotlight those individuals and businesses. 

Jones said she came away from the event with the contact information of no less than 20 individuals interested in supporting, donating to, or investing in her organization. 

“There’s a lot of wealth in Baltimore city, but, a lot of times, it tends to be insular. What T. Rowe did was connect really deserving organizations with people who had the means to support them,” she said. That’s especially important for minority-owned organizations, like the ones the firm chose for the program’s inaugural cohort, which receive much less funding overall, both in the venture capital and philanthropic spheres, than organizations with white founders. 

According to Brothers, this year’s Moonshot program served as, essentially, a pilot, with the company still feeling out some of the initiative’s elements, such as what a program for Moonshot alumni could look like. (Moonshot’s nonprofit alumni will continue on with the firm via a two-year T. Rowe Price Foundation Entrepreneurship in Residence program, but currently nothing equivalent is planned for the for-profit participants). 

In future years, T. Rowe plans to grow and develop the program based on lessons and metrics from this first cohort, such as whether the connections formed by the participants at the final event — and throughout the program as a whole — resulted in meaningful, lasting partnerships.  

“We think that they will,” Brothers said.