September 21, 2023 09:00 AM
What does $25,000 get you? For Soon and McKeel Hagerty, the answer is inspiration. For applicants to the couple’s Boundless Futures Foundation grant program, it means more money to run their female-founded businesses.
“When you give, you learn, and I think every time we meet with a candidate, I learn something about how people navigate the business world or what are the new challenges that I have to help fix,” said Soon Hagerty, president and founder of the Boundless Futures Foundation.
The Hagertys, members of the family behind the Traverse City-based Hagerty Insurance company that focuses on insuring classic cars, launched the new family foundation on Thursday. It’s designed to provide financial support and leadership resources for aspiring female entrepreneurs starting and expanding businesses that aim to solve social issues.
Hagerty, 48, said the foundation will award two grants: the EmpowHer grant for individual entrepreneurs 22 years or older with a business less than 3 years old, and the Her Village grant, for nonprofits that benefit female entrepreneurs. The EmpowHer grant will be awarded on a quarterly basis beginning April 1, 2024, and the Her Village grant will be awarded semi-annually beginning April 1, 2024.
The application process includes outlining a business plan, providing business formation documents, a background check for finalists and a one-hour interview with Soon and McKeel Hagerty over Zoom. Winners of the EmpowHer grant will be eligible to receive up to $25,000. Nonprofits are eligible to receive $10,000-$25,000 and able to apply for a Her Village grant once per calendar year.
Forming a foundation
Hagerty said the idea for the foundation was a culmination of her 48 years of experience as a woman and an entrepreneur. Her family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when Hagerty was 4 years old and took up residence in Fresno, Calif.
When she was 30, Hagerty founded Luxe Communications and later expanded to Centigrade Inc. before becoming senior vice president of her husband’s company, Hagerty Insurance.
“We said, ‘What are we gonna do to make the world better for our three girls and people like them?,’ so we decided to focus all of our efforts on female entrepreneurship because I think a female can be independent and have her own fate in her own hands and be able to support others,” Hagerty said.
Credit: Boundless Futures Foundation
Soon Hagerty is pictured with co-owner and head chef Tony Vu at Good Bowl in Traverse City.
When Hagerty moved to Traverse City to join Hagerty Insurance, she decided to open a Vietnamese restaurant to expand the diversity of food offerings in the area. She partnered with the restaurant’s chef, Tony Vu of Flint, and devised a menu from which every purchase donates a dollar to a charity.
“The idea really came from my background and the question, ‘Could I create a restaurant that people would love but, could I use it as a force for good?’ And it’s gone really well,” Hagerty said. “If you make it easy for people to give, they will.”
Hagerty said she and her husband plan to evolve the foundation as they learn more about the needs and businesses of the applications. They declined to say how much exactly they are putting toward it, but said they would be “seeding it with seven figures” of their own money.
There is no timeline for how long the grants will be offered, but Hagerty said she hopes that eventually the foundation won’t be needed.
“I hope that it runs as long as we need to, but maybe the reality is that it shouldn’t run forever, because I hope that we’ll be able to not need this,” she said. “I hope someday that female entrepreneurs will have equal access to capital and resources.”
Applications for the first round of EmpowHer and Her Village grants will be open until Jan. 1. Interested applicants can learn more about Boundless Futures Foundation and apply for the EmpowHer and Her Village grants at boundlessfutures.org.
This story originally appeared at: Crain's Detroit Business