CHICAGO — Nine firms are partnering to launch The Empower Project to support Black-owned businesses in the consumer packaged goods industry.

C.A. Fortune, a full-service consumer brands agency, created the initiative to help eradicate disparities in business and elevate underrepresented entrepreneurs. The firms represent various sectors, including branding, marketing, communications, food manufacturing, e-commerce, financial strategy, startup investing, data analysis and legal issues.

“Our goal is to capitalize on the strengths of our strategic partners and to jointly invest in a brand that we believe has the highest probability of success and can make the biggest positive impact on Black lives,” said Steve Gaither, chief marketing officer at C.A. Fortune.

Startups may apply at through Jan. 15, 2021. Five finalists will be selected to advance to a virtual pitch slam on Feb. 16, and a winner will be announced on Feb. 26. The winner will receive $700,000 in services to accelerate growth in the business.

Eligible businesses must be Black-owned or founded with annual revenue between $150,000 and $10 million. Additionally, participants must be able to dedicate time to the project and cover the costs of external expenses such as packaging, printing and distribution.

Other firms involved in the Empower Project include C.A. Branding, C.A. E-Comm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Dobson Avenue Capital Partners, JConnelly, 1o8, Propeller Industries, SPINS and Whole Brain Consulting.

“The consumer packaged goods industry is a difficult space for any new company to break into,” said Kyle Gardner, chief executive officer and co-founder of Dobson Avenue Capital Partners. “My core business is focused on supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs, and I am eager to not only provide funding to this business, but also to share my business acumen with them to help take them to the next level. I am so grateful to be a part of this project with all of these other powerhouse partners.”