DPP / StartOut Collab Boosts Startup302

New Year, New Members: Erica Crell, DPP, and the expanding opportunities for Delaware’s LGBTQ+ founders

February 1, 2023

Our mission at StartOut is to “accelerate the growth of the LGBTQ+ community to drive its economic empowerment, building a world where every LGBTQ+ entrepreneur has equal access to lead, succeed, and shape the workforce of the future.”

Every year, we leverage hundreds of strategic partnerships with various organizations that seek to do the same because we know that building a more inclusive opportunity for entrepreneurs takes a village.

Erica Crell (she/her) is a brand new StartOut member joining us from the Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP). As the lead economic development organization for the state, the DPP’s goal is to build a more inclusive and prosperous entrepreneurial community. As the organization’s Innovation Manager, Erica spearheads the expanding diverse pool of business owners and founders throughout the state.

As one of our newest members this year, Erica spoke with us about her journey, her mission in life, and what she’s looking forward to in 2023.

Erica, could you discuss how you got to your current position at DPP?

I went to school at Rutgers, where I graduated with a degree in English. Early in my career, I spent some time working in the medical publishing and advertising world, working primarily with Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies. I developed, managed, and implemented managed care-focused programs and was responsible for forecasting and managing projects generating over $1.4 million in annual revenues while assisting management with sales and increasing company profit by over 30% annually.

In 2020, I joined Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA) as a marketing and program manager. Being in this role exposed me to work that impacted my entire state and eventually helped me transition into my current role at DPP. I’ve been able to use my science background and entrepreneurial background to help entrepreneurs across Delaware.

Aside from my day job, I’ve been lucky enough to spend more than two decades coaching field hockey across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Through my coaching experience, I’ve gotten to know my community, what it takes to work as a team, and what motivation certain folks need to succeed.

What brought you to StartOut?

StartOut’s partnerships manager, Kayla DiPilato (she/her), serves on the steering committee for an initiative of ours called Startup 302. A StartOut Growth Lab alum, Carbon Reform, is an active member and has participated in our program.

After connecting early on with Kayla, we’ve tried to make an effort to leverage our resources, local and national, to have a greater reach within the entire LGBTQ+ entrepreneurial community.

She’s been a great resource, and we’ve spoken multiple times about how DPP can help StartOut and vice versa. It truly has been such a meaningful partnership, and I’m excited to see where we can go this year

What is Startup 302?

Startup 302 is a community-organized pitch competition based in Delaware but open to companies from around the country, focused on startups led by founders from underestimated groups. The competition, which offers non-dilutive cash grants as prizes, is open to early-stage, venture scalable companies led by founding teams, including women, Black, Latinx, Native-American, and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. The competition’s application and first two rounds of review will be virtual, and the finals will be held in person in Wilmington, DE, on April 27th.

StartOut is one of a handful of organizations that have helped us put this pitch competition together, and we’re incredibly grateful for their support.

How has Delaware helped level the playing field for diverse founders and startups?

Generally speaking, Delaware is one of the most inclusive communities in the country. We have a very large Queer scene and offer hundreds of resources, opportunities, and support services to help lift and empower LGBTQ+ Delawareans.

Not many states prioritize underserved communities’ economic potential, and I’m proud to say we do so. We want everyone in Delaware, and we want everyone to feel like they have a voice in our world.

When you look at the stats and see how less than 1% of VC dollars back LGBTQ+ startups, it’s alarming. We try our best to help lead the change forward by doing it in one of the most diverse states in the country.

You can connect with Erica on LinkedIn for the latest updates on her work with DPP, and follow our blog on Medium for monthly member stories.

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