Every day, thousands of ambitious young Americans wake up with a burning desire to make a difference in their communities. Venture for America (VFA) was created to harness this passion. Founded by entrepreneur and politician Andrew Yang, VFA is a two-year fellowship program that gives recent college graduates firsthand startup experiences and supports them in becoming leaders who make meaningful impacts in their careers. Currently, VFA places fellows in 13 cities across the United States, including three of our home communities (Charlotte, Cleveland and Detroit).
Since 2012, we have partnered with Venture for America to match recent college graduates with employment opportunities across the Rock Family of Companies. The Rock Family of Companies is proud to be one of the program’s biggest supporters in Detroit, with Bedrock being the largest employer of VFA fellows.
VFA creates economic opportunity by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs, providing a win-win for both its fellows and the companies and cities they support. It is also a perfect fit for the Rocket Community Fund’s Entrepreneurship team where we’re focused on elevating Detroit as a hub for thriving small businesses and high-growth startups.
After making it through a rigorous application process, the fellows are connected to opportunities in cities like Detroit with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems. Participating companies are matched with fellows whose interests and ambitions align. The fellows then undergo an extensive 45-day “boot camp” training experience to prepare them for the program, so that they can provide value from day one.
Fellows Across the Rock Family of Companies
The Rock Family of Companies has invested more than $1M in Venture for America and placed more than 60 fellows across the FOC – including 30 in the past two years. Among them is Trevor Nelson, Program Manager on the Rocket Community Fund Entrepreneurship team. Initially, Trevor had his sights set on becoming a mortgage banker, but that changed when he learned about Venture for America’s opportunities in Detroit. While he initially had little interest in nonprofit work, he realized he had a unique opportunity to support entrepreneurs through philanthropy. “This was a relatively structured way for me to take the risk of doing something different and new, with the full support of the Venture for America Program,” Trevor said.
Our Entrepreneurship team is dedicated to elevating Detroit as a hub for small businesses and high-growth startups looking to scale. Their work is focused on supporting entrepreneurs and supporting their place in Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Trevor was impressed by how the Entrepreneurship team worked with small business owners by giving them wraparound support and resources they needed to thrive in the market. “It’s been an incredible experience, to learn how I could be of value, to understand where the deficiencies are that I can solve for, and craft innovative solutions,” he said. “I’ve used what I’ve learned here so far to support my family and friends – including my dad and brother who are running a business – in order to lift them up.”
Trevor said the best thing about the VFA program is the supportive community. “The support and guidance has just been incredible,” he said. “There are endless networking and community-building opportunities.” The program is tailored towards individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit who are interested in starting their own companies. Trevor’s work with the Entrepreneurship team and his experience with VFA has driven him to focus on supporting Detroit small businesses. He has worked extensively to support Rocket Mortgage Detroit Demo Day alumni, serving as a support liaison and connecting them with the resources they need to continue thriving. Trevor feels the skills that he’s developed as both a VFA fellow and Entrepreneurship Program Manager have been invaluable to his career. He is currently in a company-sponsored leadership course for aspiring leaders.
The partnership between Venture for America and the Rock Family of Companies equips our VFA fellows with the tools and training they need to be successful. What’s more, these ambitious fellows end up contributing to the growth and development of Detroit’s talent – and ultimately, the entrepreneurial ecosystem that makes our city unique.