DAWN and ILT Academy Collaboration

Northspan’s Driving Access to Wealth and Networks (DAWN) program is collaborating with ILT Academy to deliver education to entrepreneurs across a 10-county service area in northeast Minnesota. This collaboration will provide area entrepreneurs with training and resources to move ideas into viable business concepts.

ILT Academy has supported the DAWN program since it launched as Innovate 218 in 2021. ILT delivers educational experience to cultivate problem solvers, innovators, and entrepreneurs and elevate business ideas and interventions to the next level. It seeks to empower, educate, and mentor entrepreneurs, creating both the practical knowledge and strong networks they need to succeed. ILT is BIPOC-owned and attuned to the varying challenges faced by entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.

“We’re excited to work with Northspan’s DAWN program to deliver strong programming in northeast Minnesota,” said ILT Founder & CEO Nick Tietz. “We share a vision of lifting up underestimated innovators and founders and see incredible untapped potential across their region.”

DAWN supports entrepreneur participation in ILT’s Virtual Lean Startup Innovation program. This free, 10-week training allows for hands-on learning and networking events with ecosystem partners, investors, lenders, and other entrepreneurs. ILT Academy will accept 139 participants, creating a value of $480,000 for these 139 entrepreneurs across 16 cohorts over a two-year period. Applications are open for the Spring 2024 cohort.

“As we launch DAWN, we’re already meeting with many entrepreneurs who have bold, innovative ideas but just need some support to get their ideas off the ground,” said Northspan President & CEO Elissa Hansen. “ILT is the perfect partner to start that process for many of our DAWNtrepreneurs.”

Funding to support the partnership with ILT Academy comes from the Department of Commerce’s $2 million investment in Northspan through its Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Additional support from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Launch Minnesota program sustains Northspan staff time and additional project expenses.

The DAWN region includes Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Mille Lacs, Pine, and St. Louis Counties and the Native Nations of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Red Lake Nation. Learn more at dawnmn.org.

You can view other news updates on the Northspan blog.

For more information, please contact Northspan President & CEO Elissa Hansen at ehansen@northspan.org.


Northspan is a nonprofit consulting firm based in Duluth. With a vision to engage and elevate, the Northspan mission is to be expert navigators, transforming ideas into accomplishments. Learn more at northspan.org.