City Startup Labs Awarded $400,000 Digital Champions Grant to Pilot a Digital Tech Services Social Venture

City Startup Labs Awarded $400,000 Digital Champions Grant to Pilot a Digital Tech Services Social Venture


Media Contact: Azania Herron


CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 3, 2024– City Startup Labs (CSL), a nonprofit focused on developing entrepreneurial talent and workplace for justice-impacted individuals, has received a North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) Office of Digital Equity and Literacy Digital Champions grant award to pilot ReConnex (ReentryConnections), a retail digital device repair business that CSL plans to operate as a workers collaborative in Charlotte, NC. In partnership with Omaha-based, iFixAmerica (iFA), CSL will provide hyper-local tech support to communities lacking these critical services in today’s digital age.

ReConnex will serve as an expansion of the ReEntry Entrepreneurship Program (REEP), a flagship program of City Startup Labs that develops entrepreneurial talent and capacity among justice-impacted persons. This new REEP development will provide specialized training to a select team who will learn how to provide tech support and customer service for digital devices and products, while also learning how to manage and operate a cooperatively owned social venture.

“I have been pushing this boulder up a hill like Sisyphus, since 2019,” said City Startup Labs Founder & Executive Director, Henry Rock. “So, I’m thrilled that Annette Taylor and Maggie Woods, along with their team at the N.C. Office of Digital Equity and Literacy, were able to recognize the value that this service, done in a truly unique way, will provide in Charlotte. Starting with this pilot, we plan to meet the digital tech service needs for residents and businesses currently lacking reliable, dependable and affordable tech support through ReConnex.”

ReConnex sits at the nexus of reentry, entrepreneurship, socio-economic mobility and the digital divide. This new enterprise aims to help establish more equitable wealth distribution for Charlotte residents, and to make strides in addressing the city’s persistent challenge of economic mobility among communities experiencing neglect and harm. The worker cooperative intends to launch from a brick-and-mortar location in one of Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity with plans to scale to the other five Corridors.

CSL was founded in 2014 and REEP was piloted in 2018. REEP emphasizes building business and professional core competencies, understanding how to craft a startup venture, and securing digital tech service credentials for formerly incarcerated/justice-involved persons. Since its pilot, REEP has successfully developed entrepreneurial talent and capacity among the program participants.  

About City Startup Labs

CSL is reimagining entrepreneurship and redefining workforce development for formerly incarcerated individuals by cultivating their human and intellectual capital and potential for building businesses, and by developing an engaged, motivated and productive workforce for on-trend careers. The organization addresses social economic mobility through leading-edge skills training, hands-on instruction, support and mentorship, career building and community engagement. Its two flagship programs include Restorative Pathways, a reentry workplace readiness initiative with “fair chance” employers, and the ReEntry Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) startup incubator. Learn more about City Startup Labs by visiting

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