Arch Grants Aims to Further Advance Economic Empowerment Across Greater St. Louis Region with Support of NISA Charitable Fund

Funding from NISA Charitable Fund provides five high-growth startups, each with $50,000 in capital plus a robust suite of ongoing professional services to promote workforce development and long-term success with the newly created #STLOnward Awards

(ST. LOUISNov. 4, 2021) – Arch Grants’ mission is to transform the St. Louis economy by attracting and retaining extraordinary entrepreneurs. Through its unique and groundbreaking annual Startup Competition model, the St. Louis-born, 501(c)(3) nonprofit provides $50,000 in grants and access to an ecosystem of resources, helping early-stage startups grow, scale, and drive local economic development. The program provides an additional $10,000 for relocation if companies are based outside of Missouri. Arch Grants looks for growth-oriented startups with innovative and scalable business models, technology-enabled solutions, and a diverse team with the commitment and tenacity to help strengthen St. Louis’ entrepreneurial ecosystem.


“Arch Grants is deeply committed to making St. Louis a destination where people want to live, work, and stay,” said Emily Lohse-Busch, Executive Director of Arch Grants. “It is gratifying to partner with NISA Investment Advisors’ Charitable Fund, a like-minded St. Louis success story, to provide much-needed capital to well-positioned startup firms that are on the precipice of making significant economic contributions to our local region. We look forward to working with NISA and other firms to expand economic opportunity across St. Louis as together we are all stronger.”

NISA Investment Advisors’ Charitable Fund partnered with Arch Grants to meaningfully increase the funding available through the nonprofit’s Startup Competition model for 2021 under an innovative platform called #STLOnward Awards. The Charitable Fund’s contribution of $270,000 enabled Arch Grants to fund five additional high-growth startups with the hope that other established companies will be inspired to support both Arch Grants and subsequent #STLOnward Awards.

The five startups receiving the grants were chosen because their missions align closely with NISA Charitable Fund’s strategic pillars of education, workforce development, and access to capital for traditionally underserved populations. The winning startups include Equalizer GamesoneKINPlaBookRock The Score, and ZenHammer. These five startups will be recognized at the 9th Annual Arch Grants Gala event on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, as the #STLOnward Awards – Powered by NISA.

  • “As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that capital, when matched with a systematic ecosystem of knowledge, mentors, professional supports, colleagues, and connections, better guarantees the further success of your company,” said Dr. Philip William Van Hickman, CEO and Founder of PlaBook. Being a recipient of an Arch Grant gives PlaBook this capital along with a terrific network that will help us to positively impact children who are learning how to read.”
  • Given Arch Grants’ strong track record of success, my team and I are humbled to be part of the initial class of #STLOnward Award recipients,” said Marvin A. François, CFA, Co-Founder and CEO of oneKIN. “While the program has only just started, we have already been provided with precious resources and are confident this next year will bring outsized growth for our company.”
  • “Receiving an Arch Grant for $50,000 and the accompanying support, coupled with being back in St. Louis, has allowed us to move at the pace we have only dreamed of previously,” said Edwin Williams, CEO of ZenHammer. “We are ecstatic to be back building our business here in St. Louis and to becoming an active part of the community again.”
  • “We are thrilled about building our business in St. Louis and accelerating our sports and education technology platform,” said Kathy Tomlinson, Co-Founder and President of Equalizer Games. “We will be creating more job opportunities in technology while taking our business to another level of success because of Arch Grants.”
  • “It is truly an honor for Rock The Score to receive an Arch Grant and the recognition such an award holds,” said Peter Wright, CEO and President of Rock The Score. “We are incredibly proud of the success that we have worked so hard to achieve, and it feels great to have that echoed by Arch Grants.”

The NISA Charitable Fund is a donor-advised fund established in April 2020 and funded by NISA Investment Advisors, LLC, with operational support by St. Louis Community Foundation.

“Arch Grants’ program is a model for driving economic empowerment and developing the next generation of employers, civic leaders, and philanthropists for the St. Louis region,” said David Eichhorn, CFA, NISA’s CEO and Head of Investment Strategies. “Our organization is inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of the five high-growth startups we are supporting through our partnership with Arch Grants. We look forward to watching their businesses grow and contribute to the vitality of the St. Louis economy in the months and years ahead.”

About Arch Grants
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Arch Grants’ mission is to transform the economy in St. Louis by attracting and retaining extraordinary entrepreneurs. Since 2012, Arch Grants has awarded $11.5 million in cash grants to attract or retain 208 early-stage businesses in St. Louis, invigorating the city’s startup scene with new talent and ideas and helping to shape the future economy of the region. Of the total cash grants, $10.5 million has been awarded through Arch Grants’ annual Startup Competition, and an additional $1 million has been provided in additional follow-on funding. Through its program, Arch Grants’ portfolio companies have gone on to create over 2,347 jobs in the St. Louis region, generate over $479 million in revenue and attract over $411 million in follow-on capital. To learn more, please visit our website at and be sure to follow us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

About NISA Charitable Fund
NISA Charitable Fund’s mission is to promote equity in St. Louis among underserved populations by supporting organizations focused on creating systematic change in education, access to capital, and workforce development. We believe that improvement in these critical foundational areas can lead individuals toward greater financial independence with a multiplier effect that can change the trajectory of the next generation. We are a donor-advised fund established in April 2020 and funded by NISA Investment Advisors, LLC, with operational support by St. Louis Community Foundation.

About NISA Investment Advisors, LLC
NISA manages assets for some of the largest institutional investors in the U.S. The firm is 100% employee-owned and based in St. Louis, Missouri. Client portfolios include investment-grade fixed income, derivative overlay, and equity investments. As of September 30, 2021, NISA managed $317 billion in physical assets and $174 billion in derivative notional value in separate account overlay portfolios. NISA is also known for its Pension Surplus Risk Index, or PSRX®, a forward-looking estimate of the funded status volatility of U.S. corporate defined benefit plans and is published monthly. For more information, please visit our website at and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn.

Media Contacts:
Andy Painter, Marketing & Communications Manager for Arch Grants or 314-322-06

Eriko Clevenger Pope, NISA Charitable Fund Director

Michael Herley for NISA Investment Advisors, LLC or 203-308-1409