MatchBOX secures United Way funding, opens 2022 applications

Tesha Hardy had been in the nursing field for a decade before she established Lightstone Education Center in 2017. A nurse practitioner by day, Hardy saw an opportunity in the market for local education programs that allow professionals to enter or expand their skills in the medical field.

Hardy was one of ten founders included in MatchBOX Coworking Studio’s first cohort of their Spark program. Juliana Casavan, operations manager for MatchBOX and Spark project lead, explained, “Business acceleration is a model for growing companies by giving founders access to mentors, curriculum, resources, networking, and workspace. We offer accelerator programs that are open to all applicants, but built the Spark program specifically to serve Black, Indiginous, and POC founders. The entrepreneurs in our inaugural cohort have specific barriers and needs and our intention was to connect them with BIPOC mentors, allied service providers, and the resources they need to grow businesses in a variety of industries.”

The year-long program, created, designed and delivered by MatchBOX with initial funding from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, kicked off in January with ten local business owners, selected from a total of 34 applicants. Throughout the year, the entrepreneurs were matched with mentors and worked with business professionals to develop business plans, marketing strategies, brand and packaging design, financial models, and operating documents.

And they saw impressive results. Neurava, a Spark company cofounded by Jay Shah and Vivek Ganesh, recently raised $650,000 in seed funding led with support from Elevate Ventures to further develop a wearable device that monitors for seizures. Samiaiyah Ncube, founder of Nom Nums Cakes & Treats, and Tesha Hardy, founder of Lightstone Education received a combined $10,000 in services via the MatchBOX Acceleration Microgrants program to fund growth-focused projects. Other participants grew their client base, pivoted their business models, and moved closer to a launch date.

In November, United Way of Greater Lafayette announced that they would award $10,000 from the first equity fund named for Sarah Rounds Price. The SRP Equity Fund grant to MatchBOX is to help support the 2022 Spark cohort. Jennifer Million, senior director of finance and operations for UWGL, said, “The fund was established to incentivize nonprofits to develop or expand programs that will foster inclusivity and celebrate various cultural perspectives or opportunities to bridge gaps in services and outcomes. Supporting BIPOC business owners is an important aspect of working toward a more equitable community.”

As the 2021 cohort nears graduation, Hardy shares, “During the Spark program, I’ve been able to make the leap to operating Lightstone Education full time. I accessed a grant to rebuild my website and automate registrations and course assessments. The business is more efficient, more profitable, and I’m really excited about continued growth.”

Applications are currently open for MatchBOX’s 2022 Spark cohort, and an Informational session is scheduled for December 16 at 5 pm. Registration for the info session and applications for next year’s program can be found at

About MatchBOX

MatchBOX Coworking Studio is a nonprofit venture that draws together innovative and creative individuals pursuing new ideas. The 11,000 square foot studio is full of desks with all the amenities you need to get work done: 24-hour secure access, conference rooms, superfast WiFi, the MBX Makerspace, and an unlimited supply of coffee and snacks.

It’s a great place to start a new business, or to grow an existing small business. It’s for the hobbyist with a new idea, the moonlighting entrepreneur, or the professional office nomad. It’s for developers, designers, strategists, artisans, writers, makers, and change-makers of all types. It’s a home for the creative class in Lafayette, West Lafayette, and throughout the midwest.

The studio is an office and meeting space to nearly 300 members and partners in a variety of sectors. MatchBOX hosts meetups and events that focus on business acceleration, mentorship, technology, innovation, and more.