EcoMap Technologies and Forward Cities Announce Inaugural Cohort of Ecosystem Changemakers

PLACE Builders fellowship, in honor of late EcoMap CEO, officially launched 

The inaugural cohort of PLACE Builders fellows, a fellowship honoring the legacy of the late EcoMap Technologies CEO and co-founder Pava LaPere, joined by Pava’s family. (photo credit: Johns Hopkins University)

The inaugural cohort of eight PLACE Builders fellows, a fellowship honoring the legacy of the late EcoMap Technologies (EcoMap) CEO and co-founder Pava LaPere, officially launched today.

PLACE (Pava LaPere Award for Cultivating Ecosystems) Builders was jointly developed by EcoMap, a category-defining ecosystem intelligence AI software company, and Forward Cities, a national nonprofit that works with partners to build equitable entrepreneurial communities. The fellowship is inspired by EcoMap’s forever “Chief Ecosystem Officer” LaPere, and is a tribute to her legacy of fighting for equal access to opportunity.

From an impressive pool of more than 80 applicants, the following ecosystem builders, representing regions across the country, will have an opportunity to build their capacity through training, peer support, and community pilots over the next three months.

Arsh Haque (Portland, OR) – The Far West fellow launching culturally specific accelerator programs with a focus on race and neuroatypicality. Their unique program identified traded sectors that have overrepresentation by marginalized groups but have been under-resourced. The goal is to serve these marginalized founders by connecting them with community and additional resources, breaking down barriers along the way.

Charlyn Moss (Denver, CO) – The Southeast fellow is a former sole proprietor who intimately understands the multifaceted challenges and barriers that confront Black-led-and-serving entrepreneurs. She recognizes the urgent need for tailored support and resources to address the unique obstacles faced by Black entrepreneurs and is establishing the Black Owners Club (BOC), a transformative initiative designed to address critical gaps and foster sustainable growth within the Black entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Marion Hicks (Albuquerque, NM) – The Southwest fellow is a project manager taking a multi-faceted, ecosystems-level approach to supporting Indigenous femme entrepreneurs. She plans to blend proven programs into a codified ecosystem to provide multiple avenues to shift wealth and provide equitable access to capital and other resources for Indigenous femme entrepreneurs.

Angela Hollowell (Durham, NC) – The Southeast fellow is founder and host of Honey & Hustle, a video podcast committed to highlighting the unique and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that makes North Carolina a premier destination for work, travel, film production, and community development. She plans to scale up her newsletter, Please Hustle Responsibly, to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and the resources and strong community they need to thrive.

Erica Williams (Florissant, MO) – The Plains fellow creates spaces and opportunities for entrepreneurs to work and support their families. She believes her community needs and deserves the opportunity to create wealth for themselves and is looking to license a shared commercial kitchen and small-scale manufacturing space to give food entrepreneurs and value-added producers a place to create and market their products.

Justus Cornelius Pugh (Chicago, IL) – The Great Lakes fellow is creating community by bringing together the right ingredients to push impactful initiatives forward. A natural facilitator, he plans to gather passionate entrepreneurs to share meals, create strong bonds, and explore the power of collaboration and resource sharing.

Francisco Ramos-Meyer (Washington, DC) – The Mideast fellow saw firsthand how hard it was for Latino business owners and is passionate about preserving and enhancing the vibrancy of Columbia Heights in D.C. He is looking to forge a long-term partnership between young residents and local businesses, specifically to harness the former’s language and literacy skills to lift up business owners.

Sarah Spear (Portland, CT) – The New England fellow is creating the inclusive world she wants to live in with her kids, including her daughter who lives with a disability. She is building an online marketplace that enables people with disabilities and caregivers to discover, connect with, and review curated businesses through an accessibility lens.

This inaugural cohort, in addition to their designated geographic area, unique perspectives and areas of focus, are also representative of the growing demographic and cultural diversity of the United States. Racial groups represented include Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, White/Caucasian, Asian and Biracial. Five identify as women, two as men, and one as non-binary. Additionally, at least one cohort member identifies as neuroatypical.

“All these ecosystem builders bring a totally unique lens to the work they are doing, which is exactly what we wanted to facilitate with this fellowship,” Kevin Carter, Director of Business Development for EcoMap, said. “Something beautiful happens when you bring people together from all walks of life who are dedicated to making their home a better place through the power of entrepreneurship. I’m excited to start this journey with the inaugural PLACE Builder fellows.”

PLACE Builders will be an intensive, three-month fellowship program empowering changemakers to catalyze more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems.

“We were astounded to receive such robust nominations from innovative changemakers across the country; there was such strong interest that many have expressed their hope for future cohorts,” Fay Horwitt, President and CEO of Forward Cities, said. “It just goes to show the deep commitment and palpable energy around creating equitable ecosystems where diverse entrepreneurs can thrive. I can’t wait to see what we all create together. Ideally, this group represents the first of many to come.”

The cohort kickoff took place on April 6 and 7 at the Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship at Johns Hopkins University, formerly FastForward U, Hopkins’ innovation and coworking space in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore.

Fellows will have access to professional mentorship, a digital toolkit, community, funding, and a platform to tell the stories about the places they love to a broader audience.

By the end of the fellowship, each builder will also have identified, developed, and launched a pilot project to either address an ecosystem gap or scale something that’s working well.

About EcoMap Technologies
EcoMap Technologies’ leading ecosystem intelligence AI software transforms the way hyperlocal information is accessed. By centralizing key resources, EcoMap unites and strengthens networks and communities by connecting them. Using configurable, data-driven platforms, their mission is to develop infrastructure that powers ecosystems to create a future where knowledge and networks have no limits, and everyone has access to sustainable and equitable growth. To learn more, visit

About Forward Cities 

Forward Cities convenes entrepreneurial champions within and across communities, providing dynamic opportunities for shared learning through action-learning networks designed to build support ecosystems that catalyze equitable wealth-building opportunities. For more information, visit