In May of 2017, First Presbyterian Church (FPC) unveiled a financial incentive to entrepreneurs who were looking to transform and renew the Houston community. The church wanted to connect gospel-minded entrepreneurs and their ventures to the social, intellectual, and financial capital of First Presbyterian Church in order to make a transformative social impact on the city. Project Flourish was born as a shark-tank type model where $250,000 seed money was awarded to selected recipients.
Through Project Flourish, FPC wanted to provide mentorship and expertise, access to capital, and community. Participants underwent a challenging process designed to enhance their projects or ventures through hands-on coaching from a team of experienced mentors. Semi-finalists participated in workshops over a two-month acceleration process. Following t his, they pitched their venture, Shark Tank-style, to a panel of judges and winning pitches were awarded funding from a pool of $250,000. Award recipients received start-up funding, consulting, financial and business planning assistance, and partnership opportunities with First Presbyterian Church.
The why behind the project was simple; to follow the way of Jesus who is recreating the world. He commissions us to be people of new life, creating, restoring, pastoring, and ministering to all of creation. These grants were to encourage and develop social and cultural renewal within Houston first and foremost.
Presbyterian School Lower School Art Teacher, Terry Flores, was one of the lucky Project Flourisher recipients with her program, ArtPark Studios — a non-profit gospel-minded social art program designed to bring free summer arts programming to Houston’s under-served communities.
“A big part of why I wanted to create this program is because I noticed that the kids in my own neighborhood needed outreach. These kids weren’t being enriched in the summer time and were spending most of their days inside.” said Flores. “My co-founder and son Kevin, thought it would be a great idea to create a mobile art studio where we could provide summer enrichment classes to these kids with a primary focus on combating summer knowledge loss. We began our work with lower income HISD schools and SPARK Parks doing bigger community pieces in the beginning.” The Art Angels of ArtPark Studios would work with the students one-on-one in a quiet creative space, creating sanctuaries for students who needed them. “Then COVID hit. We didn’t want to be an extra layer of burden in the schools during the time so we decided to pivot and went on the renewal road. We filmed artists in their studios from here all the way up the East Coast from Cape Cod through the Appalachian Mountains talking about creativity, renewal, and how the creative spirit and your faith can see you through things. We are then taking that information and coupling it with an app that we have developed that we can then continue to reach these students, nursing homes, hospitals, and more.” Like with ArtPark Studios, Project Flourish looks to continue supporting gospel-minded entrepreneurial ideas to meet the challenges of the metropolitan Houston area.
In 2023, The Summer Institute at Presbyterian School, lead by PS Head of Middle School Brandon Walker and PS PE Teacher, Darnell Cleary, was awarded $60,000 to help encourage, equip and empower under-resourced middle school students to become diligent scholars and faithful leaders in their communities. The purpose of the Summer Institute is to leverage the resources of a flourishing and celebrated learning institution and make a positive impact on students trajectory through a hands-on, STEM focused inquiry based instructional model, exceptionally low student to teacher ratios, tutoring services, and a comprehensive wellness program that includes life and study skills instruction, mentorship opportunities and intentional character development.
Since its launch in 2018, Project Flourish has awarded $490,000 in seed money to a total of 11 start-ups. The funds have supported organizations addressing areas such as human trafficking, refugee aid, educational deficits, lack of access to the arts, food and housing insecurity, poverty, at-risk youth and other challenges of the Houston metropolitan area.