(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the availability of $250,000 in grant funding to support the District’s Aspire to Entrepreneurship Program, which helps returning citizens and justice-involved residents gain the skills they need to start and operate their own District-based business. Mayor Bowser launched Aspire to Entrepreneurship in 2016 as a pilot incubator program and has expanded it into an annual grant program managed by the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).
“Aspire is the idea that anyone can become an entrepreneur, and through community support, mentoring, and training the District’s returning citizen community can access to the tools and resources they need to build a pathway to prosperity and the middle class,” said Mayor Bowser. “By bridging this gap, we are strengthening our communities and our economy while providing meaningful second chances to our justice-involved residents.”
Since its inception, Mayor Bowser has invested $1.5 million to support the Aspire to Entrepreneurship program which has had 60 residents benefit from intensive business training, urban agriculture training, marketing support, and more. Additionally, the program boasts a 0% recidivism rate.
“The Aspire program connects the District’s entrepreneurial spirit with our returning citizen community and empowers all participants to new heights in their positive next step,” said DSLBD Director Kristi Whitfield. “Mayor Bowser’s continual commitment to growing an entrepreneurial ecosystem among our returning citizen community has made a difference in so many District residents’ lives and DSLBD is honored to manage such an important and life-changing program.”
To further support the program, Mayor Bowser opened funding for the Fiscal Year 2020 WeAspire Returning Citizen Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Grant, which will deliver an additional $250,000 for District-based returning citizens who desire to start and grow a business. Grant funds will be used to grow and expand the mix of resources available to returning citizen business owners and aspiring owners within the District. For those interested in the WeAspire grant, visit the DSBLD website for more details.
The event was held at Fun It Up, a small business owned by returning citizen Paul Winestock, and featured Life In A Bottle owner and returning citizen Susie Sacre, an Aspire to Entrepreneurship graduate.