Local Business

City to Invest Millions in Underserved Entrepreneurs

Back for the third year, D.C.’s tech sector will engage in a showcase of innovative ideas to promote inclusivity and help local entrepreneurs who face disproportionate barriers to accessing capital.

On Thursday, May 4, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development kicked off “innoMAYtion,” a monthlong initiative that features goals for businessmen and women to promote inclusivity in the District.

“As we continue the work of spreading inclusive prosperity and ensuring more residents benefit from DC’s growth, innoMAYtion is an opportunity to showcase the people and ideas that make Washington, D.C., the capital of inclusive innovation,” Bowser said. “I continue to be inspired by D.C. residents and businesses whose ideas, investments, and programs are improving our city and giving more Washingtonians an opportunity to participate in our growing tech and innovation economy.”

As part of innoMAYtion, Bowser announced the new DC Inclusive Innovation Program, which will invest millions in capital over the coming year with a focus on supporting underserved entrepreneurs.

The goals of the program are to support entrepreneurs and to grow the private sector economy by spurring business activity in the six industry areas including: impact economy, smart cities and civic solutions, professional services innovation, hospitality innovation, data science and management, and security technology as identified in D.C.’s new economic strategy.

“I am proud to see how innoMAYtion continues to get bigger and better every year,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian T. Kenner.

“The growth of this initiative is a testament to our rapidly expanding and diverse innovation ecosystem that continues to push boundaries every day. Their work has put the District on the map as a place where great ideas can flourish and inclusive innovation is supported.”

At the kickoff, Bowser also announced the D.C. government’s new data policy — one of the most progressive and comprehensive in the nation, according to the mayor. Under the new policy, District agency data will be open to the public by default to the fullest extent consistent with safety, privacy and security.

“The greatest value from the District’s investment in data can only be realized when the data is freely shared,” said D.C. Chief Technology Officer Archana Vemulapalli. “This policy reflects our D.C. values, to be good stewards of information, promote honesty, and continuously collaborate with our civic community.”

Since launching innoMAYtion in 2015, the District has opened In3, the first inclusive incubator in the nation aimed at supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs; unveiled Pathways to Inclusion, a major report that will guide D.C. to become the most inclusive city for entrepreneurs in the country; and launched Project 500, a program that will help 500 disadvantaged small businesses in the District grow in revenue and size over the next three years.

In its first year, Project 500 enrolled 360 businesses, 60 percent from Wards 7 and 8, focused in three primary sectors: technology and technology enabled companies, real estate and construction, and professional services.

Approximately 39 percent of the businesses enrolled in Project 500 have noted increased profitability, 12 percent made new hires, and over $160,000 in new capital has been raised.

“Accessing capital is the single most significant challenge businesses face,” said Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney R. Snowden. “This challenge is more deeply felt by businesses in overlooked and underserved communities which is why we are focused on using the resources within government to expand access to low-cost capital for resident entrepreneurs.

“By giving more residents the tools they need to operate on a level playing field, we will truly be able to spread inclusive prosperity and create more opportunities for residents and businesses in overlooked and underserved communities,” Snowden said.

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com. E-mail: Swright@washingtoninformer.com Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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