Department of Small and Local Business Development

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Aspire to Entrepreneurship

DSLBD partners with local DC government agencies, non-profits, and Federal partners to operate programming to support justice-involved DC residents (reentering citizens or those on parole or probation) to open, own, and operate their own businesses.

Support for your business idea
If you are a justice-involved resident with a business idea or currently operating business, please contact us for direct services. Those who do not enter into the six-month Aspire program are still eligible for free and ongoing, one-on-one direct technical assistance. Please contact Virginia Marie Roure at [email protected]

Becoming a stakeholder
If you are a community volunteer or interested party or partner, please contact us to find out how to be involved in related trainings and meetings, connect with our partners, invest in or buy from Aspire graduates' businesses, learn more about the initiative, or become a business mentor. Please contact Kate Mereand at [email protected] You may also sign up for related events here: DSLBD Eventbrite.

Core Program Description
The core Aspire to Entrepreneurship program partners directly with the Department of Employment Services’ Project Empowerment. Accepted applicants enter a six-month business incubator program while receiving a Project Empowerment stipend. We also appreciate the ongoing collaboration and support of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, DC Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizen Affairs and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; our non-profit service provider Changing Perceptions and many other community stakeholders from across the District.

The Aspire to Entrepreneurship program has, from its inception in 2016, have been stakeholder driven. Partner and community stakeholders developed three central principles that drive the program implementation and design. Those principles are:

Meeting People Where They Are
2. Building a Community
3. Building Community Wealth

The program was piloted in 2016, and has been extended into a fifth cohort in 2019. We appreciate the interest and support of applicants, stakeholders, and partners.