Department of Small and Local Business Development

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WeAspire 2021

In 2021, DSLBD will provide a cohort-based training for 40 returning citizen entrepreneurs, including 15 new businesses or aspiring entrepreneurs and 25 established businesses. See the Official Rules attached at the bottom of this page. 

  • New businesses will go through 12 weeks of interactive training to help you flesh out your business idea and build the necessary skills to succeed as an entrepreneur.  
  • Existing businesses will join for the last 6 weeks of the training, focused on financing a business, public speaking, community engagement and social media, and making your business pitch.  
  • Every participant will be prepared to take the next step in their business! 

Participants who complete the training will be eligible for Aspire Pitch 2021 -- 2 Pitch Nights in August for the public to hear about these businesses and for entrepreneurs to get essential feedback from judges, resource partners, and the community. Public feedback will let residents have their voices heard about what businesses they most want in their community and how they’re ready to support them. Businesses will get input and resources from enthusiastic judges. DSLBD will award $2,000 to $10,000 prizes for Aspire participants to grow their business.  


Application for WeAspire 2021 

Eligible applicants are District residents who are returning citizens and who are committed to attending all sessions of the Aspire cohort. We do require proof of residency, but DSLBD staff will support applicants upon request with additional resources to identify or obtain required documentation. Email [email protected] if you have any questions about demonstrating residency. 

Applications are now being accepted and will be accepted through April 15, 2021 at 2:00 pm. Applications submitted before April 2, 2021 at 2:00 pm will receive an initial review to make sure all necessary materials have been submitted. Detailed rules of application are attached below. 

Applications do require you to share your motivation for this program and for launching your business. You are welcome to submit that in a written form or in audio or video upload. The application also requires a letter, video or audio recording from a friend or family member in support of you and your business idea, plus vouching for your own commitment. 




Learning About WeAspire 2021 

DSLBD will be hosting a series of events throughout March and April to discuss the WeAspire 2021 program. Overviews of the program and the application will take place on several dates in March and early April.  

You can watch past events, find upcoming event timing, and register on DSLBD’s Eventbrite. Whether or not you can attend, you can sign up for a ticket to get recordings after the event.