Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.


Department of Small and Local Business Development

DC Agency Top Menu

-A +A
Bookmark and Share

DSLBD to Launch Funding Opportunity for Returning Citizens to Reach Their Entrepreneurial Dream

Friday, January 20, 2023


(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, January 20th, the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) announced the launch of WeAspire 2023: the core of the Aspire to Entrepreneurship program for District returning citizen-led businesses. Current District of Columbia residents who were previously incarcerated and/or justice-involved are eligible to apply. WeAspire empowers returning citizens to build and scale their businesses through cohort-based training and pitch competition. 


Aspire to Entrepreneurship started in 2016 at the request of Mayor Bowser as a pilot incubator program and has grown to be an annual program that continues to empower residents to pursue wealth-building through small business creation and growth while addressing the unique challenges returning citizens face with entrepreneurship. This is the eighth year that DSLBD has administered the program and the 3rd year of a cohort-based WeAspire training and pitch program. 


"Our response to adversity our residence face defines the character of our city" said DSLBD Director Kristi Whitfield. "As a result of recognizing the unique challenges returning citizens face when starting a business, WeAspire has become a national model for training and developing successful small business owners as a result."


This year, WeAspire will provide cohort-based training for 30 returning citizen entrepreneurs, including new businesses, aspiring entrepreneurs, and established business owners. The application period will close on February 28th, 2022. 


If you are a justice-involved resident with a business idea or currently operating a business, DSLBD hopes you will apply for this program and spread the word about the opportunity. Whether or not you participate in the WeAspire cohort, DSLBD offers Aspire to Entrepreneurship training, technical assistance, and other direct services. 


To learn more about the Aspire to Entrepreneurship program and the WeAspire 2023 cohort, visit