Ascend Capital Accelerator Thrive Cohort

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Thrive Despite Disruption

Applications have closed

Accelerate your business alongside other entrepreneurs of color.

Navigating the chaos of COVID-19, and the ongoing recovery, as an entrepreneur of color is hard. You face systemic challenges, from raising capital to external biases affecting day-to-day operations, all while crossing off the "typical" line items to grow your enterprise. The idea of navigating, and even thriving, may seem like an oxymoron, but we know it is possible.

We are excited to launch the next iteration of our award-winning Ascend Capital Accelerator program, the 2022 Thrive Cohort. Dedicated to serving entrepreneurs of color through a holistic, multi-week program, our hands-on approach consists of interactive workshops, one-on-one consultations with world class experts, and individualized support. Our goal is to support the growth and long-term success of entrepreneurs of color in the Greater Washington, D.C. region, and surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia.

This year’s Ascend Capital Accelerator: Thrive Cohort is designed to help entrepreneurs of color navigate an emerging marketplace shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and build resilient businesses that will withstand disruptions now and in the future. Together, we will take a much-needed moment to pause and reflect on our experiences as entrepreneurs to date, while planning for what comes next. Ascend Thrive will include up to fifteen (15) local small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color from the Greater Washington, D.C. region.

The focus areas of Ascend Thrive include:

  • Accessing affordable loan capital
  • Marketing and customer relationship building
  • Strengthening your resilient mindset
  • Financial and management training
  • Risk mitigation
  • Business performance
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Information Session

Watch the information session that took place on March 10th, 2022 to help prepare for future applications. Watch the recording on YouTube.

Thrive Cohort 2022

Members can Expect

  • Customized advisory services tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs of colors in our region during the pandemic and recovery period
  • Connection with a community of entrepreneurs facing a similar set of challenges
  • Weekly classes over the course of 9 weeks (this includes the final capstone presentation and the preparatory time for it)
  • Preparation for the possibility of Wacif grant and debt capital
    Individualized, vetted growth plan and opportunity to work with Wacif and small business advisors
  • Optional expert “open hours” based on available resources that align with participants’ needs (e.g., one-on-one meetings with bankers, legal experts, branding experts, etc.)
  • Networking opportunities with other cohort members and alumni of past Ascend Accelerators
  • Final capstone presentation
  • 12-months of continued support and engagement opportunities
  • Pre-program launch event and graduation celebration

Members are Expected To

  • Commit up to 10 hours per week during the cohort period for workshops, assignments, out of class reading, and technical assistance meetings
  • Attend all sessions and complete all required assignments
  • Create a 12-month revenue and sales growth plan
  • Track monthly sales and revenue goals
  • Continue engagement with advisors, strategic partners, and cohort participants post-training sessions over a 10-month period
  • Attend networking activities outside of classroom sessions
Ascend Thrive Square Photos
Ascend Thrive Square Photos
Ascend Thrive Square Photos

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligible applicants must meet the following criteria: (1) Business must have been in operation for at least two years. Businesses in operation for less than two years will be considered on a case-by-case basis. (2) Businesses must be registered and in good standing to operate a business. (3) Must have at least $50,000 in annual sales.

The number of businesses participating in this Ascend cohort will depend on applicant volume and suitability. To ensure the maximum value for participants and to facilitate community building, the cohort size will not exceed 15 businesses.

Yes, the Thrive Cohort is specifically designed to support entrepreneurs of color.

The program is best suited for entrepreneurs whose businesses have a revenue-generating track record, with a minimum annual revenue of $50,000. Entrepreneurs whose businesses do not fit these parameters may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Applicants will also be evaluated on their sales growth trends and existing pipeline of projects and contracts.

We want to ensure participants can take advantage of all the workshops and learning opportunities offered throughout the program. While we expect participants may not be able to attend every workshop and activity due to scheduling, work, and life occurrences, wherever possible, absences are limited to one (1) session. If you are likely to be absent for more than one session, please consider applying at a time better suited to your schedule.

Currently, some Ascend Thrive workshops and social events are expected to be in-person. However, as part of the application, Wacif will survey participants' level of comfort with in-person activity and participant feedback will help guide Wacif's decision-making. Throughout the cohort, Wacif will closely follow any updated COVID-19 related guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the District of Columbia Department of Health.

The principal office of the business must be in Washington, D.C., Prince George's County (MD), Montgomery County (MD), Howard County (MD), Arlington County (VA), or Alexandria (VA).

No, the Ascend Capital Accelerator is not solely for businesses interested or actively engaged in government procurement. The Ascend Capital Accelerator enables local entrepreneurs to maximize their ability to grow and access and obtain capital.

Applicants accepted into the program will be informed no later than April 22nd.

Applicants will be reviewed holistically based on (1) the business; (2) the business' management; (3) financial position; (4) growth plans; (5) attainment of (or ability to attain) local and/or federal certification; (6) expressed small business and/or market challenges; and (7) ability to increase revenue and profitability. Significant attention will be given to the applicant's desire to participate in the Accelerator's goals during the program and post-completion. Our team will also assess the scalability of the prospective company. The key criteria determining scalability is the ability of the business to increase revenue anywhere from 10 to 40 percent within three years. A strong preference will be given to businesses that are committed to creating living wage jobs and employment opportunities for residents of the D.C.-region.