Programs

Wacif complements its advisory services with programs – including business centers and signature initiatives – to meet entrepreneurs where they are, provide customized support, and help them create opportunity and wealth in underserved communities.

Business Centers

Anacostia Arts Center

In December 2021, Wacif purchased the Anacostia Arts Center with the vision of creating the region’s largest hub for inclusive entrepreneurship and driving equity and opportunity in Historic Anacostia and throughout the greater Washington, D.C. region, while honoring the Arts Center’s legacy of supporting the local arts and culture. Visit http://www.anacostiaartscenter.com for more information.

Enterprising Women of Color DMV Business Center

Since its inception, Wacif has served women of color. In partnership with the US Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), in 2020 Wacif launched the Enterprising Women of Color DMV Business Center to foster and support a small business ecosystem for women of color in the National Capital Region. The Center’s robust business services—including financial capital, business advisory services, and networking support—are dedicated to supporting the growth and resiliency of our clients. Visit https://ewoc.wacif.org for more information.

Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership

The Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership (GWCEO) promotes and supports employee ownership throughout the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Maryland and Northern Virginia. As the central hub for employee ownership in the region, GWCEO helps business owners create a legacy of opportunity, improves health and household income outcomes associated with employee-owned structures, and builds community wealth. Visit https://gwceo.wacif.org.

Signature Initiatives

Ascend Capital Accelerator

In 2017, Wacif launched the Ascend Capital Accelerator as a solution to a gap in the small business ecosystem of programs available to assist non-tech, high-growth entrepreneurs seeking to grow their ventures. Our 2022 Thrive Cohort (applications closed March 18, 2022), Wacif’s fifth Ascend cohort, is focused on building the resilience of entrepreneurs and their ability to thrive in disruption. Please monitor this website for additional cohorts opening throughout the year.

Greater Washington, D.C. Entrepreneurs of Color Fund

In February 2019, Wacif joined community and financial leaders to launch the Greater Washington, D.C. Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, a $6.65 million investment that directly supports Wacif’s commitment to equity and will forge new pathways for entrepreneurship and wealth building in the region’s underserved communities. With partners including JPMorgan Chase, Capital Impact Partners, the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, the Latino Economic Development Center, and Harbor Bank, the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund will pair low-cost capital with business advisory services, including networking support and coaching. Begin our intake process or reach out to to learn more.

The Hive 2.0

In December 2021, The Hive 2.0 was acquired by Wacif, with the goal of continuing and accelerating The Hive 2.0’s mission and purpose within the community. We will continue to work with small businesses, community members, and partners to help local entrepreneurs scale their businesses, prosper in place, and generate community wealth in their communities long-term. Visit https://www.thedchive.com for more information.

Minnesota Avenue Main Street Initiative

In 2017, Wacif unveiled its designation by the Washington, D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) as the operator to launch the newest main street east of the Anacostia River. The new main street program is designated for the intersection of the Minnesota Avenue NE and Benning Road commercial corridor in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 7, also known as Downtown Ward 7. D.C. Main Streets, a program of DSLBD, builds on the Main Street Approach® that was developed by the National Main Street Center in 1980 to assist commercial revitalization efforts nationwide. For more information, please visit the Minnesota Avenue Main Street website.

Past Initiatives

11th Street Bridge Park Equitable Development Partnership

In September 2017, JPMorgan Chase & Co., announced the 11th Street Bridge Park as a national winner of its Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods (PRO Neighborhoods) annual competition. The winning collaborative, which is led by Building Bridges Across the River, and comprises a partnership between the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif), City First Enterprises, and the Skyland Workforce Center, will receive $5 million over the next three years to make strategic investments on goals outlined in the 11th Street Bridge Park’s Equitable Development Plan. The collaborative will work together to develop and preserve affordable housing near the 11th Street Bridge, provide capital to minority and locally-owned small businesses, and provide construction training to local residents for work on the 11th Street Bridge Park. Read more on the PRO Neighborhoods Partnership.

Ascend 2020 D.C. Partnership

As a part of its Small Business Forward Initiative JPMorgan Chase & Co. is investing $500,000 in Ascend 2020 D.C. – a new partnership between Project 500 and the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif), and Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC). Small Business Forward is JPMorgan Chase’s global initiative to accelerate the growth of small businesses by connecting women, minority, and veteran-owned firms to capital with highly targeted technical assistance and support networks. Read more on the Ascend 2020 D.C. Partnership.

Work for Yourself@50+ Initiative

AARP Foundation has awarded a generous grant to the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (Wacif) to launch the Work for Yourself@50+ initiative in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. This national grant initiative is designed to help vulnerable older adults assess opportunities for self-employment, build skills, and connect with resources that will enable them to generate income by working for themselves. Read more on the Work for Yourself@50+ Initiative.

Enterprise DC Entrepreneurship Initiative

In 2013, Wacif launched Enterprise DC, a 2-year program funded by the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) to provide training to educate and coach aspiring entrepreneurs, who were all unemployed or underemployed, to start their own microenterprises. Wacif led a collaborative of local organizations which included Byte Back, a local, nonprofit technology training organization, and the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which provided small business mentors for the program participants. The 9-week intensive business training included 50 participants, all unemployed or underemployed and people of color, and was followed by six months of coaching (technical assistance), access to a mentor, and follow-up sessions. Program participants received over 145 hours of mentoring from 26 mentors. Read more on the Enterprise DC Initiative.

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FastTracDC Entrepreneurship Initiative

In partnership with the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), Wacif was a lead local organization to launch the FastTrac D.C. program, an innovative citywide partnership to foster the growth and success of local entrepreneurs. FastTrac is a curriculum developed by the Kauffman Foundation that equips aspiring and existing entrepreneurs with the business skills and insights, tools, resources, and networks to start and grow successful businesses. The curriculum consisted of ten FastTrac New Venture modules which Wacif augmented by introducing participants to the local D.C. business community and offering additional optional sessions for participants who struggled with the financial modules in FastTrac. Wacif is a certified provider of the curriculum, and provided the FastTrac course to 41 aspiring entrepreneurs, who were all unemployed or underemployed and people of color, from across the District of Columbia.