Washington, D.C. (March 11, 2021) – The Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) today announced the official launch of the Enterprising Women of Color District, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) Business Center (Center), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The Center builds on Wacif’s three decades of experience investing in women of color business owners, with access to capital, technical assistance, and partnership opportunities. Led by Program Director Messay Derebe and Program Coordinator Kennedie Toney, the Center will serve Washington, D.C. and surrounding counties in Northern Virginia and Maryland.
“Women entrepreneurs of color are the backbone of our communities and economy, and this partnership is a testament to the importance of their contribution,” said Wacif CEO Harold Pettigrew. “Wacif has always and will continue to stand by women entrepreneurs of color and be committed to erasing disparities in access to funding and opportunities.”
Women entrepreneurs of color are a driving force of the national economy. In 2019, enterprising women of color created over 1600 business per day – nearly 90% of all new women-owned businesses, according to the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
With this catalytic progress is a stark reality: systemic inequities such as racial injustice and the gender pay gap hinder women of color from accessing the capital needed to grow and sustain a business. The pandemic and economic crises have disproportionately impacted women and women of color-owned businesses, with “2.2 million fewer women in the workforce compared to January 2020” and the recession nearly shuttering “female-dominated industries like hospitality, service, retail, childcare, education and the public sector,” according to Forbes.
“In the face of adversity, women of color entrepreneurs continue to work against systemic barriers to spearhead initiatives and create opportunity for themselves and their communities,” said Messay Derebe, the new Program Director for the Enterprising Women of Color DMV Business Center. “The Enterprising Women of Color DMV Business Center will provide support to this community to ensure economic justice and equity as these women rebuild and recover.”
The Center will empower and invest in women entrepreneurs of color facing these challenges daily. By providing access to affordable capital and funding opportunities, a full suite of business services, advisory services, programming, cohort-based learning, and award–winning Ascend Capital Accelerator programs, the Center will further advance economic gains for historically underserved communities.
These disparities are why Wacif prioritizes women entrepreneurs of color as clients for technical assistance and lending. In 2020, Wacif deployed over $11 million in capital through grants, debt relief, and loans to small business owners undergoing recovery. 73% of Wacif’s lending went to women, 78% of the organization’s technical assistance clients were entrepreneurs of color, and 57% of Ascend Capital Accelerator graduates identified as women of color.
To sign up for programming and learn more about the Center, visit the website here: ewoc.wacif.org
About the Washington Area Community Investment Fund
The Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (Wacif) is one of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan’s area’s leading Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) focused on small business development. Wacif’s mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities in the Washington, D.C. area by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low-and-moderate-income entrepreneurs. To learn more about Wacif’s mission, visit www.wacif.org.
About the Enterprising Women of Color DMV Business Center
The Enterprising Women of Color DMV Business Center (Center) fosters and supports 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 women of color entrepreneurs. This Center is powered by the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif), which has served women entrepreneurs of color since 1987, and is made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).