Wacif to Launch New Business Center to Support Enterprising Women of Color in the National Capital Region

New Business Center supported by competitive, national grant from the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) will provide capital and advisory services, and strengthen the ecosystem for region’s women entrepreneurs of color

Washington, D.C. (October 30, 2020) – In celebration of National Women’s Small Business Month, the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) today announced its plans to launch a new business center focused on women entrepreneurs of color. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), Wacif will launch the National Capital Region MBDA Business Center for Enterprising Women of Color (MBDA Business Center), with services to begin at the beginning of 2021. Wacif is one of five organizations across the country to be awarded this competitive, national grant of $1 million, and will join the MBDA’s national Enterprising Women of Color Initiative focused on assisting women entrepreneurs of color to build their businesses, secure contracts and capital, and increase partnership opportunities.

“This new partnership with the MBDA will expand and concentrate Wacif’s efforts to invest in women entrepreneurs of color,” said Wacif CEO Harold Pettigrew. “We are acutely aware of the structural inequalities faced by women entrepreneurs of color, and through the launch of this new business center we will create new business opportunities, establish new partnerships, and deploy greater capital resources to invest in their success.”

National Women’s Small Business Month marks the anniversary of H.R. 5050: the Women’s Business Ownership Act, signed in 1988, allowing women to independently sign their business loan applications and making it easier for women entrepreneurs to receive working capital, training, and assistance. Despite being a driving force in the regional economy, women entrepreneurs of color in the National Capital region, face significant, structural inequities to accessing capital and resources to grow their ventures. According to the American Express State of Women-Owned Business Report, the region’s women entrepreneurs are among the nation’s top job creators, ranking in the top 10 metropolitan areas nationwide for job creation. However, while African American women, for example, are the fastest growing population of new business owners, they are least likely to receive capital resources and other services to develop their individual entrepreneurial skills and business ventures. And, in D.C., male-owned businesses are worth three times that of female-owned, as minority/women entrepreneurs have fewer assets to collateralize, and when loans are approved, the amounts are lower and interest rates higher.

The MBDA Business Center will build on Wacif’s deep expertise and rich history of investing in women entrepreneurs of color, and provide a full suite of new business services including virtual and in-person (when safely permissible) one-on-one assistance, coaching, trainings and workshops, education and networking events, cohort-based learning and award winning Ascend Capital Accelerator programs, in addition to new business opportunities and capital access (grant and loan) programs for clients. The Center will serve Washington, D.C. and surrounding counties in Northern Virginia and Maryland.

This is one of the many reasons Wacif prioritizes women entrepreneurs of color as clients for technical assistance and lending. Access to safe, affordable capital and advisory services are concerns for all entrepreneurs but are particularly faced by women entrepreneurs of color. In 2019, 96% of Wacif’s lending went to entrepreneurs of color, 59% of the organization’s technical assistance clients were women entrepreneurs of color, and 57% of Ascend graduates identified as women of color. This timely partnership exemplifies Wacif’s comprehensive efforts in Greater Washington to provide clients with tailored advisory services and deploy over $10 million in capital through grant programs, debt relief, and loans by the end of 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 public health and economic crises. More recently, Wacif joined Morning Consult to launch the Small Business Resilience Fund, in addition to partnerships with the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to launch the DC Small Business Recovery Microgrant and DC Child Care Provider Relief Fund, the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development to launch the Minnesota Avenue Small Business Resilience Fund, and Capital Impact Partners to launch the DC Co-op Impact Grant.

Wacif is hiring an Enterprising Women of Color Program Director and Program Coordinator in preparation for the launch of the Center at the beginning of 2021. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.


About the Washington Area Community Investment Fund

The Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (Wacif) is one of the Washington, DC. metropolitan’s area’s leading Community Development Financial Institution’s (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. In the last five years, Wacif has deployed nearly $10 million in capital to underserved communities throughout the region. To learn more about Wacif’s mission, visit www.wacif.org.