D.C. kicked off Small Business Week by touting its first round of investments into resident-owned businesses that typically struggle to find the capital needed to grow in ways that match the dreams of their owners.
The Inclusive Innovation Equity Impact Fund is a pool of grant money for businesses whose majority owners are “economically disadvantaged or have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the purpose of the fund is to “bet on the little guy.”
On Monday, the mayor stood in front of Manifest, a barber shop on Florida Avenue just west of U Street Northwest, to celebrate the allocation of $1.25 million to 16 small businesses in the District.
“We designed the fund to address gaps in capital for those that would otherwise not receive early stage funding through conventional avenues,” Bowser said. “At the end of the day, this fund is about giving D.C. residents their fair shot at opening a business in our city.”
The 16 businesses selected for grants worth between $30,000 and $150,000 are:
- Homemade in DC, Manifest (Ward 1).
- Bonnti (Ward 2).
- Federal Contractors, Zimbali Networks (Ward 4).
- et Oliva, Foodhini, Green Panther Chef, Princess Mhoon Dance Institute (Ward 5).
- New Era Ventures (Ward 6).
- Tsunami Hair Studio, MW Consulting, Deon Samad (Ward 7).
- CitiLife Development, Halema, Mortell Industries (Ward 8).
Applications opened Monday for D.C. businesses in all eight wards to apply for the second round of grant money, also worth $1.25 million.
“The challenges and the gaps we are aware of in capital are acutely affecting D.C.,” said Art Stevens, a senior partner with 1863 Ventures. The investment group works with minority businesses and has partnered with D.C. to oversee the funding program.
“This is a special place, and we have the power to change that,” Stevens said.
“When you go out to seek investment, people sometimes say, ‘Well, who’s investing with you?’” noted John Falciccio, D.C.’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development. “Now you can say ‘Mayor Bowser and the City of Washington, D.C.’”
During the press conference, Sybongile Cook, the director of business development and strategy in the District’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, counted up all the different grant opportunities that exist for small businesses trying to get off the ground, and urged businesses to take advantage of what D.C. has to offer.
“This is the backbone of our local economy,” said Cook.