The City unveils a new grant program for entrepreneurs in Ward 8

By H R. Harris,
Special at AFRO

The former chapel of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is now the RISE demonstration center.

On August 15, it was hosted by young business owners looking for new places to fuel their dreams in Southeast Washington.

The stand-up forum was hosted by the DC Community Development Corporation in conjunction with District 8 Council Member Trayon White, providing aspiring entrepreneurs with grants and loans for their respective new businesses. Funding being distributed to start projects ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Key to the new program announced this week is that the business or its owner must be in Ward 8.

“We’ve been looking for three or four years to find a way to grow local business in our community,” White (D-Ward 8) said as he greeted the room full of hopefuls to hear details of the program.

The launch and briefing was a wonderful insight into how Ward 8 has transformed since the days when DC council member and former mayor Marion Barry represented the tight-knit community east of River.

Announcing tangible support for business owners in Ward 8 is the culmination of the dream that Barry and other Ward 8 leaders fought for during their years in office.

During the forum, staff at White and Kristi C. Whitfield, director of the Department of Local Small Business Development, were peppered with questions as they explained the program and eligibility.

“I ran my business with friends, family, and credit cards,” Whitfield explained when explaining the need for the program. “This government is smart enough to know that to solve the real problems, you have to put the decision in the hands of entrepreneurs.”

In addition to providing seed capital to entrepreneurs in Ward 8, the effort will launch the East of the River Career Pathways Accelerator program to mentor teens in high-growth sectors such as construction, IT and entrepreneurship. .

A room full of young business leaders, like Erica “Go” Green and Cherylneshia Alexander, came to the meeting in hopes of securing much-needed seed funding.

“There are too many hurdles in this program, but I’m not a quitter,” Alexander said, thinking of the advice she gives her students during each mentoring session.

“I will do everything I can for these young women in the community; there are many anti-violence programs for boys, but what about girls?

Jamal Grantham, owner of Great Clothing Line, was encouraged by the number of people who gathered in the room for the session.

“My motto is to be great today, all day, every day. That kind of participation is huge.

Cherice Crawford, owner of Influencers Event Management and Business Development, was excited about the event. As an entrepreneur in Ward 8, Crawford’s goal is to bring change to the community from the ground up.

“We beautify homes on the outside and revitalize homes on the inside,” Crawford said. “If you feel good about your space, you will be a more productive person in society and will be redirected out of the culture of violence and crime,” she continued.

Regenia Summers came hoping for an opportunity for her nonprofit organization. She teaches entrepreneurship, a production company and a clothing line. After the session, Summers expressed hope that perhaps the “time” for entrepreneurs and creatives in District 8 had finally come.

“It’s so necessary; it’s what we’ve needed for generations,” Summers said.

“I’m encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit I see in this room,” White said after the event ended. “We want people who are ready to own and chart their destiny.”

Brenda Jones, a veteran community leader from Ward 8, spoke to AFRO as she left the event. “What I saw from this meeting was to keep hope alive,” she said. “Our young people are here; they want their businesses and are entrepreneurs.

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