City unveils new grant program for Ward 8 entrepreneurs

From HR Harris,
Especially for the AFRO

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

On August 15th, it was packed with young business owners looking for new venues to pursue their dreams in southeast Washington.

Hosted by the DC Community Development Corporation in partnership with District 8 Councilor Trayon White, the standing room only forum provided aspiring entrepreneurs with grants and loans for their new ventures. Funding will be distributed to launch projects ranging from $5000 to $20,000. The key to the new program, announced this week, is that the company or its owner must be in Station 8.

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

The opening and informational session was a wonderful snapshot of how Ward 8 has changed since the days when Marion Barry, Council Member and former DC Mayor, represented the close-knit community East of the River.

The announcement of concrete support for business owners in Ward 8 is the culmination of the dream that Barry and other Ward 8 executives fought for during their leadership years.

During the forum, staff members White and Kristi C. Whitfield, Director of Small and Local 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 of the need for the program. “This government is smart enough to know that to solve real problems, you have to put the decision in the hands of entrepreneurs.”

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

A room full of young business leaders like Erica “Go” Green and Cherylneshia Alexander came to the meeting hoping to find some vital seed funding.

“There are too many obstacles 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 what I can for these young ladies in the community; There are many anti-violence programs for boys, but what about the girls?”

Jamal Grantham, who owns the Great Clothing Line company, was encouraged by the crowds that poured into the room for the session.

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

Cherice Crawford, owner of Influencers Event Management and Business Development, loved the event. As a Ward 8 entrepreneur, Crawford’s goal is to transform the community from the ground up.

“We beautify homes from the outside and revitalize homes from the inside,” Crawford said. “If you are comfortable in your space, you will be a more productive person in society and will be guided out of the culture of violence and crime,” she continued.

Regenia Summers was 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” had finally come for Ward 8 entrepreneurs and creatives.

“This is 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. “We want people who are willing to take their destiny into their own hands and determine it.”

Brenda Jones, a veteran community leader from Ward 8, spoke to AFRO as she exited the event. “What I saw in that meeting is that you have to keep hope alive,” she said. “Our young people are out here; They want their businesses and they are entrepreneurs.”

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