Diversity & Inclusion
Accelerators / DEI / Founders

Meet the first class of Greater Washington Partnership’s new accelerator

From Richmond to Baltimore, 16 company founders and owners were selected for the partnership's 1863 Ventures-supported cohort to learn how to pitch their businesses.

Melissa Bradley speaks to accelerator selectees at the Next Level launch. (Courtesy photo)

Following a huge investment to support underrepresented founders in 2022, the Greater Washington Partnership just launched its first accelerator cohort.

The Greater Washington Partnership and 1863 Ventures teamed up to launch Next Level: Elevating Diverse Entrepreneurs, a business accelerator pilot funded by the Truist Foundation. With the accelerator, the partnership wants to offer founders of color the opportunity for coaching and business assistance, with the goal of teaching them how to acquire, fulfill and retain contracts for the region’s buyers.

For this accelerator, 16 business owners were chosen from between Richmond, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. During the program, they’ll have access to training, coaching and tools on presenting their businesses for procurement opportunities and raising capital, as well as networking with partnership companies. Following program completion, the partnership organizers said, the founders will be ready to pitch their services to both companies and investors. The leadership did not specify if the founders would receive any funding directly through the program and did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Kathy Hollinger, Greater Washington Partnership CEO, said in an announcement that although diverse-owned businesses drive economic growth, various disparities in both ownership and survival of these businesses still remain.

“While Black residents make up nearly 27% of the region’s population, the number of Black small business owners is only 5%,” Hollinger said. “By providing more opportunities for Black, Brown and women entrepreneurs to connect and network with large-scale companies, this new collaboration with Truist Foundation and 1863 Ventures will help diverse businesses gain an equitable opportunity to acquire contracts and sustain their businesses.”

This accelerator follows a $4.7 billion, five-year commitment that partnership orgs made in 2022 to support businesses from underrepresented founders. That agreement called for investment in supplier diversity, access to capital and racial equity programs.

Despite investments like this, numbers still say that opportunities are not equal for founders of color. The Federal Small Business Credit Survey said that 86% of Black-owned and 85% of Latinx-owned small businesses declined in sales in 2020, compared to 79% of white-owned businesses. According to 1863 Ventures, it costs founders of color $250,000 more to found a startup, as well.

“The collaboration between 1863, Greater Washington Partnership and Truist Foundation will equip diverse entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to acquire and retain contracts for the region’s largest and most competitive buyers,” said Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures. “We look forward to welcoming the inaugural cohort of entrepreneurs who will spend the next several months learning and applying concepts to accelerate their business growth, access capital and grow their networks.”

Here are the 16 entrepreneurs making up the inaugural class:

  • Jamyla Bennu, Oyin Handmade
  • Khadija Dawn Carryl, Henna Sooq
  • Angela Chester-Johnson, Plum Good
  • Jennifer Dunn, Bunifu Learning
  • Matt Evans, Code Super Powers
  • Kamel Greene, Poly Platform
  • Patricia Griffith, Experiences On Demand
  • Chibueze Ihenacho, ARMR Systems
  • Lamont Kenner, Paragon Educational Services
  • Pamela Konde, Mac’s Tire Service
  • Anna Peoples, Peoples Pharmacy
  • Venessa Perry, Health Resources Solutions
  • Mali Phonpadith, SOAR Community Network
  • Thomas Sanchez, Social Driver
  • Amanda Stephenson, The Fresh Food Factory
  • Cherelle Swain, Terra Rossa
Companies: 1863 Ventures
Series: DEI Progress Month 2023
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