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Aspire to Entrepreneurship

DSLBD partners with local DC government agencies, non-profits, and Federal partners to operate programming to support justice-involved DC residents (reentering citizens or those on parole or probation) to open, own, and operate their own businesses. 

Support for your business idea.
If you are a justice-involved resident with a business idea or currently operating business, please contact us for direct services.  Those who do not enter into the six-month Aspire program are still eligible for free and ongoing, one-on-one direct technical assistance. Please contact Derrick Colbert at

Becoming a stakeholder. 
If you are a community volunteer or interested party or partner, please contact us to find out how to be involved in monthly stakeholder meetings, connect with our partners, invest in or buy from Aspire graduates' businesses, learn more about the initiative, or become a business mentor. Please contact Kate Mereand at You may also sign up to be on the stakeholder listserv and receive regular information about meetings here

Core Program Description
The core Aspire to Entrepreneurship program partners directly with the Department of Employment Services’ Project Empowerment. Accepted applicants enter a six-month business incubator program while receiving a Project Empowerment stipend. Eligible enrollees may also be able to participate in a matched-saving account program through the Capital Area Asset Builders. We also appreciate the ongoing collaboration and support of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, DC Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizen Affairs and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; our non-profit service provider Changing Perceptions and many other community stakeholders from across the District. 

The Aspire to Entrepreneurship program has, from its inception in 2016, have been stakeholder driven. Partner and community stakeholders developed three central principles that drive the program implementation and design. Those principles are:

  1. Meeting People Where They Are
  2. Building a Community
  3. Building Community Wealth

The program was piloted in 2016, and has been extended into 2017 with three overlapping cohorts. We appreciate the interest and support of applicants, stakeholders, and partners.

Service Contact: Kate Mereand

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: (202) 727-3900