For new businesses, mentoring makes all the di erence. /Courtesy photo
For new businesses, mentoring makes all the difference. (Courtesy photo)

A lunchtime event on Wednesday, Dec. 5 will provide newcomers to D.C.’s ever-increasing cadre of entrepreneurs a golden opportunity to network with other small business owners.

However, the day could change the fortunes for three fledgling businesses forever after pitching they’ve pitched their business model and related ideas to a select group of experts during a competitive session sponsored by Life Asset.

The event takes place at the Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Road SE with pitches beginning at noon. Those who finish in the top three (first, second and third places) will receive an assortment of professional services volunteered by local businesses with combined values of $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

Even after the day has drawn to the close, Life Asset hosts weekly business orientation sessions on Thursdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., 2509 Good Hope Road SE.

Life Asset Fills Essential, Unmet Need

Life Asset, founded in 2011, has emerged from a collective of nonprofits in the Adams Morgan community: Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jobs, Christ House and several others. Each provides services for low-income populations – health care, housing, education, job placement and post- incarceration rehabilitation.

Still, as the founder, Markus Larsson says he realized, financial services weren’t part of the programs provided. He formed Life Asset to close the gap, filling an unmet need for microloans and financial training for low-income entrepreneurs in the greater Washington area.

Since its founding, Life Asset has developed and implemented a model for microlending that helps low-income individuals pull themselves out of poverty and become financially self-sufficient. Combining microloans (loans of less than $5,000) with comprehensive financial training and peer support, Life Asset has been able to provide their clients with the toolkit needed to transform business ideas into sustainable sources of income.

In 2017, Life Asset helped grow or launch 400 small businesses and has its sights particularly set on bringing their successful model to more men and women (who account for 80 percent of their clients) in Wards 7 and 8.

Overcoming Barriers to Success

According to the 2016 Pathways to Inclusion report, access to capital serves as the most frequently cited barrier to success for DC entrepreneurs. Many of Life Asset’s clients, unbanked or under-banked, don’t have or use a bank account and do not qualify for traditional loans. Their only recourse often comes from payday and online lenders whose exorbitant interest rates and fees make it extremely difficult for them to maintain a profitable business.

Two other caveats: the aggregate number of those needing services stands far greater than the number of loans offered to new business owners from community-based banks (estimated at around 60 loans per year according to Life Asset management). Further, most microlenders, in comparison to Life Asset, focus on loans of more than $5,000, for which many low-income entrepreneurs cannot qualify due to lack of collateral or a low credit score.

Larsson says he believes in the model used by Life Asset and believes in the people who come to him and his staff with fresh ideas and strong desire.

“At Life Asset, we firmly believe that we are not just providing a banking service; we are shaping lives,” he said. “The positive impact of our work leads to a greater sense of self-worth and dignity, a sense of belonging, a more positive outlook on life and hope for the future.”

“We are providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to tap into their inner energy, creativity and passion. The impact of our work is extended beyond our clients to their families and friends and the community at large. We have seen how entrepreneurs, despite years of surviving what seem like insurmountable pressures, regain hope and energy to pursue their dreams. And this transformative moment, more than any other, is what we at Life Asset live for and what our community desperately needs,” he added.

For more information, call 202-709-0652 or email Life Asset at

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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