Tendani Mpulubusi is a director of the DC Community Development Consortium. (Courtesy of DCCDC.org)
Tendani Mpulubusi is a director of the DC Community Development Consortium. (Courtesy of DCCDC.org)

A new source of funding for entrepreneurs who have businesses in Ward 8 and those who have firms or wish to go into business who reside in the ward has taken shape.

On Aug. 15, leaders of the DC Community Development Consortium (DCCDC) announced the formation of the Ward 8 Community Investment Fund (W8CIF) before a gathering of 150 people at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center on the St. Elizabeths East campus in Southeast Washington. The W8CIF serves as a grant-secured loan products program developed in partnership with government officials, agency leaders and the private sector designed to help residents and businesses in Ward 8.

“We want to close the racial wealth gap in this city,” said Tendani Mpulubusi, a director of the DCCDC. “The white population’s median household income is 81 times more than the Black population’s median household income in this city. If we attack the racial wealth gap, we can deal with other problems also. This program will help businesses and people located in Ward 8 become more bankable.”

Andrece Bassett, the program director for W8CIF, explained that the grant-secured loan program awards grant funds to recipients to use as collateral to secure a credit-building loan of 6% annual percentage rate and flexible terms to help Ward 8 business owners and residents start or grow their firms. Bassett said once the loan becomes paid, the grant funds are fully available so that the recipient can continue to finance their operations.

The specifics of the plan consist of the Explorer, Start-Up and In-Business tiers. The Explorer tier, designed for people contemplating opening a business, has a $5,000 award with $2,500 as a grant and $2,500 as a loan. The Start-Up tier, for people who are in the early stages of operating their establishments, offers a $10,000 award with $5,000 as a grant and $5,000 as a loan. The In-Business tier, for experienced entrepreneurs, has a $20,000 award that consist of $10,000 as a grant and $10,000 as a loan.

There will be 10 recipients in each tier. The application, found on DCCDC’s website, must be completed and submitted by Sept. 7. The recipients will receive notification on Sept. 16. A W8CIF award session will take place during the week of Sept. 19 to sign the grant agreement issued by the DCCDC and the matching loan deal issued by Life Asset, a nonprofit organization that offers microloans, training and support for entrepreneurs in the Washington area.

Other details include the funds being available to entrepreneurs first as a loan and when that becomes paid in full, the grants are available. If a recipient misses a loan payment—agreed to either in 12, 24 or 36 monthly installments—the sum will be deducted from the grant. No portion of the grant must be repaid. Additionally, recipients are mandated to return a survey detailing financial activities related to the usage of funds and any other economic impacts by Oct. 23.

Bassett offered a tip to prospective applicants.

“The better you write your proposal, the better your chances of being funded,” she said.

Bassett also made it clear that the W8CIF program served for-profit businesses and not nonprofits.

D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) spoke in full support of W8CIF, saying “we set this up as a way to empower local minority businesses here in Ward 8.”

“We have so many people in the ward who have great ideas and great business acumen but lack capital,” he said. “This is a new effort in the ward and the beginning of a larger vision to own things in our own community.”

Darrell Gaston, the owner and chef at Kitchen Savages, set to open a location in Historic Anacostia in September, said he likes the W8CIF and will likely put in an application.

“This is an amazing idea,” he said. “I support public-private partnership dollars to help Black businesses break barriers when it comes to the banking system which hasn’t been friendly to us.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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