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Mayor Bowser Opens Applications for Aspire Incubator Program and Dream Grants for Local Businesses

Friday, January 26, 2024

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) are encouraging DC business owners to apply for two programs designed to support local entrepreneurs and their businesses: the Aspire Incubator Program and the Dream Grant Pitch Program. Applications for both programs open today, January 26, and run through Friday, March 1.
“We want entrepreneurs to thrive here, create jobs here, and provide services here because when local businesses win, our city wins,” said Mayor Bowser. “DC is a fantastic place to do business, and we want to make starting and growing a business more accessible to more people; that’s what these grants help us do.”
Managed by DSLBD, the 2024 Aspire Incubator and Dream Grant Programs are part of the Bowser Administration’s continued investment in and support of local businesses. Through the Aspire Incubator Program, which has awarded approximately $750,000 over the past three years, entrepreneurs have access to a comprehensive range of resources, including mentorship, guidance, and educational training to help turn their business ideas into reality. The Dream Grant Pitch Program provides financial and technical assistance to entrepreneurs from Wards 7 and 8 and provides a platform for them to develop the skills needed to run a successful business; over the past three years, local entrepreneurs have received approximately $1.5 million in Dream grants.
“We believe that by fostering economic growth, we are not just cultivating businesses but building a resilient community where the dreams of entrepreneurs can truly flourish,” said Rosemary Suggs Evans, Interim DSLBD Director. “We know that it's about creating a thriving community where entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams with confidence and resilience.”
Aspire Incubator Program Overview:
The 2024 Aspire Incubator Program will support 20 DC residents who are returning citizens or justice-impacted individuals looking to start or grow a business.
Participants in the Aspire Incubator Program will benefit from a community of support, and up to $5,000 in stipends for successfully completing various business development milestones, covering planning, regulatory compliance, finance, and public speaking.
Dream Pitch Grant Program Overview:
DSLBD Dream Pitch Cohort Program provides entrepreneurs from Wards 7 and 8 with a unique opportunity to bring their business ideas to life, advocate for their business vision, and hone the skills needed to run a successful business.
At the heart of the program is the Dream Pitch Competition, offering participants a platform to present their businesses to a panel of judges. The competition includes pitch awards of up to $7,500. The program spans seven years and focuses on business pitching, accounting and bookkeeping, marketing and branding, and mentorship opportunities.
Microbusinesses and entrepreneurs must be DC residents operating or intending to start a DC-based business to be eligible for the Aspire Incubator or the Dream Pitch programs. The application deadline for both the Dream and Aspire programs is Friday, March 1 at 2 pm.
For more information about both programs and the application process, please visit the DSLBD website or contact [email protected].

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