On Monday, we invited some local supporters to our office - Impact Hub DC - for a Watch (& Work) Party as we awaited some good news. By Tuesday, we could hardly wait to share that we won a $50,000 challenge hosted by the US Small Business Administration (SBA). The challenge was to share how we could make entrepreneurship more accessible and promote job creation for communities often locked out of the traditional workforce. After 2 rounds of judging, our idea to start a business accelerator focused on returning citizens (the formerly incarcerated) was selected for the grand prize, along with 79 others nationwide.
We are excited to open one of Washington, DC's newest accelerators - Mission: LaunchPad. We will be the community that catapults people and ideas to higher heights. The SBA's official press release (here) lists us as Launch Pad. After discussing this expansion opportunity with key stakeholders, we have decided to bring the two names together. Mission: Launch is truly who we are and LaunchPad is the space we are building to drive job creation through small business development.
A business accelerator is different than an incubator or a co-working space. An accelerator quickly gets a person and their idea to market. This rapid pace is important because of the community we serve.
1-in-4 Americans has an arrest or conviction record. Millions of Americans are at-risk for workforce discrimination, which greatly impacts employment prospects and social outcomes for us all. We believe inclusive entrepreneurship means a viable path towards self-sufficiency.
Our current model of civic engagement through citywide events and civic technology to drive change aligns well with this moment of expansion.
The hackathons and demonstration days hosted under the Rebuilding Re-entry banner provide a unique opportunity to spot great ideas and talented leaders. The SBA's $50k will allow us to build a team as well as a fund to incubate and accelerate the next great prison or re-entry startup idea. This means prison re-entry will be easier to navigate for returning citizens, and ultimately less expensive for us all.
We hope you will share in our excitement about this next phase. In the coming weeks we will share our strategic next steps. If you are interested in staying informed about the accelerator please feel free to leave your information on this short early access form here. And, if you want to see the 2:00 minute video we quickly put together for the final round, click the link here.