Mission: Launch Participates in Social Innovation Festival 2015


Mission: Launch is excited to be associated with this year’s Social Innovation Festival 2015 (SIF) presented by DC+Acumen, Hatch International and Social Solutions; the associated events will be held at various venues in Washington, DC from September 9-13. The theme of SIF is Creating Social Innovation Through Tech & Entrepreneurship.

On Saturday, September 12, 2015, Teresa Hodge, Mission: Launch Co-Founder and Director of Strategy & Innovation, will be a participating panelist in the "Tech, Hip-Hop and The New Jim Crow" discussion; this panel will include: local changemakers, nationally renowned thought leaders and spoken word/Hip-Hop artists providing their artistic expression. The discussion will focus on using technology and hip-hop as angles to combat many of the social injustices resulting from America’s longtime obsession with mass incarceration.

Teresa Y. Hodge, a passionate advocate for people with criminal connections, is committed to reducing the lasting harm caused by prison. It was a 70-month federal prison sentence for a white-collar, non-violent, first-time offense that introduced her first-hand to the justice system and mass incarceration in America.

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What The SBA Win Means

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.  

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Introducing: "Mission: LaunchPad" - Business Accelerator for Returning Citizens

This week President Obama hosted the first ever White House Demo Day. The long awaited event, which convened on the President’s birthday, was centered on the promotion and celebration of inclusive entrepreneurship. This focus is vital when you consider that women lead only 3% of venture capital backed startups – a startling statistic. Even more pathetic is that the percentage drops 2 points when you are looking at African Americans and Hispanics – 1% representation within venture capital backed startups.

During White House Demo Day, Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, announced the winners of their 2015 Growth Accelerator Fund. We are proud to announce that Mission: Launch is one of the 80 recipients of a $50,000 cash prize. This enables us to introduce our business incubator, Mission: LaunchPad, for returning citizens and their family members. This is our angle on inclusive entrepreneurship. 


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Accelerating Opportunities

Mission: Launch believes in creating pathways for returning citizens to gain self-sufficiency because 1-in-4 Americans has an arrest or conviction record. This statistic means millions are at risk for workforce discrimination and must fight for the right to work. Some of the women and men we engage with in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore, MD region often share their experiences.

We hear stories of individuals:

  • Who have applied for hundreds of jobs but never receive a call-back to interview;
  • Offered a job opportunity yet are later informed that something in their background check no longer qualifies them; and,
  • Hired - eager to show up daily - only to be let go months (sometimes years) later due to a policy or leadership change.

In these cases it becomes critical to identify constructive, legal and creative means towards earning a supplementary or sustainable wage. To this end, Mission: Launch promotes and encourages entrepreneurship for those locked out of the traditional workforce. Entrepreneurship, for many, feels out of reach. It is our belief that the definition can and should be expanded so that women and men can get back on their feet - and stay there. As an organization we are entrepreneurial; we know it takes a great deal of focus, determination, counseling and resources to grow a successful business.

To help us identify the right individuals and support them in becoming successful entrepreneurs we establish strategic partnerships. Our partners help us offer entrepreneurship training, as well as resources to incubate/accelerate startups formed by the formerly incarcerated. This year we are excited to work with the US Small Business Administration and have submitted our proposal to form (what we believe is) the first ever business accelerator for returning citizens!

You can view our pitch video here.

Do you know of a returning citizen entrepreneur? Are you interested in forming a startup even though you have a conviction record? E-mail us: [email protected] 

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August 8, 2015, from 10 AM – 5:30 PM, the 3rd Annual Tech Lady Hackathon and Training Day will convene at Impact Hub DC.

This exciting one day Hackathon will bring together over 150 women from DC, Maryland and Virginia. The event will include the following: training sessions, workshops and hacking. Some of the training sessions will cover the following topics: Intro to Coding, Intro to A/B Testing, Data Visualization, Common Tech Jargon Explained (really useful information for newbies) and How to Build Your Portfolio and Get a Job.

At civic hackathons, projects can be service related, focusing on either improving government services or providing efficient/effective and necessary services to the public; other projects may have an open data focus --- analyzing & working with government data. This event provides an opportunity for community members, with varying skillsets, yet similar mindsets, to collaborate and creatively build. This year’s projects are to include quite a few from Code for DC as well as some international development and campaign finance projects.

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