National Disability Institute (NDI) was awarded a $2.5 million cooperative agreement from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for a Community Navigator Pilot Program in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including Northern Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, to support entrepreneurs and small business owners in responding to the lingering impact of COVID-19 and advance their economic stability and self-sufficiency. Of the 51 grants awarded on a competitive basis, NDI was the only project selected to focus exclusively on people with disabilities with particular emphasis on entrepreneurs and small business owners at the intersection of disability, race, ethnicity and gender.
“For too long, entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities have been underserved and an invisible part of the small business community,” said Thomas Foley, Executive Director, National Disability Institute. “This SBA funding to a consortium of diverse, trusted culturally-knowledgeable partners in the disability, Black and Latinx communities, in collaboration with preferred SBA lenders and city, county and state economic development agencies, will have a substantial impact on the economy of the greater DC area.”
NDI will work closely with lead collaborator 2Gether-International (2GI), a Washington, D.C. accelerator led by Diego Mariscal, an entrepreneur and founder with cerebral palsy. 2GI is the leading startup accelerator in the nation run by and for founders with disabilities. Through virtual business classes, coaching and peer-to-peer founder meetups, 2GI supports more than 400 entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities.
“We are pleased to be the lead collaborator with NDI in this unprecedented effort to bring together the resources of government and the private sector to entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities,” said Mariscal, CEO and Founder of 2Gether-International. “Our leading virtual accelerator will support new and growing startups and small businesses led by founders with disabilities in the greater DC area.”
As preferred SBA lenders, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and TD Bank will help to improve access to SBA-funded and other resources that will significantly benefit small business owners and entrepreneurs with disabilities.
“JPMorgan Chase is proud to serve as a trusted financial advisor for this important initiative,” said Jim Sinocchi, head of the firm’s global Office of Disability Inclusion. “We look forward to working with National Disability Institute and the Small Business Administration so small businesses and entrepreneurs with disabilities can compete on a more level playing field.”
Terrence Kenny, Commercial Market President for Metro Washington, Baltimore and Delaware, TD Bank said, “As a preferred SBA lender, TD is ready to help NDI improve access to credit as part of its Disability Small Business Startup Accelerator and Recovery Program to meet the diverse needs of small business owners with disabilities, many of whom will be at the intersection of race, ethnicity and gender.”
Collaborating organizations that will share the funds with NDI include: 2Gether-International; Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute; Disability:IN; Disability Opportunity Fund; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Life Asset (DC-based Community Development Financial Institution [CDFI]); ServiceSource; Boston Media LLC; Griffin-Hammis Associates; and Results One LLC. Other groups that expressed support and interest in collaboration include vocational rehabilitation agencies in DC, Maryland and Virginia; the DC Mayor’s Office on Disability; the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Howard University; the DC Women’s Business Development Center; and Maryland and Virginia Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).
NDI will be a “hub” at the center of a network of “spokes” deployed in a coordinated and comprehensive system of services and financial assistance to support entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities. The project has four goals:
1) Strengthen outreach to targeted entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities through collaboration by NDI with organizations with established relationships and experience within their communities (Black, Latinx, Disability), financial institutions and public agencies within DC, MD and VA governments by deploying diverse, focused and coordinated communications strategies.
2) Serve as a pipeline of needed resources by providing high quality technical assistance (TA) through “spokes” and supporting agencies for over 750 entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities.
3) Improve the greater DC area ecosystem of coordinated comprehensive small business development services and supports that are responsive and accessible to the needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities.
4) Track data on economic impacts at a business and community level and evaluate effectiveness of the pilot through the lens of the population served, partner agencies and SBA regional staff by surveys and focus groups.
The project will begin December 1, 2021 and be implemented over a 24-month period.
Funded [in part] through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.