Equal Access To Aspire: Leveling The Field For Entrepreneurs In D. C.

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes – from bread shop owners to tech wizards and beyond. To succeed effectively, regardless of the type of business you are in, entrepreneurs need a spirit of innovation and creativity, as well as the ability to maintain their momentum. Entrepreneurship and the success that comes with it, doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

District of Columbia Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden understands what it means to fight so that everyone has equal access, equal rights, and equal opportunities. A long-term champion of entrepreneurship and government, Deputy Mayor Snowden believes that the way to fight effectively is to have experience outside of government before entering into it. According to Deputy Mayor Snowden, “a lot of economic development should happen with us and not to us, and my job now is to ensure that people can gentrify in place.”

Courtney Snowden, Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity (Washington D. C.)
Courtney Snowden, Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity (Washington D. C.)

Whether this means working with Uber to create an 8,200 square foot greenlight hub as a driver/partner center in an economically disadvantaged community, or partnering with John Legend and his Foundation through the Aspire To Entrepreneurship Program. The aforementioned program is aimed at providing assistance to those who appear to have a much harder time acquiring traditional jobs to succeed in work, and in life. For those who trace their origins to economically disadvantaged backgrounds, which are disproportionately African-American, and have committed relatively minimal crimes in their past, having the ability for a real second chance is literally life-changing.

The Aspire To Entrepreneurship program has seen significant, far-reaching success, hiring more than forty people into businesses that were started within the program. According to Deputy Mayor Snowden, “Lorenzo, for example, was unemployed for 18 months on the day I met him. Through Project Empowerment, today he has 7 employees, all of which are D.C. residents. Here is a perfect example of how we are working to help put people on economically sustainable paths so they can become homeowners.”

Through programs like this, as well as others with similar initiatives, Deputy Mayor Snowden is tirelessly working to provide burgeoning entrepreneurs in D. C. with equal access to resources that have been traditionally out of reach for them. She also believes that fear should be a motivator, rather than being something that always paralyzes you, preventing you from taking your next best step forward. “When I’m the most scared, the most afraid, the most apprehensive, what I’ve learned is that if I lean into it, that it’s also where I get the most success,” said the Deputy Mayor. Trust your instincts when it comes to proactively pursuing your passions, as they are usually right, is another piece of advice that the Deputy Mayor shares.

This same theory holds true in all areas of life, not just one. Deputy Mayor Snowden is a perfect example of someone who is clearly demonstrating her own mindset at work – and at home. Originally, she didn’t think she wanted children, until she met her oldest son. After getting to know him through his regular presence at her home, due to a dysfunctional home life with his biological family, the question of adoption ultimately arose. Both Snowden and his biological parents agreed that she should have full custody of him, and the pair has been inseparable ever since. Unfortunately, the Deputy Mayor couldn’t adopt all of his siblings as her own, so she decided on the next best option: to fight for the rights of everyone who needed help, the only way she knew how – by assuming political office.

Today, the Deputy Mayor has played a significant role in the Uber initiative to invest in an area where a simple grocery store is a hard-fought battle. With half of the region’s drivers for Uber hailing from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is time to sit up and take note. Utilizing the skills gained from her previous experience working with Google, Microsoft, MasterCard and a dozen other high profile organizations, she makes a worthy partner for spreading better access to those who need it the most. One of the most important things that she has learned from the totality of her experiences is that “you never, never know who the person next to you is in the District. Always treat people, no matter what you think their station in life is, no matter who you think they are, with respect.” This enables us to give equal opportunities in what are typically unequal times. “When you have an idea, and when you have a thought,” says Snowden, “you need to open your mouth and say it. As long as you do your work right, speak up, and you’re knowledgeable about the subject matter on which you’re working…in the end, you’ll be just fine.”

Whatever it is that lights a fire inside of you, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities. The Aspire To Entrepreneurship Program, and others like it, are a shining example of how we can build a more level playing field to pursue the life of our dreams.

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