Resources To Get Your DC Business Started

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When you are just getting started, it’s hard to know where to go to find the information or assistance you need for your business.  In my many discussions with DC business owners and entrepreneurs, I’ve often provided information about the resources that I’ve learned about while operating my own business.  I found them to be helpful, so I put together a list and am sharing this information more widely!  There are so many resources, technical assistance, workshops, work spaces, events, networking opportunities, mentor programs, and much more for people to take advantage of.  Some of the resources on this list are free, some are not.  Some of them are government agencies, some of the are for-profit companies or nonprofit organizations, others are public-private partnerships.  I’ve had personal experience with some of them, but not all of them.  This is not an endorsement of any of the resources listed, I’m just providing this information for purposes of promoting awareness of what’s our entrepreneurial ecosystem has to offer.  I hope that this list can grow over time, so please send me suggestions for resources to include by submitting suggestions to my contact form.

Because this post is so long, here are some links to help navigate to the different categories below:
– General Business Resources
– Legal Resources
– Resources for Women Entrepreneurs
– Resources for Creative Entrepreneurs
– University Clinical Programs
– Tech Resources
– Business Chambers

GENERAL BUSINESS RESOURCES

  • DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Small Business Resource Center (SBRC)
    Websitehttps://dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com
    Workshops/Eventshttps://dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/events?reset=1 (usually free, including “SBRC One-On-One Session: Basic Steps to Obtaining a Business License”)
    Documentshttps://dcrasbrc.ecenterdirect.com/documents (including business plan template)
    Description:  SBRC is your premier one-stop shop to information and services that can help you start and strengthen your business in the District. Through the SBRC, you can access trainings, workshops, seminars, one-on-one technical and educational assistance, and other services at no cost. Our one-on-one counseling sessions include individualized business planning, management, marketing, sales, procurement, strategic planning, and first-hand access to financing resources.
  • DC Small Business Development Center (DCSBDC) Network
    Websitehttps://dcsbdc.org/
    Workshopshttps://ic.dcsbdc.org/events.aspx  (usually free, including “How to Develop a Successful Business Plan” each month)
    Description:  The District of Columbia SBDC network is the only Districtwide, nationally accredited program that provides high quality one-on-one consulting, training and information resources to empower new and existing businesses. DC SBDC consultants work with entrepreneurs in confidential, individualized sessions to help them with a range of business issues including testing a new business proposition, shaping a business plan, investigating funding opportunities, and much more.
  • The Washington DC Economic Partnership
    Website: https://wdcep.com
    Events: https://wdcep.com/events/
    Description: The Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) is a non-profit, public-private organization that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business and promotes Washington, DC as a leading global city.
  • DC Women’s Business Center
    Websitehttp://www.dcwbc.org/
    Trainingshttp://www.dcwbc.org/trainings.html (usually $20-45 per training); free online learning program designed to give you the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to start or grow your own business.
    Description:  The Washington, DC Women’s Business Center (DCWBC) is a business development organization that serves women entrepreneurs in the Washington, DC Capitol Region. The DC WBC is managed by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). The DC WBC provides training and consulting to assist in the growth of women-owned businesses in federal procurement and credit opportunities.
  • Washington DC SCORE
    Website: https://washingtondc.score.org
    Workshops: https://washingtondc.score.org/content/take-workshop-287 (usually $50-75)
    Business Mentoring Program: https://washingtondc.score.org/content/find-mentor-320
    Description: The Washington, DC Chapter of SCORE offers individual free counseling, low-cost workshops, and free team visits to business locations to conduct business reviews. SCORE teams provide counseling designed to assist your business to: Increase the value of a business by growing sales, earnings, and cash flow; Identify and solve operating problems; Recognize and capitalize on new business opportunities; Make needed operational changes and add new systems; Develop business plans; Find sources and qualify for needed financing; Understand the Federal procurement process. We work closely with other organizations in the Washington DC area to bring information and our services to the small business community. We speak at many events and trade shows throughout the year.
  • Latino Economic Development Center
    Website: https://www.ledcmetro.org/
    Programs: https://www.ledcmetro.org/smallbusiness
    Description: The Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) provides loans of up to $50,000 to entrepreneurs in the DMV area. LEDC has provided millions of dollars to small business that are owned by underrepresented communities including women, minorities, immigrants and financially disadvantaged groups. They also provide free consultations to entrepreneurs, connecting them with resources they need.

LEGAL RESOURCES

  • DC Bar Pro Bono Center Small Business Brief Advice Legal Clinic
    Website: https://www.lawhelp.org/dc/ced
    Events/Clinics: https://www.lawhelp.org/dc/resource/small-business-events-calendar
    Description:  These walk-in clinics are held every month, except August. The purpose of the clinics is to provide legal information to small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs who operate in economically disadvantaged areas or who have limited financial resources. The clinics provide current and aspiring business owners with an opportunity to speak with an attorney one-on-one. Volunteer attorneys help review legal documents and answer questions about starting a business, taxation, real estate leases, employment law, and other legal issues common to small business owners. The attorneys give brief general information. The events calendar is updated as these clinics are announced.
  • DC Refers
    Website: https://dcrefers.org/
    Description: DC Refers provides an online directory of pre-screened attorneys willing to accept modest-means clients (incomes within 200-400% of the federal poverty guidelines) who will agree to pay legal fees of between $75-150 per hour.

RESOURCES FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

  • BEACON
    Website: https://www.thebeacondc.com
    Directory: https://www.thebeacondc.com/directory (it’s free to submit your business to be listed on the directory)
    Newsletter: https://www.thebeacondc.com/news (sign up for the monthly newsletter to receive a monthly round up of helpful events, resources, and opportunities for women entrepreneurs)
    Events: https://www.thebeacondc.com/events (cost varies, starting from free)
    Description:  BEACON is community-led campaign to make DC the #1 city for women entrepreneurs. BEACON launched in November 2016 as a bold public-private partnership to support women entrepreneurs in Washington, DC. With leadership from Google, Georgetown Law, and the D.C. Mayor’s Office, as well as grassroots energy from a broad network of women entrepreneurs, BEACON’s goal is to demonstrate how businesses, service providers and government can help ensure that women entrepreneurs have an equal opportunity to succeed. BEACON’s work prioritizes four pillars, informed through direct consultation with DC’s women founders: (1) Expanding women entrepreneur’s access to capital; (2) Providing resources and support for women entrepreneurs; (3) Creating new business opportunities for women entrepreneurs; and (4) Inspiring the next generation of women entrepreneurs.
  • Hera Hub (Washington DC)
    Website: https://herahub.com/dc/
    Events:  Hera Hub offers exclusive events to its members and events open to the public, accessible on Eventbrite
    Programs (Public): https://herahub.com/dc/programs/#public
    Description: Hera Hub is the first international female-focused coworking space & business accelerator.  Our platform supports members through education, mentoring, and collaboration, while the office environment gives them access to professional, productive space where they can grow a prosperous business, built on the foundation of a powerful community.
  • Her Corner (Washington DC)
    Website: https://hercorner.org/washingtondc/
    Accelerator Program: https://hercorner.org/locations/ (a bit of an investment at $699/mo., read more about how it works)
    Description: For over five years, Her Corner has been working with women business owners in the Washington DC metro area to help them grow and scale their companies. We focus on providing the education women need in order to grow by offering mentoring, peer group sessions and accelerator programs.
  • Capital City Cooperative
    Website: https://www.capitalcitycooperative.com/
    Events/Workshops: https://www.capitalcitycooperative.com/cooperative-calendar (usually $85; $75 for affiliates)
    Description: Capital City Cooperative, LLC recruits career-driven women in the Washington, DC Metro region for membership with the purpose of leveraging women in the Cooperative to achieve your personal and professional goals. The Cooperative empowers women through professional development and volunteer opportunities to hone valuable skills needed for advancement. By creating a network of high-performing women, we cultivate an environment of collaboration and advancement and encourage members to elevate each other for the betterment of our community.
  • The Melanin Collective
    Website: https://www.themelanincollective.org/
    Events Calendar: https://www.themelanincollective.org/upcoming-events
    Description:  We’re on a journey to educate, empower, and create transformational change in the lives of communities of women who are often pushed to the sidelines. Our mission is simple: We are a space for women of color to see their true self and value, to work as a collective for the common good, and to develop supportive, professional, and lasting relationships.
  • Walker’s Legacy
    Website: https://www.walkerslegacy.com
    Events: https://www.walkerslegacy.com/calender/#
    Description: Since our founding, we have evolved to establish Walker’s Legacy as a global professional collective that works to promote the career advancement, skill sets and networks of multicultural women in business and women entrepreneurs.
  • The Wing (DC)
    Website: https://www.the-wing.com/dc/
    Membership: https://www.the-wing.com/memberships/ (starts at $215/mo.; annual memberships only)
    Description: The Wing is a network of work and community spaces designed for women. The Wing’s mission is the professional, civic, social, and economic advancement of women through community. We believe that the act of coming together in furtherance of The Wing’s mission creates new opportunities, ideas and conversations that will lead to greater mobility and prosperity for womankind.

RESOURCES FOR CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS

  • 202Creates
    Website: http://www.202creates.com/
    Description: Mayor Muriel Bowser launched 202Creates in September 2016 to amplify and celebrate DC’s creative culture. Led by OCTFME, CAH, and DMPED, 202Creates engages residents through events, activities, and resources that enrich our communities across all 8 wards. 202Creates does 3 important things: it promotes and amplifies the District’s creative economy and creative residents through digital media marketing, content creation, and original television programming; it connects District residents with government resources, educational opportunities, and space to support their creative work and grow their creative businesses; and it builds an interdisciplinary community by connecting creative District residents with each other through events and networking activities.
  • Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts
    Website: https://waladc.org/
    Events/Workshops: https://waladc.org/events
    Description: Since 1983, Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts has supported artistic expression and creative innovation by serving the legal needs of the Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland arts and cultural communities. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, WALA provides access to education, advocacy, and legal services through workshops and seminars, legal clinics, and pro bono legal referral services.

UNIVERSITY CLINICAL PROGRAMS

  • The George Washington University Law School (GW Law) Small Business & Community Economic Development Clinic
    Website: https://www.law.gwu.edu/small-business-community-economic-development-clinic
    Description:  The Small Business and Community Economic Development Clinic provides legal assistance to small businesses, social enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and artists. Under faculty supervision, students interview, advise, counsel and represent entrepreneurs and businesses and assist nonprofit organizations committed to improving the welfare of individuals and communities. Specific cases may involve drafting articles of incorporation, bylaws, articles of organization, operating agreements, or partnership agreements; researching local licensing requirements and zoning laws; reviewing and drafting contracts and leases; preparing applications for federal tax exemption; advising and counseling business founders and corporate boards; and advising clients on basic intellectual property issues, tax matters, and related legal issues. 
  • University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Community Development Law Clinic
    Website: https://www.law.udc.edu/page/CommunityDevelopment
    Description: Students in the Community Development Law Clinic learn transactional and business lawyering skills while representing non-profit organizations and small, urban entrepreneurs. The clinic often works in concert with community-based business centers and other professionals to provide clients with comprehensive professional consulting services. Clinic students provide clients with a wide range of direct legal services to help them establish and operate their businesses and programs. Students’ case work might involve such things as advising clients on business structure; preparing articles of incorporation, bylaws, partnership agreements, and business contracts; advising clients regarding basic tax law, zoning, licensing requirements, intellectual property, and other legal issues; researching trademarks and preparing trademark applications; preparing applications for tax exempt status and representing the client in the application process with the Internal Revenue Service; and mediating business disputes. Clinic students also help prepare and conduct client workshops on critical legal issues.  Clinic students work in close collaboration with other students and the clinic’s faculty.
  • University of Maryland School of Law Maryland Intellectual Property Legal Resource Center
    Website:  https://www2.law.umaryland.edu/programs/iplaw/miplrc/services.html
    Description:  All legal services are provided by students from the University of Maryland School of Law, working under the supervision of experienced faculty members and other practitioners.  The types of services routinely provided by the Center include: (i) General counseling on all areas of intellectual property law, including patent, trade secrets, copyrights, and trademarks and service marks.  Students provide advice and education on issues such as the requirements for obtaining a patent; preparation of detailed invention disclosures; requirements for trademark and copyright registration; maintenance of trade secrets; keeping a laboratory notebook; domain name registration; impact of public disclosures; and obtaining foreign patent protection; (ii) assisting in the preparation, filing and prosecution of trademark and service mark applications; (iii) assisting in the preparation and filing of copyright registrations; (iv) undertaking limited patent and prior art searches.  These searches may be less thorough than those conducted by professional search firms or the United States Patent and Trademark Office due to limited resources and student experience; (v) assistance in the preparation of various agreements, such as nondisclosure agreements, employment and consulting agreements, and licenses; and (vi) providing basic counseling on business entity selection and formation.

TECH RESOURCES

  • DC Startup Week
    Website: https://dcstartupweek.org/
    Description: DC Startup Week is the Greater Washington, D.C. Region’s largest community-driven, entrepreneur-focused event. Each year, thousands of people come together to learn, support, and celebrate the Region’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  • Technical.ly (DC)
    Website: https://technical.ly/dc/
    Description: Technical.ly grows local technology communities by connecting organizations and people through news, events and services. We provide original editorial, expert programming and tools which improve recruitment, marketing, community cultivation and economic development. We serve technologists, entrepreneurs and people who care about technology’s local impact.
  • Women Who Tech
    Website: https://www.womenwhotech.com
    DC Resources: https://www.womenwhotech.com/dc-tech-resources
    Description: In 2008, we started Women Who Tech, a nonprofit organization, to bring together talented and renowned women breaking new ground in technology to transform the world and inspire change. Since then, we have produced several Women Who Tech TeleSummits, packed with some of the most thought-provoking discussions led by startup investor Joanne Wilson, Arianna Huffington, Rashmi Sinha, cofounder of SlideShare, acquired by LinkedIn, Shaherose Charania cofounder of Women 2.0, Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sistas, Elisa Camahort Page of BlogHer acquired by Sheknows Media, and more.

BUSINESS CHAMBERS

  • DC Chamber of Commerce
    Website: https://www.dcchamber.org
    Events: https://www.dcchamber.org/about-us/events-calendar/ (starting at $0 to register)
    Description: The DC Chamber has continued to uphold its commitment to delivering the capital to businesses and citizens. We provide invaluable tools to help businesses develop, and it leverages relationships with key contacts in the DC Council and the Federal government to improve the business climate and attract new businesses to the District.
  • The Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
    Website: http://www.gwhcc.org/
    Events: http://www.gwhcc.org/events/ (cost varies)
    Description: The Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce aims to develop the network and tools in assisting businesses in the D.C area to grow. Every year more than 1500 businesses and organizations participate in our events, many of whom are our members. These members range from the Washington region’s largest corporations to one-person companies – and everything in between. So whether you just started or have been operating for years, or no matter what your business type is, the Chamber has something to offer you. Give us the opportunity to open doors for you and your business through networking, advocacy and education. Check our calendar of events and learn about our initiatives supporting the growth of local businesses.
  • National Black Chamber of Commerce
    Website: https://www.nationalbcc.org
    Events: https://www.nationalbcc.org/events/
    Description: The NBCC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization dedicated to the economic empowerment of African American communities. 140 affiliated chapters are locally based throughout the nation as well as international affiliate chapters based in Bahamas, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, France, Botswana, Cameroon and Jamaica and businesses as well as individuals who may have chosen to be direct members with the national office.
  • National LGBT Chamber of Commerce
    Website: https://www.nglcc.org/
    Events: https://www.nglcc.org/events
    Description:
    The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the business voice of the LGBT community, is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for the LGBT business community. NGLCC is the exclusive third-party certifying body for LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs). Over 1/3 of Fortune 500 recognize this certification and partner with NGLCC to create fully LGBT-inclusive supply-chains.

Last updated: July 8, 2019

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