By Lauren E. Williams, Special to The AFRO

Eleven local women-run organizations were awarded grants totaling $50,000 on Thursday, September 27 at the BEACON Awards Reception held during the Washington, DC Economic Partnership’s (WDCEP) first-annual WeDC Fest. Celebrating women innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship, the reception included on-site services and vendors for attendees, appearances and speeches from District government officials, and networking opportunities.

“This event is one of our biggest and most exciting events of the year,” said Deloris Wilson, Head of Strategy and Operations for BEACON: The DC Women Founders Initiative. “Each year BEACON awards at least $50,000 to ecosystem builders across the city. These are women-led organizations – nonprofit or for profit – that design programs and initiatives to help support other women entrepreneurs.”

The 2018-2019 Grant Program Winners and BEACON Representatives at the BEACON Awards Reception which took place during the Washington, DC Economic Partnership’s inaugural WeDC Fest.

BEACON awarded grants in tiers of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500. This year’s winners included Workafrolic, a coworking service with on-site child care, Cureate, an initiative which aims to help emerging food and beverage businesses grow, and EnrichHer, a platform that helps women-led businesses find investment capital.

The highest grant – $10,000 – was awarded to FreeTruth Financial, Inc. for its #SecureTheBag Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship (FLYE) Accelerator.  According to the organization’s website, “the #SecureTheBag FYLE Accelerator is a four-week financial literacy and entrepreneurship bootcamp series concluding with a crowd-funded pitch competition for women of color.”

The grant program is made possible through a partnership of Mayor Muriel Bowser, Google, and Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy.

BEACON was first launched in November 2016. It started as a campaign to help D.C. become the number one city for women entrepreneurs. Today, BEACON is a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of 10 women.

Aerica Banks is one of these women. She’s also a BEACON Cofounder.

“BEACON operates informally as a directory of women-owned businesses and women founders,” Banks told the AFRO on Sept. 27. “We also have a newsletter that goes out to 4,000 or more women in the area.”

While progress has been made to uplift women business owners, there is a nationwide void in the amount of funding and resources available for women entrepreneurs. In fact, in March 2018, CNBC reported that while the number of women-owned businesses continues to increase – at an average of 849 new businesses per day – women business owners get nearly 50% less in funding than their male counterparts. Numbers are even worse when looking at funding for women of color.

It’s clear that D.C. is taking steps to change that.

“BEACON was started to help restore equity and representation to access for women in the city,”  Banks continued.  “We are really here to support women’s organizations and businesses.”