Congratulations to our fellow Deloris Wilson, who was just selected as a 2019 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity!
The Atlantic Fellows program brings together leaders on the frontlines of struggle for racial equity in South Africa and the U.S. to explore, imagine, experiment and build long-term solutions for impactful change. The inaugural cohort of 19 fellows includes authors, community organizers, documentary filmmakers, faith leaders, scientists and other leaders who work to challenge anti-Black racism and build the policies, institutions and narratives needed for a more equitable future.
For two years, Deloris has led the Tech Institute’s work building BEACON: The D.C. Women Founders’ Initiative, a community-led initiative to make D.C. a leading hub for diverse women entrepreneurs. In partnership with the D.C. Mayor’s Office, Google, and a broad coalition of community leaders, BEACON studies gaps in the ecosystem supporting women entrepreneurs and works to fill them by mobilizing businesses, government and the community.
Among other projects, BEACON runs an annual grant program that funds innovative projects to support D.C.’s women entrepreneurs. It operates D.C.’s largest directory of women-owned businesses and resources for women entrepreneurs. BEACON hosts or co-hosts regular programming, leads campaigns to address issues affecting women entrepreneurs, identifies speaking and vending opportunities for women business owners, and produces a biweekly newsletter showcasing resources and opportunities. BEACON is particularly focused on elevating the voices of women entrepreneurs of color, who are historically underfunded and under-supported despite being the largest group of women-owned business owners in the District.
From 2016-2019, BEACON was incubated at the Tech Institute, where we conducted strategic and operational work to build the network, and led academic research on ways to improve D.C.’s ecosystem for diverse women founders. In that time, BEACON has grown to serve over 3,000 entrepreneurs, funded 30 community organizations, and shared its findings locally and nationally. Our academic work culminated in Deloris’s 2018 report, “Building Inclusive Ecosystems with Intentionality: A Strategy to Enhance Support for D.C.’s Women Founders.”
Despite BEACON’s strong roots in D.C., our research into building effective support systems for diverse entrepreneurship has wide application. We’ve presented our work before the National Women’s Business Council, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and other national organizations. The Tech Institute’s work on BEACON was generously supported by a philanthropic gift from Google.
After two and a half years of incubation, we’re proud that BEACON has now grown into an independent 501(c)(3) organization, led by D.C.-based entrepreneurs and community leaders and supported by an Advisory Board of leading entrepreneurs, VCs, service providers, policy experts and more. Deloris has become BEACON’s Chief Strategy Officer. Our Executive Director, Alexandra Givens, remains deeply involved on BEACON’s board. You can read more about BEACON’s ongoing work here.
We are deeply proud of our work building BEACON, and doubly so that Deloris will continue her passionate leadership on racial justice issues both with BEACON and through her Atlantic Fellowship. Congratulations Deloris!