UW News

May 18, 2021

Ascend program at UW’s Foster School of Business expands to further support diverse-owned small businesses thanks to $8 million investment from JPMorgan Chase

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Michael Verchot (center) with Jacqueline Neal, President of the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council (left) and Tiffany Bussey, Director of the Morehouse Entrepreneurship Center in Atlanta at the 2018 Ascend National Conference.University of Washington

In 2016, the Consulting and Business Development Center at the UW’s Foster School of Business partnered with global financial services firm JPMorgan Chase to launch Ascend, a national network of business schools, non-profit lenders and suppliers focused on a goal of accelerating growth of businesses owned by people of color, women and military veterans, especially those operating in inner cities.

Over the past five years, the program has helped more than 200 businesses raise $23.7 million in capital, generate $360 million in revenue and create 2,615 jobs. Last year alone, during the pandemic, the network helped companies in seven cities generate $85 million in new revenue.

Now, the success of the program has been recognized by Phyllis Campbell, the Chairman of the Pacific Northwest for JPMorgan Chase. Last week, she announced an $8 million philanthropic investment in expanding the Consulting and Business Development Center’s Ascend network.

“Ascend is a proven model for supporting diverse-owned small businesses and connecting underserved entrepreneurs with the resources they need,” said Campbell. “We are proud to expand our partnership with the University of Washington to support diverse small businesses and help rebuild a more inclusive economy.”

The program’s M3 model is based on the pioneering work started in the 1960’s by professor emeritus of finance Thaddeus Spratlen and continued by dean emeritus William Bradford. Spratlen and Bradford, along with their research colleagues, found that minority owned businesses underperform versus white-owned businesses due to systemic gaps in access to management education, money and markets.

Of the $8 million philanthropic investment, nearly $1 million will go to the Ascend Seattle program to support businesses owned by people of color and women in Washington. The funds will also be used to pilot a cohort in King County to help diverse contractors and developers access affordable housing and commercial real estate development contracts. In total, this investment in the Ascend Seattle program is expected help grow 40 businesses owned by people of color to have revenues of more than $1 million and two businesses to have revenues of more than $5 million in Washington.

The remaining $7 million will be used to adapt and expand the national Ascend program over the next three years. By 2024, Ascend will grow 400 more businesses owned by people of color to have annual revenue of more than $1 million, 75 more to have annual revenue of more than $5 million and 25 more to have annual revenue of more than $10 million. Ascend currently operates in 14 U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York and Seattle.

“We know that helping entrepreneurs be successful is the fastest way to build wealth in this country,” said Frank Hodge, Orin and Janet Smith Dean of the Foster School. “This investment and the ongoing partnership with Chase will provide world-class business education, create contracting opportunities and open pathways to financing, that will break down barriers and build wealth-generating businesses. As a purpose-driven business school, we eagerly look forward to helping entrepreneurs of color achieve their dreams.”