Empowering an Equitable Economy That Works for All

Smiling engineer shaking hands at construction site with happy architect. Handshake between cheerful african construction manager with businessman at bulding site. Team of workers with architects and contractor conclude an agreement with safety uniform.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase

Ascend Houston works to increase the capacity of Houston’s minority- and women-owned construction firms by connecting with public and private contracting opportunities to rebuild our communities.

The Ascend Accelerator is a game-changer for entrepreneurs who want to grow their business and make a positive impact on Houston. The program provides business and construction management education along with the opportunity to access capital and construction projects.

“People of color and women start businesses at higher rates than their counterparts — but they are constrained by structural inequities and often overlooked by mainstream partners. We partner with and mentor underestimated Houston entrepreneurs to accelerate great businesses. Together we are building an economy that works for all,” said Michi Bruns Clay, who is the Ascend Houston executive director and is a Regional Vice President at LiftFund.

Ascend Houston assists Houston-based businesses in strengthening their management skills, accessing money, and growing market connections in a tailored approach to maximize their unique opportunities.

Ascend is supported by JPMorgan Chase, which has provided $1.25 million for the collaborative effort.  The lead agency in the collaborative is LiftFund, with strong participation by the City of Houston, Houston Community College Minority Business Development Agency, The Construction Contractor’s College, The BridgePath and other local banks. Fund raising to support the program is ongoing.

“Local conditions are ripe for innovative approaches like Ascend. Local governments have funding for public projects, and they want to diversify their vendor pools,” said Carolyn Watson, head of JPMorgan Chase’s philanthropic efforts in Houston. “ And there is no shortage of ambitious small businesses who want an opportunity to do more. We’re pleased to partner with LiftFund in offering Ascend so more entrepreneurs can participate in the region’s prosperity.”

Ascend Houston assists Houston-based businesses in strengthening their management skills, accessing money, and growing market connections in a tailored approach to maximize their unique opportunities.

Three-M Model: Innovative Management Training; Increased Market Opportunities, and Enhanced Money access through community finance partners

  • Management Training: Ascend Houston’s customized coaching approach provides the feedback, accountability, challenge, and support to drive long-term business results. This is accomplished by building on each business’s management capacity, encouraging networking, innovative thinking, and collective learning.
  • Market Opportunities: Ascend Houston brings together a powerful Advisory Council and Procurement Board to share best practices and lessons learned, ensuring local businesses are well connected with contracts. Ensuring public and private companies play an active role in the economic development of their local communities.
  • Money: Ascend Houston bridges the need for financing, LiftFund connects local businesses with capital to manage contracts and achieve sustainable growth. The BridgePath is Ascend Houston’s partner that provides 1:1 credit counseling so that entrepreneurs with credit challenges have an actionable plan for raising their scores.

LiftFund hosted a panel discussion earlier this year about the importance of public-private partnerships, like the Ascend Houston program, in reducing the gender and racial wealth gap in entrepreneurship, building a just economy, and fostering inclusive communities.

Ascender Cecily Williams, owner of BCB Construction underscored the problem, “I’ve been in situations where I’ve been dismissed and not heard.” Cecily shared the impact of the Ascend Houston program on her business and how her work serves the community, “I am changing the face of the affordable home market by bridging the gap between luxury and affordability. My company’s goal is to impact the lives of homeowners in the underserved communities.”

“People ask if women-owned and minority-owned businesses are ready for contracting opportunities,” Clay said. “Ascend Houston answers that question. Graduates of our program are bidding and winning bids for residential, commercial and infrastructure projects. They have the certifications. They have the business education, and they have the access to capital. They are ready.”

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase