People of Color-Owned Businesses Served by the Ascend Network Surpass $2 Billion in Contracts

Milestone comes ahead of the launch of a new cohort with national corporate collaborators

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, Ascend announced that people of color owned-businesses served by its national network have crossed the $2 billion mark in contracts, according to independent research completed by Equitable Evaluation Practice (EEP). This milestone comes ahead of a new cohort activation with national corporate collaborators.

The new national program accelerates local businesses’ growth through its M3 Model, helping enterprises increase their access to markets through contracting opportunities, management skills through mentoring, and access to money through loans and investments.

Ascend’s network has worked across 13 cities to support businesses owned by people of color through contracting opportunities with local corporations, universities, and hospitals. Now, Ascend is turning its attention to contracting opportunities in the national and global corporate sector by launching the Ascend National Cohort with the goal of growing the competitiveness of minority-owned businesses that could serve as suppliers to organizations such as JPMorgan Chase, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), The Boeing Company, T-Mobile, and others. The Ascend National Cohort will receive support directly from these supporters (or organizations), including business coaching and consulting services.

Additionally, the Ascend National Cohort will bring on the academic partners of Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. These institutions will provide access to Master of Business Administration (MBA) students and executive education.

Quotes from the national program director, a program participant, and National Cohort partners:

“Ascend addresses systemic barriers to accessing capital, contracting opportunities, and management skills development. The Ascend National Cohort is bolstering businesses by preparing them to showcase their products and services and go before contract-granting opportunities to expand into larger markets,” said Michael Verchot, Director of the Consulting and Business Development Center at the University of Washington and national lead of Ascend.

“Johnson Security Bureau, Inc. recently completed the Ascend Regional cohort, which helped our team grow in sales and impact. After consistently working at Columbia University as a subcontractor for the past 12 years, Johnson Security was awarded direct work with Columbia University Irving Medical Center as a result of the Ascend Regional program,” said Jessica Johnson, founder of Johnson Security Bureau. “Now, we are joining the Ascend National Cohort with hopes of adding to our toolkit of business resources, especially in the areas of markets, management skills, and money. We anticipate additional wins as the program progresses.”

“Corporate supply chains have tremendous potential to catalyze growth for diverse businesses,” says Ted Archer, Global Head of Business Partner Diversity at JPMorgan Chase. “For years, Ascend has delivered critical resources to minority-owned firms that lead to business opportunities in local markets. Now, with a National Cohort, Ascend supports our supplier development efforts with diverse businesses that are well positioned for even greater scale.”

“Our commitment is to inspire diverse suppliers to think big and be confident in their ability to provide high-quality products and services that meet our needs. Through our Environmental Social Governance Services initiative, we aim to create a distinctive experience for suppliers by teaming together to help develop innovative solutions and strategies and by accelerating possibilities as we respond with a diverse mindset to customers, clients, and the communities around us,” says Larry Phelan, EY Global Chief Supply Chain Officer.

“Being a part of the Ascend National Cohort is a privilege and fits well with our executive education programming at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. The Fisher program builds on operational excellence principles focusing on problem-solving. Joining forces with the Ascend National Cohort merges the curriculum of three outstanding universities to deliver a world-class education. We are excited and extremely grateful to be a part of this innovative and collaborative group as well as looking forward to shaping a bright future for businesses owned by people of color,” Renard Green, program director, and James Hill, Ph.D., chair in the department of operations and business analytics at Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, a partner in the Ascend Cities program.

“The Ascend National Cohort business growth program incorporates successful best practices from eminent programs at the Fisher, Foster, and Kellogg Schools, combined with the expertise of very supportive corporate collaborators JPMorgan Chase, EY, and RSM,” said Michele Rogers, director of Chicago Partnerships at Kellogg School of Management in Northwestern University and Ascend partner. “Kellogg’s focus on leadership, organizations, and markets has been a factor in the minority enterprise landscape since our targeted programming for high-growth entrepreneurs began in 1996. We are honored that 950 minority and women entrepreneurs have completed our business growth programs at Northwestern University. We are delighted to continue to make an impact with this highly touted Ascend National Cohort Team.”

About Ascend:

Ascend began locally in Seattle in 2016 as an initiative out of the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business’ Center for Business Development & Consulting. The program has expanded thanks to funding from JP Morgan Chase and continues working in cities nationally, adding the next phase with the Ascend National Cohort. Ascend is a national network of local ecosystems joining forces to best support businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color. Ascend comprises 13 cities plus the Ascend National Cohort and supports businesses through its M3 Model. This Model helps enterprises increase their access to markets through contracting opportunities, management skills through mentoring, and access to money through loans and investments. Through June 2022, Ascend has supported 1,153 businesses and helped businesses acquire 319 contracts. Between 2019 and 2021, Ascend has helped more than 80 people of color-owned companies grow beyond the $1 million revenue level, 20 beyond the $5 million level, and eight beyond the $10 million level.


Martha Flores Perez

Marketing & Communications at Ascend


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