Photograph of a seminar
Community members and partners participate in D.C. Co-op Day in 2019 at THEARC, located in Ward 8, Washington D.C.

Convert, start, grow, and finance an employee-owned business.

The mission of the Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership (GWCEO) is to promote and support employee ownership throughout the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Maryland and Northern Virginia to preserve legacy businesses, increase job quality and build community wealth.

GWCEO serves as the central hub for information, technical assistance, resources and access to capital to owners interested in selling their business to their employees; employee groups interested in purchasing a business; and entrepreneurs who wish to start up a company with shared ownership.

Meet the team

Rasul Sha'ir

Small Business Advisor

Rasul Sha'ir is a Small Business Advisor at Wacif. In this role, he provides coaching and capacity building technical assistance to entrepreneurs.

Rasul's Bio

Lucien Smith

Small Business Advisor

Lucien Smith is a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business professional who works with small business owners to build their businesses. He carries out this role as a Small Business Advisor at Wacif.

Lou's Bio

Kimberly D. Gayle

Chief Program Officer

Kim is the Chief Program Officer at Wacif, where she provides leadership and management oversight of Wacif's small business and entrepreneurship advisory services and technical assistance initiatives.

Kim's Bio
Photograph of people with a large-size donation check
Made in D.C. Kiosk receives $50,000 in Wacif financing for their airport kiosk at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Powered by Wacif

Established in 1987, the Washington Area Community Investment Fund's (Wacif's) mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities in the Washington, D.C. area by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low-and-moderate-income entrepreneurs. Economic democracy has been a part of our DNA since the beginning: our very first loan was to the Pasadena Housing Cooperative located in NW Washington, D.C. In 2018, with the support of Citi Community Development, Wacif launched the DC Employee Ownership Initiative which revived a long history of employee ownership as a strategy for asset building, job creation, legacy business preservation, and wealth building in the region. The Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership is a continuation and deepening of Wacif's commitment to community wealth building through worker ownership.

Why employee ownership? Why now?


of business owners do not have written succession plans1


of business owners do not have a formal retirement plan or a clear idea of the next "chapter"2


business owners of color are nearing retirement in Washington, D.C.3
Photograph of Wacif board members
Wacif's first Board stands on the steps of Pasadena Housing Cooperative in the late 1980s.

Employee ownership is in our DNA

Wacif's first loan went to the Pasadena Housing Cooperative in 1987, located in Washington, D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Nearly 34 years later, we remain committed to developing the D.C. region's cooperative ecosystem. Employee ownership models are an effective, proven tool to create and maintain high-quality sustainable jobs, generate community wealth, and promote community-driven economic development, especially for communities that have been historically disenfranchised.

Wacif's story is one part of the Greater Washington region's proud history of employee ownership. In 1934, six friends banded together and founded the Capitol Cab Co. to survive the Great Depression. By 1950, their firm's membership grew to 300, and their model allowed the company and workers to thrive during one of the most economic unstable and turbulent moments in our nation's history. D.C. pioneer Nannie Helen Burroughs also believed that cooperatives were a viable tool to help weather the Great Depression, especially for Black communities. In 1936, Burroughs co-founded Cooperative Industries, a self-help, agricultural, and consumer cooperative. Her leadership helped the cooperative purchase agricultural land in Maryland, form an agricultural producer co-op, and operate a plant producing brooms and mattresses. Ultimately, Cooperative Industries helped generate wealth and economic independence for local Black communities.

The region's deep need for sustainable, high-quality jobs and community wealth building calls for intentional investments to build community wealth and health. In 2018, Wacif launched the D.C. Employee Ownership Initiative in response to the small business closure crisis caused by the retirement of baby boomer business owners. Approximately 2,650 business owners of color nearing retirement in Washington, D.C., according to the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI). These business owners employ more than 38,000 people and generate more than $4.2 billion dollars in revenue annually. Their retirement presents both a challenge and an opportunity, and employee ownership is a strategy that can preserve businesses, jobs, and build community wealth.

Advisory Council

The advisory council is comprised of ecosystem partners, local government leaders, funders, co-op worker owners and ESOP employees. They offer their expertise to guide and shape the programming and operations of the Center.

Photograph of Todd Leverette

Todd Leverette


Kate Mereand

Program Manager, Innovation & Equitable Development
DC Department of Small and Local Business Development


Alison Powers

Manager, Cooperatives and Communities
Capital Impact Partners

Photograph of Steve Storkan

Steve Storkan

Photograph of Bianca Vasquez

Bianca Vasquez


We take an ecosystem approach to Center design and programming. We're proud to collaborate with local, regional and national partners.


Help us shape collective ownership in the Greater Washington region

Are you interested in supporting Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership as a partner or funder? Contact us to learn more.

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