Applications are now open for ASCEND LA’s 2021 Spring cohort. After the success of its inaugural cohort in 2020, the free business accelerator program has doubled its capacity, selecting 30 businesses owned by women and people of color to undergo a management education program, obtain certification and bid preparation support, connect with regional and national supply chains, receive 1-on-1 advising with loan and procurement specialists, and access flexible capital resources. Eligible businesses are encouraged to apply now for the Spring cohort at

Supported by JP Morgan Chase and led by Local Initiatives Support Corporation Los Angeles (LISC LA), ASCEND LA brings together a network of non-profit lenders, education providers, and B2B market makers to provide diverse entrepreneurs with the resources and market access needed to grow their businesses—all in an effort to build the next generation of $1M+ businesses owned by women and people of color.

“In spite of COVID-19’s impact on our local economy, 60% of last year’s ASCEND program graduates hired new employees to help grow their businesses,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, executive director of LISC LA. “After seeing the impact of our program in 2020, we are excited to once again offer ASCEND LA to diverse entrepreneurs.”

This year, LISC LA is partnering with Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) College of Business Administration, whose leading faculty members will be teaching ASCEND LA’s Management Education Program. The 12-session training program, spearheaded by the LMU Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship, focuses on entrepreneurial competence, business foundation, and access to capital to enable participating businesses to accelerate growth and acquire corporate and government contracts.

“Serving as ASCEND LA’s management education partner aligns beautifully with our business school, university mission and strategic goals,” said Dayle Smith, dean of LMU College of Business Administration. “We look forward to serving our community of small businesses owned by women and people of color, providing an opportunity to enhance their managerial skills, empower them with an entrepreneurial mindset, and contribute to a more sustainable community.”

As local governments and industry leaders work towards small business resiliency and recovery amidst the pandemic, ASCEND LA was created to ensure BIPOC- and women-owned businesses were folded into the equation—particularly when it comes to both current and future contract procurements. And the numbers don’t lie: since the start of ASCEND LA, 75% of program participants have submitted bids for new contract opportunities and 25% have been awarded new contracts to date.

“ASCEND LA changed my paradigm in how I run my business and set up my infrastructure to be prepared and have the capacity to compete for multi-million dollar contracts,” expressed Desiree Saddler, an ASCEND LA alumni and CEO of Saddler Consulting Group. “Even in the pandemic, I now am prepared and have the capacity to compete and deliver—and I have even secured a 3-year contract during the program.”

Applications for ASCEND LA’s Spring cohort close April 11th and selected businesses will begin the program on May 15th. A second cohort will take place in Fall 2021. Businesses interested in participating in ASCEND LA’s 2021 program can attend a free information session on Wednesday, February 24th at noon. For more information, please visit