New Resource for Washington D.C. Food Entrepreneurs: District of Columbia Small Business Development Center and Food & Society at the Aspen Institute Launch Open Access DC

November 16, 2022

New web portal designed to navigate small food entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful small businesses

Mary Castillo

Carl Brown

Washington, DC, November 16, 2022—The District of Columbia Small Business Development Center today released Open Access DC, a new, free one stop shop online portal for food entrepreneurs to find and utilize local resources for capital, permitting and licensing, and training that will help them plan, launch, and grow their businesses in the Washington D.C. area.

“The mission at DC Small Business Development Center is to strengthen and support businesses so they can become legacy businesses” says Carl Brown, State and Executive Director of the District of Columbia Small Business Development Center. “The food industry is a difficult business and a growing industry in Washington. We’re proud to be able to work with Open Access DC to connect new businesses with an informational portal that will help guide entrepreneurs in all the steps of opening their food business. This portal gives our clients a checklist of what they need to get done to be in compliance with local regulations. Open Access DC is an important new resource that will make a big impact in our business community.”

Open Access DC builds on the good work other cities have done to develop similar portals, but is unique in meeting the specific needs of food entrepreneurs and providing city-specific content for a wide range of food businesses and types. Now hosted on Howard University’s Small Business Development Center’s website, it will be managed by Chef Carolina Gomez, food and hospitality business counselor, who leads workshops and works one-on-one with local food entrepreneurs.

“This is one of the most beneficial resources for restaurants and food business owners,” says Chef Carolina Gomez, food business mentor with the DC Small Business Development Center. “I’m so proud to have been part of it and share this tool with my clients.”

The Center and Food & Society will continue to seek funding to translate the portal into the Spanish and Ethiopian and host future in-person workshops open to anyone who aspires to start or grow a food business. Anyone can view Open Access DC on all digital devices at

Open Access DC is part of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute’s Open Access initiative, which shows food entrepreneurs how to navigate through and over the many challenges to financing and business ownership. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and after an 18-month interview and scoping process, Food & Society created the open-source web code available at no-cost to cities and other organizations to launch portals to help food entrepreneurs in their communities.

“Empowering local organizations to reach local food entrepreneurs will help remove some of the many barriers Latino, Black, Indigenous, and woman-owned small businesses face in accessing capital, technical assistance, and guidance,” says Corby Kummer, executive director of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute. “We hope other cities will adapt Open Access DC—with its open-source code, content, and guide to find local resources—to show new and experienced entrepreneurs the short cut to finding all the resources they need for their next steps.”

Interested cities and organizations can view the Open Access web portal and download the open-source code and accompanying user guide. For more information, please visit



The District of Columbia SBDC network is the only Districtwide, nationally accredited program that provides high quality one-on-one consulting, training and information resources to empower new and existing businesses. DC SBDC consultants work with entrepreneurs in confidential, individualized sessions to help them with a range of business issues including testing a new business proposition, shaping a business plan, investigating funding opportunities, and much more. Please visit for services, workshops, and more. 


Food & Society at the Aspen Institute brings together leaders and decision-makers in the food and beverage industry and the public health community—scientists, nutritionists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, and food makers of all kinds—to find solutions to production, health, and communications challenges in the food system. The goal is for people of all income levels to eat better and more healthful diets—and to enjoy them bite by bite. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.  Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, New York and an international network of partners.  For more information, visit

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