University of Washington, Michael G. Foster School of Business

University of Washington

Ascend Network for Small Businesses

An evolution of the UW Foster School’s M3 Model, Ascend provides targeted programs in 12 cities nationwide to drive the growth of wealth generating businesses owned by people of color. Programs enhance access to management skills development, markets through supply chain partnerships, and money through loans and investments. 

Call to Action 

Businesses owned by people of color face access gaps; the median white-owned firm has revenue one and a half times that of the median Latinx-owned firm, and five times that of the median Black-owned firm. Using a research-driven approach to address these gaps, universities and entrepreneurial support organizations are building M3 solutions to accelerate the growth of inner-city businesses and businesses owned by people of color.  

The program’s M3 model is based on the pioneering work started in the 1960s by professor emeritus of finance Thaddeus Spratlen and continued by dean emeritus William Bradford. Spratlen and Bradford, along with their research colleagues, found that minority-owned businesses underperform versus white-owned businesses due to systemic gaps in access to management education, money, and markets. 


Ascend is a national network of business schools, nonprofit lenders, and suppliers focused on a goal of accelerating the growth of businesses owned by people of color, women, and military veterans, especially those operating in inner cities. This program provides a high-quality business education, creates contracting opportunities, and opens pathways to financing to break down barriers and build wealth-generating businesses. Program participants gain increased access to management education, funding through loans and investments, and market access through contracts with anchor institutions such as universities and hospitals, government agencies, and large corporations. 


Over the past five years, the program has helped more than 200 businesses raise 23.7 million USD in capital, generate 360 million USD in revenue, and create 2,615 jobs. Last year alone, during the pandemic, the network helped companies in seven cities generate 85 million USD in new revenue.  

Ascend has now grown to 15 cities; by 2024, Ascend will grow 400 more businesses owned by people of color that earn annual revenue of more than 1 million USD, 75 that earn 5 million USD per year, and 25 that earn 10 million USD per year. 

Reference Links: 

UW News: Ascend Program at UW’s Foster School of Business Expands to Further Support Diverse-Owned Small Businesses 

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