Addressing the Wealth Gap in Our Communities One of the most important ways to address the wealth gap in this country is to help business founders and owners from underrepresented communities. DWT has many different programs that further this goal. In Portland, our firm has a partnership with Lewis & Clark Law School’s Small Business Legal Clinic, which is committed to helping minority-owned businesses, including women, recent immigrants, and people from communities of color.
On the national level, our Project W initiative works to provide scalable, women-led startups with the connections, resources, and funding they need for success. All of Project W’s many programs have a strong emphasis on supporting BIPOC women. They include the Tech Equity Hub (an accelerator for Black and Latinx founders), SaaS Launch Lab (a partnership with Microsoft), Emerging Food Brands Lab, and Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camp.
The clients who come to the clinic have businesses that range from food carts to corner stores to cleaning services. They often need help understanding what kind of entity to form and how to do it. Sometimes they need help reviewing a lease or an employment agreement.
In response to last year’s extraordinary events, Project W held a series of 14 weekly workshops designed to help founders navigate the unprecedented challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. We also put out a call to investors, advisors, and experts in our extensive Project W network to volunteer at least 30 minutes of their time to mentor a Black founder. The response was tremendous. We ended up connecting 70 mentors (including a dozen DWT lawyers) for sessions with more than 120 mentees. Some of these relationships have continued into 2021.
Every month, Adam fields a handful of potential cases from the clinic; lawyers and paralegals in the office then raise their hands to help. The program has been virtual since the pandemic began but the work has remained steady.
Says Lynn Loacker, our New York partner-in-charge and the founder of Project W: “We are committed to working for meaningful, measurable, and sustainable change to close the gender and racial divides in the startup ecosystem.”
“It’s extremely fulfilling work,” says Adam Waks, an associate in our Portland office, who leads the effort.
“I’m proud to say that we have had widespread participation across practice groups,” says Adam.