Steven Washington honored for efforts to build affordable housing
Steven J. Washington’s business acumen led him to receive some special recognition.
The 29-year-old owner of the Washington Investment Group, LLC has been named to the Empact100 list of the country’s top young entrepreneurs.
Empact in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation, Opportunity International, Global Entrepreneurship Week and Startup America Partnership created the list.
Washington’s real estate acquisition company specializes in acquiring physically and financially distressed properties throughout Philadelphia and transforming them into affordable homes.
Washington was recognized on Nov. 17 at the White House, where he joined entrepreneurs from around the country who were honored for their accomplishments and impact on the American economy. Washington said he didn’t realize the magnitude of the honor until he visited the White House and met politicians and young entrepreneurs who headed up major multimillion operations.
The 100 companies on Empact100 list are responsible for contributing more than 2,500 jobs and more than $374 million in revenue.
“It was a good thing to be amongst a nice caliber of colleagues,” Washington said of the honor.
The Empact100 list was judged solely on the basis of revenue. To be eligible, 100 percent of the founders had to be 30 years or younger, the business must have more than $100,000 in revenue and must be located in the United States.
Early on Washington felt the sting of the entrepreneurial bug. At the age of 21, he founded his real estate business in 2004 while pursing his bachelor’s degree in finance at West Chester University.
“From the beginning, I knew that corporate America road wasn’t the road that I wanted to take,” said Washington, whose first stint as an entrepreneur came while running an import/export clothing business out of his dorm room.
Washington utilized the principles and profits gleaned from the clothing business to launch his real estate venture.
One of the things that propelled him into the real estate business was realizing that his old West Philadelphia neighborhood needed revitalization.
“I saw and still continue to see what the community needs are in terms of a lot of houses that need work. So I saw that there was an opportunity to both help the community and also be able to make a profit at the same time,” said Washington, who hails from 53rd and Thompson streets.
Washington focuses on finding homes that need to be rehabbed and linking them with investors and contractors who are interested in purchasing those properties. His company also has rental properties in its portfolio that are primarily targeted to college students.
For instance, Washington brought in a team of contractors to rehab a property in the 3200 block of North Carlisle Street that had more than 10 years of delinquent back taxes and water bills. In almost five months, the contractors turned the formerly abandoned row home into an affordable two-unit apartment building.
As someone who grew up in the inner city and attended Philadelphia public schools, Washington understands the importance of mentoring young men and women from similar backgrounds.
Darrell Dorsey, a contractor and property manager, is learning key pointers about real estate from Washington.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with him because he knows a lot more than I know about real estate,” says Dorsey.
“He allows me to learn on my own but he corrects me as I go.”
Now he’s tapping into another marketplace by building a second company, iLoveRemyHair.com, which specializes in distributing hair extensions and weaves imported from India to hair salons and beauty supply stores in the East Coast.
Washington noted that even though hair weaves are highly consumed within the Black community, Blacks play a minimal role in distributing the product.
“I said if I can create an opportunity where I can profit as a company and also be able to allow a hair stylist who is installing this hair to profit, then it’s a total win situation and that’s exactly what it’s been,” Washington said.
In addition to juggling his business ventures, Washington serves as a minister at Chosen Generation Worship Center Church in Philadelphia’s Feltonville section.
Washington is married to Jocelyn Washington and has two daughters, Miciah and Zoe.
Formerly known as Extreme Entrepreneurship Education, Empact has worked with more than 400 colleges and universities, workforce development organizations, Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Development Centers to help promote entrepreneurship.