Starting over after a dislocation—a layoff, firing, demotion or other displacement—can be daunting for individuals who landed a good job, performed well and had long-term prospects for income and professional growth.

Many of these individuals, who we refer to as the “Upper Echelon Unemployed” choose not to utilize city-wide resources or participate in government-sponsored job placement programs because of pride, social factors or the perceived stigma of asking for help.

WOI principals have over 60 years of collective business experience and trusted relationships built as executives, consultants, business owners and board members. We have mentored, taught at the university level and served as subject matter experts at leadership forums. This experience and our other professional resources provide the breadth and depth of knowledge needed to guide Upper Echelon clients toward successfully reinventing themselves to re-enter the workforce as employees, or start their own businesses as entrepreneurs.

The WOI – REINVENTION ACADEMY™ is a comprehensive and innovative three-week program, with nine hours of  live instruction, providing clients with the tools, individual coaching, confidence-building and connection to the employer activities required to reinvent themselves by completion.  Throughout the program, we assess each participant’s experience, interests and needs.  The Academy offers customized workshops to provide the basic social, behavioral and communications skills needed to enter the workforce, including examining:

  • The Facets of Business: leadership and organizational behavior.
  • Interviewing Skills: writing resumes, appearance and presentation.
  • Effective Interpersonal Communications: ways to improve oral/written communication.
  •  Balancing Work and Home Life: improving quality of life for better health. 
  • Employee v Entrepreneur: exploring the difference between working for others, or being your own boss. 
  • Creative Problem Solving: thinking outside the box; creating win-win solutions.
  • How to Control Difficult Customers: effective customer service techniques.
  • Developing a Team Mentality: valuing differing personalities; accomplishing a common goal.

The WOI-Reinvention AcademyTM is designed to change participant attitudes and behaviors in critical areas so they are mentally prepared for their next income earning opportunity.  We maintains a network of business leaders and potential employers, and will  identify and pre-qualify select participants to enter specific jobs or employee training programs.

Select Photos Courtesy of Ron Baker and Lenzy Ruffin


The course Content was superb. The instructors (Michel Daley & Tony Cord) walked us through the minefield of business development as a great protector would for those under their charge.  They built our confidence by laying a solid foundation of sure-fire methods to allow us to grow into fully functional entities equipped to withstand the rigors and challenges of building and maintaining our own enterprises.  --  Jerry Owens

In partnership with the DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) Youth Earn and Learn Program., WOI started an Entrepreneurship AcademyTM for DC unemployed youth, 20 to 24 years, who want to start a business instead of seeking employment .  The Academy is a unique and comprehensive nine-week program offering participants tools and resources to pitch their ideas, develop a business plan, form a legal and licensed entity, establish a banking relationship and join a business advocacy group. 

The entrepreneurship course also includes weekly excursions for a cohort of 15 students, largely Ward 7 and Ward 8 residents, to co-working spaces and city offices, including the start-up hubs 1776 and WeWork, government offices such as the DC Department of Small and Local Business (DSLBD) and DC City Coucilmember offices.    In addition, WOI will provide a series of “lunch and learn” presentations to introduce students to local entrepreneurial luminaries for first-hand, practical advice and the opportunity to build mentor/mentee relationships.  WOI will ask class participants to identify and develop business solutions to neighborhood problems, pitch the solutions internally and vote on the best solution to forward to city officials for consideration.

Students are rewarded for participating.  DOES will pay them a weekly stipend, but they must first qualify and register with the DOES Career Connections program at 4058 Minnesota Avenue, NE.  No GED or other educational attainments are required.

WOI Reinvention AcademyTM

WOI Entrepreneurship AcademyTM

WOIWashington Opportunity institute


"Greetings...I was in the first Academy last year.  I wanted to share with you, I acquired enough capital to buy products and launch my skincare/spa company.  I am opening a spa location next month and my products will be sold in a three-month long pop-up shop by a group called Femme Fatal in a prime retail location on New York Ave and Florida Ave starting Oct 10.  My company name is Jovanny's Au Naturale Body Shop.  In addition to that, I took some sewing courses and I create clothes and home decor under my design company called Belodee Designs.  I really appreciate everything you guys taught me, take care."   -- Deitra Cornish.

Finalists of  the Washington Opportunity Institute - Entrepreneurship Academy's first "elevator pitch" contest at  with L-R WOI co-founder Michel Daley; Finalists Deitra Cornish, Mark Fortune, Malaika Rose Paltrow and WOI co-founder Tony Cord.