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Celebrating Black Entrepreneur Excellence

February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate and honor black communities throughout the United States and highlight the people and stories that remain central to our nation’s history and enduring values. For ICIC, and our Inner City Capital Connections program in particular, this means recognizing  black-owned businesses’ unique challenges and successes,  and learning more about their founders’ stories.

Statistics show that there has been an increase in the number of black-owned businesses over the last twenty years: the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 14% of black-owned businesses have been operating for less than two years, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce states that the number of black-owned businesses increased by 60% from 2002-2007. Despite their young age, for the 108,000 companies in the United States that are black-owned, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. In celebrating Black History Month, ICIC proudly recognizes a few of its most successful black-owned alumni businesses: Vintage TeaWorks, YCAT-C, and Mouyenga Group.

Vintage TeaWorks, established in 2011, is a tea company that specializes in tea blends inspired by the complexity of wines and loose tea leaves. CEO Brandon Ford sought help from ICCC to allow his company to realize its maximum sales revenue by crafting a finance strategy and building capacity that would support and encourage long-term growth. Brandon’s coaching allowed him to meet with capital providers who filled gaps in his company’s current strategy, showing him how he could effectively communicate the value of Vintage Teaworks to potential investors. Brandon and his ICCC coach developed a pitch he could use for wholesale customers, and he’s now secured six new customers and increased his bottom line by nearly 7%.

YCAT-C, founded in 2009 by CEO Yolanda Jones, is a construction management company employing a staff made up nearly entirely by inner city residents. When her 16-year-old son was shot by a police officer in 2009, she wanted to devote her life to ways she could preserve his legacy, and saw the creation of her business as a way to provide alternatives to gang violence and to reduce unemployment in her community. By hiring individuals with criminal records, no high school diploma, or who were on government assistance, Yolanda has fostered real change in her city and continues to expand. While there were initial hurdles related to understanding regulations and business ownership, she enrolled in ICCC and was able to receive the guidance she needed to turn YCAT-C into a success. Yolanda has seen a 75% growth in employees since participating, and continues to grow her business and impact her community.

Mouyenga Group, led by Denis Mouyenga, is a professional services firm that assists disadvantaged business owners in securing government contracts. Denis was born and raised in Cameroon, moving to the United States after finishing graduate school to pursue work in the financial services industry. He received citizenship and joined the U.S. Military, and then worked in consulting and in federal government. While he was working in the public sector he noticed a disconnect between government contracts and minority business owners and established Mouyenga Group to help bridge this gap. His participation in ICCC helped him create a network of small business owners and investors to give him strategic feedback and help grow his company, expanding Mouyenga Group’s operations throughout the United States and into sub-Saharan Africa. Only one year after ICCC, Denis has already seen revenue growth top 104%.

While these are only three examples of the many of black-owned businesses who have participated in ICCC, they show the results of what happens when you combine entrepreneurial spirit with increased access to mentorship and capital. The inner cities where these companies grow in and hire from continue to benefit from their successes.

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