At the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) culminating conference on November 17 in New York City the program celebrated its 12th year of helping inner city entrepreneurs build capacity, get coaching and access capital. Throughout the day, business owners from around the country showcased products and services, shared success stories, and practiced pitching to investors. The theme “Cash is King and Strategy is Queen,” drove the educational sessions and seminars given by expert speakers, and provided attendees with new perspectives on the best ways to position various aspects of their businesses for revenue growth, job creation and much-needed debt and equity capital.
ICIC’s CEO Steve Grossman welcomed participants and reflected on the program’s growth and evolution over the last decade under the leadership of ICCC Director, Hyacinth Vassell. As recently as 2014, ICCC only operated in three cities, but 2017 saw explosive growth to 800 participants in ten U.S. cities, with more on the horizon for 2018. Expressing admiration for the hardworking entrepreneurs in attendance, Steve said, “I don’t get overwhelmed very often, but for those present, to be able to see the networking that’s going on, to see new relationships being built right in front of us, that is overwhelming.”
At the conference, ICCC released its 2017 Impact Report, which details the program’s accomplishments and features a wealth of inspirational stories about successful program alumni. Most notably, past participants created more than 3,500 new jobs, and raised an additional $75 million during the last year.
It’s the tremendous success of ICCC that enabled participants to gain these critical opportunities. With each of the ICCC cohorts represented, and over 400 entrepreneurs present, the conference offered a essential resource many inner city businesses lack: a robust network. A new addition to the suite of vital services provided by ICCC is ongoing mentorship from SCORE, offered to participants through a first-in-the-nation partnership between the organizations that was announced at the conference. SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors and has more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters who will be available to ICCC participants and alumni. SCORE is eager to increase its involvement in inner cities, and ICCC is excited to offer its participants long-term mentoring services. “With SCORE on board, ICCC alumni will have continuous access to these valuable resources, even after they’ve completed our program,” Steve said.
A Shark Tank-style session showcased three different companies, Ovtene, Puretergent, Inc., and Sunmint as they pitched their businesses and products to a panel of five different investors. Bain Capital, Semaphore, Inc., Ironwood Capital, Arctaris Impact Fund, and the Boston Consulting Group were all represented on the panel, and provided expert advice and constructive criticism to those who pitched, particularly related to how they could best position themselves to secure capital in the future. Educational seminars tackled conflict resolution in the workplace and featured speakers like Stephanie Hickman, an ICCC alumna, of Chicago-based Trice Construction, as well as how to best secure corporate supply contracts, a session led by Pat Hopper, FedEx’s director of sourcing.
Attendees also learned about the benefits of leveraging legal services available to them, both as a tool for cashflow growth and for strategic dominance, and the importance of cybersecurity when running a small business. The conference finale, titled “The Final Move,” was a round-robin style event where entrepreneurs pitched to various capital institutions, including traditional banks, alternative funders, gap lenders, and equity providers.
ICCC’s culminating conference marked another year of success in helping inner city businesses succeed through access to educational resources and capital. The diverse group of individuals, businesses, and stories represented the vibrancy that inner city businesses bring to their own neighborhoods. The presence of some of the business world’s heavy hitters demonstrates how inner-city businesses are finally being welcomed by the investment community as smart, profitable investments.