Every year at the Inner City 100 Awards and Conference, ICIC presents an entrepreneur with the Marcia Lamb Inner City Innovation Award, which recognizes visionary leadership at the forefront of creating positive change in urban economic development and inner cities. This year, the honor was presented to Bo Menkiti, CEO of The Menkiti Group and Keller Williams Capital Properties, real estate development and brokerage firms in Washington, DC.
Born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts, Bo went on to graduate from Harvard University. In 2004 Bo initiated The Menkiti Group’s first investment when he saw an opportunity for real estate to produce positive changes in people’s lives and in the communities where they live. The company experienced early success, receiving numerous awards and magazine spotlights almost immediately following its formation. In 2011, Menkiti was featured in Inc.’s 500/5000 list, which ranks America’s fastest-growing private companies, and in 2012 made ICIC’s Inner City 100 list for the first time as the fastest-growing inner city company in DC and the 9th fastest-growing inner city company in the country. Under Bo’s leadership, the company has continued to grow dramatically both in size and influence. While fast growth is an impressive achievement for any business, it’s Bo’s dedication to business as a force for good that makes him stand out as a true visionary.
Bo focused his efforts on inner cities because he was “fascinated by a lack of investment” in his own neighborhood and believed that through thoughtful real estate investment he could make a significant difference and create tangible value in the community. Over the last 13 years, Bo has attached social impact to each of the Menkiti Group’s properties. Keith Sellers, President and CEO of the company’s Washington DC Economic Partnership, says that Bo “helped encourage economic development in the community by revitalizing areas that were long forgotten.” According to Bo, “To be able to say that we made an intentional decision to locate and grow in an inner city in America has been an important part of our identity and who we are, and shaped the growth of our company.”
Bo’s faith in the inner city is a large part of his success as a businessman. Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Keller Williams Capital Properties Brandon Green says that Bo has a unique gift, being able to “go into areas of our city and see what’s possible, seeing vision in communities where no one else could.” The vision that Bo has for his company and his city is woven into the fabric of Menkiti Group’s business model. To complement its real estate investment, The Menkiti Group also sponsors holiday trolley tours, festivals, and movie nights in the Brookland neighborhood where they are headquartered, bringing a dynamic element to their contribution to the community’s vitality and culture.
Office manager Taylor Weldon says that Bo is always teaching and inspiring others to be entrepreneurial, which fosters an inherent spirit of growth and innovation at the company. That means both Bo and Menkiti Group employees are always looking for the next step. Currently, they are testing models for how urban neighborhoods can best experience growth, and aiming to have a model that can be scaled nationally by 2020. Bo also makes efforts to inspire those outside his company, and gave a keynote presentation to entrepreneurs from across the U.S. at the 2017 Inner City 100 Conference and Awards about putting shared value into action. He emphasized how businesses and entrepreneurs must lead the way in driving real change in inner cities, and how those in the room have the power to create not only jobs and economic resources, but also civic pride.
By wanting others to realize the value and abilities within themselves and their communities, and putting the business advantages of inner cities into action, Bo is a true example of what the Marcia Lamb Inner City Innovation Award embodies. It’s perhaps best put by Bo himself: “To be able to change the perception about how this country looks at its inner cities, and to be just one example of the great things that are happening, has been tremendously powerful for our organization and its growth.”