Each year we recognize, celebrate and support fast-growing companies whose success illuminates the competitive advantages of being in the inner city. For nearly 20 years we’ve invited these outstanding businesses to an annual conference and awards ceremony in Boston to celebrate their achievements, learn from each other and promote growth.
The 2018 Inner City 100 Conference and Awards will be held October 1 & 2 at the Seaport Hotel in Boston’s Seaport District.
For your convenience, the Seaport Hotel is offering special hotel rates for conference attendees. Click here to access until September 10th
Lynda M. Applegate is the Baker Foundation Professor at HBS. She was recruited to join the HBS faculty in the mid-1980s and helped build the school’s Technology and Innovation Special Interest Group. In the mid-1990s, she helped launch the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at HBS and headed the unit for many years. Lynda continues to play a leading role in developing HBS Executive Education Programs for entrepreneurs and business owners. She has also held a variety of leadership positions at HBS, including serving as the Co-Chair of the MBA program, Chair of Field Based Learning and as a founding member of the HBS Technology Board. She has also held a number of Harvard University leadership positions, including serving as the Co-Chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Networked Government Services and on the Harvard University Provost’s Technology Advisory Board. Prior to joining the HBS faculty, Lynda was on the faculty of the University of Michigan, University of Washington and University of Arizona. In addition to her academic positions, Lynda also held a variety of leadership positions in the health care industry.
Lynda’s research and publications focus on the challenges of building new ventures and leading radical business innovation in the face of significant industry, technological, capital market, and regulatory turbulence. A second stream of research examines emerging governance models to support inter-firm collaborative innovation. She is currently embarking on a study of the evolution of entrepreneurial ecosystems in emerging markets and technology clusters and is also conducting a global study of high impact women entrepreneurs. Lynda recently served as Series Editor for Harvard Business Publishing’s Core Readings in Entrepreneurship. She is the author of over 40 articles, books, and book chapters, and over 350 published case studies, online learning DVDs, and course materials.
Lynda is the recipient of numerous HBS awards for her research, teaching, and service to the school. Most recently, she was awarded the Robert F. Greenhill award for her outstanding contributions to HBS over the course of her career. She has also received Harvard Business School’s Berol Award for Research Excellence and its Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching. She has won numerous “Best Paper” awards for her academic research on 21st century business models and executive team decision-making and collaboration when developing and launching strategic innovations, and she has served as a Senior Editor and on the editorial boards for leading research journals in the field of technology innovation.
Lynda is an active international consultant and has served on the board of directors of public, private, non-profit and venture-backed companies. She is an advisor and advisory board member for entrepreneurs launching new ventures and for senior executives leading innovation in established companies. She is currently on the board of two non-profit organizations Endeavor Detroit and the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and two privately-held firms. She has also served as a member of the Industry Advisory Board for NASDAQ, as a policy advisor on a Blue-Ribbon Panel to define a National Research Agenda on the development of the Network Economy, and as a member of a roundtable panel for President Clinton’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection.
Entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist Richelieu Dennis has a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation that traces back to his family’s roots in Africa and that is sustained by a vision to fill unmet consumer needs around the world. As the founder, CEO and Executive Chairman of Sundial Brands, his passion has resulted in the 27-year-old family-founded, run & operated manufacturing company’s success today as the maker of top hair, natural, bar soap and bath and body brands via its SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage lines, as well as its newest brands and forays into prestige beauty via its Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture hair care line and Nyakio skin care line.
After being widowed at a young age, Richelieu’s grandmother – Sofi – sold handcrafted Shea butter soaps and salves in Sierra Leone to support her family. She became known as a healer throughout the countryside and taught these recipes to her grandson. In 1991, upon graduating from renowned business school Babson College and unable to return to his home country of Liberia because of civil war, Richelieu partnered with his college roommate, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a bold concept: address specific skin and hair care issues that had been traditionally ignored by mass market skin care companies. Drawing from deep family traditions, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes and wisdom into natural bath and body care products and co-founded Sundial Brands with his mother – Mary Dennis – and Nyema.
With a foundation of family heritage and his own cultural experiences, Richelieu leads Sundial’s vision to serve under-served consumers through problem/solution products made with natural and certified organic ingredients. As a result, he has become recognized in the market for research innovation because of his continual testing and incorporation of culturally authentic and globally-sourced ingredients into his formulations. By focusing on the unmet skin care and hair care needs of a diverse range of consumers, Richelieu has led the beauty and personal care manufacturer from selling its products on the streets of New York City to selling in and co-creating a comprehensive portfolio of product offerings with America’s largest retailers across mass, prestige, drug, grocery, beauty supply, natural and other specialty channels, as well as extending its direct distribution to the UK, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Caribbean, with
more to come.
In November 2017, Richelieu architected a first-of-its-kind deal in the beauty and personal care industry – marking a continuum of almost three decades of demonstrating how business can be done differently and creating new paths to building a lasting legacy. With the landmark acquisition of Sundial Brands by Unilever, Richelieu negotiated the largest natural personal care deal ever in the U.S. and also the largest consumer products deal by a majority black-owned company. Most critically, as part of this purpose-driven agreement, he and Unilever created a groundbreaking US$100 million New Voices Fund to invest in and empower women of color entrepreneurs.
Richelieu is also an innovator in the identification of and response to the cultural shift in the U.S. which has resulted in the New General Market, which Sundial defines as an amalgamation of cultures, ethnicities, and demographics aligned against commonalities, need states and lifestyles, e.g. an inclusion approach rather than a traditional segmentation approach. Through his vision and the company’s Community Commerce business model, its purpose-driven way of doing business, Sundial equips underserved people and communities with access to the opportunities and resources that enable them to create lasting value for themselves and others. Extending from the company’s shea butter and coconut supply chains in Ghana, to executive education and investment for girls and women of color entrepreneurs at institutions including Darmouth/Tuck School of Business and Babson College in the U.S., to organizational partnerships including the Jackie Robinson Foundation and WACO Theater Center, to support of Todee Mission School, the Smart Liberia – GET program and UNIFORM in Liberia, Sundial’s Community Commerce efforts are building stronger, self-sustaining communities and enterprises around the world.
Under Richelieu’s leadership, Sundial has been certified as a B Corp company and holds a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification. Additionally, in 2015 Sundial was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the United States and received the 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility of the Year Award from WWD/Beauty Inc, while Richelieu and Nyema received the Lewis Institute Changemaker Award from Babson College for their efforts in challenging the status quo, creating positive social change and making the world a better place. Sundial has also previously received Black Enterprise’s “Emerging Business of the Year Award,” which recognizes businesses that have poised themselves for growth, and in July 2017, the company made its debut at #10 on the Black Enterprise BE 100s list – recognizing the largest black-owned companies in the U.S. In addition, SheaMoisture received the 2016 Ad Campaign of the Year Award from WWD/Beauty Inc for its “Break the Walls” efforts, and both SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage have garnered awards from publications including Allure, Better Nutrition, Ebony, Esquire, Essence, Family Circle, Life & Style, Natural Health, Parents, Prevention and Real Beauty, among others.
In 2017, Richelieu founded Essence Ventures, an independent African-American owned company focused on merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of women of color. In January 2018, the company announced that it had acquired Essence Communications Inc. from Time Inc. – reestablishing ESSENCE as a 100% black-owned independent company. Richelieu currently serves as the chair of Essence Ventures. Richelieu has been named by OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network to its inaugural “SuperSoul 100” list celebrating a dynamic group of 100 trailblazers using their power to move the world forward and whose vision and life’s work are bringing a higher level of consciousness to the world around them and encouraging others to do the same. He has also been named by Fast Company as one of the “Most Creative People in Business.”
In December 2017, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, conferred upon him one of the nation’s highest honors – the distinction of Knight Commander – and admitted Richelieu into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers.
Karen Gordon Mills is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and a leading authority on U.S. competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation. She was a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, serving as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 2009 to 2013, and is an expert on the economic health and well-being of the nation’s small businesses.
Mills frequently provides analysis and insight on the small business lending market and its impact on the nation’s economy, including on the rapid growth of “fintech” online lenders, which she details in two working papers: The State of Small Business Lending: Innovation and Technology and Implications for Regulation (November 2016) and The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access in the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game (July 2014). With a focus on the link between entrepreneurship and middle-class opportunity, she authored portions of the Harvard Business School U.S. Competitiveness project’s reports Growth and Shared Prosperity and The Challenge of Shared Prosperity.
Mills is President of MMP Group, which invests in financial services, consumer products and technology-enabled solutions. She currently serves as a director of several fast-growing entrepreneurial companies, including First Aid Beauty, and is Vice Chair of Envoy, an immigration services provider. Mills is Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Private Capital Research Institute, co-Chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Main Street Finance Task Force, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Harvard Corporation, Harvard’s highest governing board.
As SBA Administrator, Mills served on the President’s National Economic Council and as a key member of the White House economic team. At SBA, she led a team of more than 3,000 employees and managed a loan guarantee portfolio of over $100 billion. Mills is credited with turning around the agency, streamlining loan programs, decreasing processing times and reducing paperwork, which led to record-breaking years for SBA lending and investments in growth capital. Additionally, Mills led efforts to help small businesses create regional economic clusters, gain access to early-stage capital, boost exports, and tap into government and commercial supply chains.
Prior to SBA, Mills held leadership positions in the private sector, including as a partner in several private equity firms, and served on the boards of Scotts Miracle-Gro and Arrow Electronics. In 2007, Maine Governor John Baldacci appointed Mills to Chair Maine’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, where she focused on regional development initiatives, including a regional economic cluster with Maine’s boatbuilding industry.
Mills earned an AB in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar. She is a recipient of the U.S. Department of the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, their highest civilian honor, and is a frequent guest on news outlets and an opinion writer, with recent placements in Fortune, Forbes, The Hill, Harvard Business Review, U.S. News and World Report and American Banker.
Governor Patrick joined Bain Capital in 2015 and is a managing director of the Double Impact business. Prior to joining the firm, he served as Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for eight years. Before entering public office, Governor Patrick was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company. He also worked as Vice President and General Counsel of Texaco, Inc. and served on the company’s Executive Council. Governor Patrick was previously a Partner at Day, Berry & Howard and a Partner at Hill & Barlow. In 1994, he was appointed by President Clinton as Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Patrick graduated cum laude with a BA degree from Harvard College and earned his JD degree from Harvard Law School.
Nancy E. Pfund is Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. As a leading player in impact investing, DBL has helped to reveal the power of venture capital to promote social change and environmental improvement, and Ms. Pfund writes and speaks frequently on the field of impact investing. She sponsors or sits on the board of directors of several companies, including; Farmer’s Business Network, The Muse, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Off-Grid Electric, Primus Power, and, prior to their public offerings, Tesla Motors and Pandora. She also served on the board of SolarCity, and was on both the audit and compensation committees, and also chair of the corporate governance committee from 2008 until its acquisition by Tesla in December 2016. Ms. Pfund was featured #17 in the 2014 FORTUNE Inaugural World’s Top 25 Eco-Innovators; and appeared on Fast Company’s 2016 List of Most Creative People in Business. She serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society, as a member and former chair of the Advisory Council of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University; the UC Davis Center for Energy Efficiency; and co-chairs the Yale School of Management Program on Entrepreneurship. She has been a Lecturer in Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Yale School of Management; and is a C3E Ambassador to the U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Program, led by the U.S. Department of Energy. She is also a founding officer and director of ABC2, a foundation aimed at accelerating a cure for brain cancer. Ms. Pfund received her BA and MA in anthropology from Stanford University, and her MBA from the Yale School of Management.
Jennifer Pinck is the president and founder of Pinck & Co., Inc. – a real estate development and project management services firm that provides nonprofits, institutional clients, and public entities with planning, design coordination, construction management, and comprehensive development consulting services. Founded in 1998, the firm has managed more than $5 billion in construction value and has won numerous community and industry awards for its growth and achievements. In addition to the firm’s many accomplishments, Jennifer has been recognized for her entrepreneurial achievements, volunteerism, and contributions to the community and industry. In March 2018, she received the Associated General Contractor of Massachusetts (AGC MA) Building Women in Construction (BWiC) Mentor of the Year Award.
Michael Porter is an economist, researcher, author, advisor, speaker and teacher. Throughout his career at Harvard Business School, he has brought economic theory and strategy concepts to bear on many of the most challenging problems facing corporations, economies and societies, including market competition and company strategy, economic development, political competition, the environment, and health care. His approach is based on understanding the overall economics and structure of complex systems, in contrast to particular elements or parts. His extensive research is widely recognized in governments, corporations, NGOs, and academic circles around the globe. His research has received numerous awards, and he is the most cited scholar today in economics and business. While Michael Porter is at the core a scholar, his work has achieved remarkable acceptance by practitioners across multiple fields.
Fred Schwam, 52, was the owner and CEO of American Christmas, the nation’s leading commercial Christmas decorating company, from 1988 until October of 2017, when he sold the Company to Austrian based MK Illumination. He will remain with the Company through 2019. American Christmas designs, manufactures, installs, removes, stores and refurbishes holiday displays for office lobbies, tenant offices, hotels, restaurants, banks, theaters, department stores, retail stores, shopping centers, hospitals and television sets. Clients include Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Macy’s, Salvatore Ferragamo, Harry Winston, Madison Square Garden and the McGraw Hill Building. The Company is celebrating its’ 50th Anniversary in 2018.
American Christmas is headquartered in a 110,000 square foot building in Mount Vernon. The Company employs 70 people full time and another 135 people seasonally.
The company is proud to give back to the community by offering its services, as a courtesy, to Mount Vernon City Hall, Mount Vernon police headquarters, Mount Vernon Fulton Street firehouse, Mount Vernon Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon. American Christmas decorates the Ronald McDonald House at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, the holiday party for The Miracle League of Westchester and the headquarters for G-d’s Love We Deliver in Manhattan. Every November, the company contacts over a dozen local not-for-profit organizations and donates decorations. The employees of American Christmas have given back in a variety of ways, including serving dinner at the Community Service Associates Soup Kitchen in Mount Vernon.
Fred serves on the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon, the Board of Directors for the UJA Federation of New York-Westchester Business & Professional Division and the Advisory Board of Directors for the Northeast Stem Starter Academy (NSSA) in Mount Vernon. Fred previously served on the Armonk Baseball League Board of Directors for 10 years (2003-2012).
American Christmas has been covered extensively in the press, including national television coverage on CBS’ “CBS This Morning” (2016) and ABC’s “Good Morning America” (2017). Fred and the Company have received numerous honors over the years, including: Crain’s New York Business Small Business Award (1997), Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) Inner City 100 list (7 time honoree and Hall of Fame inductee), Crain’s New York Business Forty Under Forty (2002), New York Enterprise Report Best Practice winner for Sales & Marketing (2008), Inc. Magazine Inc. 5000 (2 time honoree), Mount Vernon Business Leadership award (2011), Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon Corporate Citizenship Award (2013), Westchester Magazine/914 Inc. Small Business Award for General Excellence (2013), Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year (2013), UJA Federation of New York-Westchester Business & Professional Division-Spring Breakfast Guest Speaker (2014),The Business Council of Westchester inductee into the Westchester County Business Hall of Fame (2015), Smart CEO Magazine’s Deals of Distinction (2015), Kids X-Press Dream Big Award (2016), The Mount Vernon Democratic City Committee Business Community Service Award (2017), the Mount Vernon Businessman of the Year (2017) and the Family Services of Westchester Leadership in Service Award (2018).
Fred grew up in Nanuet, New York and currently lives in Armonk, New York with his wife of 26 years, Samantha, and their two children – Chad (20) and Jonah (17). Fred graduated from Ithaca College in 1988 with a B.S. in Business Administration.
Kirsten Saenz Tobey founded Revolution Foods in 2006 with co-founder and CEO Kristin Groos Richmond while in graduate school at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Based in Oakland, Revolution Foods is quickly becoming the nation’s leading innovative, nationwide food solution for community health and citywide wellness. Revolution Foods, now over $130 million in revenue, serves approximately 2 million healthy, chef crafted, affordable meals per week across 30 major metro areas in 15 states, partnering with over 2000 school and community sites in the US. Revolution Foods’ mission is to build lifelong healthy eaters by making kid-inspired, chef-crafted food accessible to all. Kirsten continues to steward the mission and drive the vision for the company. Kirsten spearheaded the company’s expansion into the consumer goods space and has led the company’s efforts on thought leadership, nutrition strategy and impact. Kirsten continues to lead the company’s efforts to developing innovative solutions for healthy meal preparation for busy families across the US.
A recent study published by the University of California at Berkeley affirms that high-quality nutritious meals drive positive academic outcomes for at-risk youth and are one of the least expensive intervention methods available to increase student success. The UC Berkeley study ranked Revolution Foods’ meals #1 on all scoring measures for “healthiness” in comparison to other companies, providing unsolicited validation of our approach to Feeding Good.
Revolution Foods was named by Fast Company as one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies in 2015 and was listed as one of Fortune Magazine’s “Seven World-Changing Companies to Watch” in August 2016. Kristin and Kirsten were named by the Schwab Foundation and World Economic Forum as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2015. They were also listed among Fortune’s 40 under 40 for 2013, identified as Time Magazine’s Education Activists of 2011, and co-named Entrepreneur of the Year by NewSchools Venture Fund in 2010. Kirsten is an Ashoka Fellow, an Aspen Institute Environmental Fellow, and a member of the Culinary Institute of America’s Sustainable Business Council. She currently is a member of the Board of Directors for Mercaris and ARTA River Trips. She serves as an advisor for several startup companies, including Wellio, Homemade Cooking and Bixbee.
Prior to founding Revolution Foods, Kirsten was a teacher, researcher and garden educator with Earthjustice, the School for Field Studies, and Phillips Academy at Andover. Her career spanned from leading experiential education programs in the US and Ecuador to evaluating the scalability of school feeding programs with the United Nations Hunger Task Force in Ghana. Kirsten holds an AB from Brown University and an MBA from UC Berkeley. She lives in the SF Bay Area with her husband and three daughters.
Rob Walsh is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University School of Public and International Affairs and at Baruch’s School of Public and International Affairs. At Baruch, he has also served as the Faculty Director of the Executive Masters in Public Administration Program.
His segment “The Bottom Line for Small Business” airs on 1010 WINS Radio where he is also the host and moderator of the Small Business Challenge which recognizes, the work of entrepreneurs in New York Metropolitan area.
In January 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Walsh the Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS). During his twelve years, SBS became one of the city’s most innovative agencies in serving the needs of its 200,000 small businesses.
Walsh re-energized the City’s business improvement districts and created an award-winning commercial revitalization and neighborhood leadership program in partnership with the Coro Foundation. Under his leadership, seven NYC Business Solutions Centers were established that secured more than $200 million for small businesses in the last six years of his tenure. He introduced NYC Business Express an online tool for the license, permit, tax, and incentive information that businesses need to operate. He created a wide array of entrepreneurial courses and forged new partnerships with groups including the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, Interise, and the Kauffman Foundation. Walsh also built a new business-focused approach to the workforce system that placed nearly 200,000 people in jobs through 17 workforce career centers.
Prior to his service with the City, Walsh served as President of Charlotte Center City Partners in North Carolina, an organization dedicated to improving and growing Charlotte’s central business district. he led the Center City 2010 Master Plan that laid the groundwork for significant private and public investments in the core of the city including more housing, retail development, an NBA basketball arena, a minor league baseball stadium, cultural facilities, a light rail line, and parks. He also initiated the recruitment efforts that attracted Johnson & Wales University to the Center City.
From 1989 to April 1997, he led the Union Square Partnership, where he played an instrumental role in the neighborhood’s revitalization. During the 1980’s, he worked in the administration of Mayor Edward I. Koch. He began his career in public service as a New York City Urban Fellow, a program he later directed.
Walsh holds a Bachelors in Political Science and Masters in Public Affairs from Fordham University. He also participated in the Senior Executive Program in State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.
ICIC is proud to work with dedicated partners on the Inner City 100 Conference and Awards: