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Building a Support Network: Entrepreneurs Gain Access to Free Resources through ICIC’s Inner City Alumni Network

By ICIC | March 20, 2024

Feeling isolated is a sentiment shared by many small business owners because they experience challenges and triumphs that are unique to this role. Tique Chandler, an Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) alumna from Toronto and the CEO of Chandler Honey, expressed, “Being an entrepreneur is very lonely sometimes, especially in my group of friends because I’m the only small business owner. To hear that people are having very similar problems to me is helpful for us from a brainstorming perspective to help us solve each other’s problems, but also just feeling less alone and feeling that sense of community.” ICIC created the Inner City Alumni Network (ICAN) as a resource for small business owners to connect with each other for collaboration and moral support, to provide ongoing learning and professional development opportunities after completing a technical assistance program, and to aid in giving visibility and recognition to members.

ICAN is a vibrant community comprised of 8,000+ alumni from the United States and Canada who have earned an Inner City 100 Award or completed at least one small business technical assistance program offered by ICIC, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women: Black in Business, ICIC’s Building for Growth, ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections, and Santander’s Cultivate Small Business.

ICAN members at ICIC’s Annual Conference

Alumni have continually expressed that access to like-minded small business owners is one of the greatest values they received from participating in an ICIC program. “We can all go to classes and everything else, but having a community of people who really want to see your business do well –having that network– is golden for me. For most people, getting the best out of ICIC is [accessing] the networking aspect,” stated Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) alumnus Wayne Stewart, the founder and CEO of Stewart Design Agency. Connecting to an international community of small business owners is just the start of what ICAN offers its members. ICAN also offers access to:

  • Local Chapters – Since 2022, ICAN has launched seven local chapters in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, and Northern California. Annual events bring local ICAN members, corporate partners, Alumni Steering Committee members, and ICIC staff together for social and educational events.
  • Steering Committee Membership – The chapters are overseen by dedicated Alumni Steering Committees, whose members play a key leadership role in strengthening the alumni community. Committee members receive recognition at all chapter events and in ICIC’s annual Impact Report, priority consideration for speaking engagements, and invitations to exclusive gatherings.
Atlanta ICAN Steering Committee Members with ICIC staff at the 2023 Atlanta Alumni Social
  • Referrals to Ecosystem Partners – ICAN’s newest benefit is the partner referral system, which will roll out in 2024 in collaboration with the robust network of ICIC ecosystem partners. ICAN members will be able to sign up to connect with capital providers and corporate and non-profit partners to get the resources they need to grow their businesses.
  • Priority Invitations to New Small Business Initiatives – ICIC is consistently working to expand its technical assistance offerings, and ICAN members are the priority recipients of invitations to these new opportunities. One example is the Building for Growth (BFG) program. While much of ICIC’s programming is industry agnostic, the BFG program is specific to construction businesses. It provides tuition-free executive education to primarily BIPOC-, women-, and veteran-owned construction contractors to build capacity and develop sustainable growth strategies. ICAN members were among the first to have the opportunity to apply for this ground-breaking program when it launched in 2022.
Connect to the Network

Mouji Boulanger, the founder and President of CEI, Inc., who joined ICAN as a 2023 IC100 Award winner, stated, “Through the development of my career, which I’ve been really intentional about, I’ve never felt I’ve met my community of like-minded business people; not in my industry, not in my journeys, not in my mentoring, never. And when I stepped foot in the [ICAN] room and met so many people there, I was elated to find that these are my people! This is where I belong.”  Boulanger’s sentiments have been felt by thousands of entrepreneurs, and ICAN eagerly anticipates welcoming new members, one cohort at a time.

To join ICAN, small business owners must complete at least one of ICIC’s technical assistance programs or earn an IC100 Award. Members who participated in our sponsored programs, such as Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women: Black in Business, and Santander’s Cultivate Small Business, can register to receive ICAN news to stay informed on upcoming events and new educational materials.


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