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Leveling The Playing Field For Woman Entrepreneurs

Written by Liz Holden

“I let things roll off me,” Jennifer Pinck told ICIC last fall. The CEO of the Boston-based construction management company Pinck & Co., Pinck described the daunting challenges she faced as she established her firm in the male-dominated field of construction management. Thanks in part to her “thick skin and round shoulders,” Pinck’s company grew to become one of the fastest-growing urban businesses in the U.S., making it onto our Inner City 100 list four times.

As an Inner City 100 winner, Pinck is in good company with other female CEOs: 25 percent of our 2015 honoree businesses were owned by women, including Tammy Tedesco, who spoke at Staples and ICIC’s Paving a Path to Growth event last month in Detroit, and Susan Leger Ferraro, CEO of Imajine That, whom we profiled last week.

At ICIC, we celebrate the successes of women shaping the face of urban entrepreneurship across the U.S. but also recognize that women-owned businesses often face unique challenges such as inequitable access to capital.

Of the 837 urban businesses that participated in our Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program through 2014, 32 percent were women-led. ICCC’s 2015 Impact Report features Deborah Schimberg, CEO of Providence, R.I.-basedGlee Gum, a natural chewing gum company established in 1995. After Schimberg’s participation in ICCC, she altered Glee Gum’s sales strategy, resulting in a 68 percent increase in growth.

Valentine Medical, another ICCC alumna, was established in 2005 in New Orleans – the same year that Hurricane Katrina hit the city. When her clinic was destroyed by the storm, CEO Christy Valentine needed capital to rebuild. After attending ICCC, Dr. Valentine was able to secure a loan that allowed her not only to rebuild but also to grow.

Capital access continues to be a challenge for women entrepreneurs. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, approximately 29 percent of small businesses are women-owned – but they receive only 16 percent of all conventional business loans, accounting for only 4.4 percent of the total dollar value of those loans. Women-owned businesses also receive less venture capital than those owned by men – just 7 percent of the total funding awarded.

By providing executive education, training and access to capital providers, ICCC is helping to close those gaps. While women business owners enter the program having raised, on average, less capital than their male counterparts, they actually tend to raise more capital after participation.

The outlook for women-owned businesses may be slowly changing. According to a recent report by the Center for an Urban Future, the number of women-owned firms in New York City grew by 65 percent between 2002 and 2012 – the equivalent of 45 new businesses every day. Remarkably, this rate of growth is actually slower than that of many other large cities. New York City, like other cities, has recognized the need to support women entrepreneurs and has launched Women Entrepreneurs New York City (WENYC), a program designed to connect women entrepreneurs with the resources to help them grow.

ICIC’s programs are designed to help businesses reach their growth potential.  Through the Inner City 100, Inner City Capital Connections and our partnership with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, ICIC provides national recognition, networking, capital access and education, helping to level the playing field for women-owned businesses in distressed urban areas across the U.S.

And many of these entrepreneurs, like Pinck, are paying it forward: As she told us last fall, “It’s really not about the buildings – it’s about the clients. I like to work with underdogs, because that’s what I used to be.”

We are now accepting applications for the Inner City 100 Conference & Awards!Apply now to gain national recognition in FORTUNE magazine and join a group of over 800 urban leaders from across the U.S. The deadline to apply is April 1, 2016.

Inner City Capital Connections is a national program with an 11-year track record of helping companies accelerate business growth and access capital. In 2016, the program will be held in 10 cities across the U.S. Learn more and apply ornominate an urban business.

Through Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, entrepreneurs from all 50 states have the opportunity to step away from day-to-day operations and focus on growth. The deadline to apply for the upcoming Fall 2016 Class at Babson College is April 20. Visit the 10,000 Small Businesses website for more information at, or register for one of our upcoming informational webinars here.


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