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What’s Bernadette’s Why? Partnerships


BC Design Haus is a woman- and Asian-owned, design and branding agency based in Pasadena, California. Bernadette Capulong, the company’s CEO, describes herself as an accidental entrepreneur, having turned to self-employment to replace her income after being laid off during the Great Recession. Since the firm’s official launch in 2015, she has led the company to achieve double-digit revenue growth year over year. BCDH was recognized nationally for its growth, appearing for the second year in a row on the Inner City 100 Awards list in 2023. This success would not be possible without Capulong’s persistent focus on building partnerships with her clients and her team. Her nearly decade-long journey as an entrepreneur has taught her five key lessons: seek out a program like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, understand that owning a small business is a long game, seek advice from a mentor, hire the right people, and be good to your clients. Read More


Rebuilding Dreams: Two Maui Entrepreneurs’ Inspiring Journey Through Natural Disaster and Recovery


Picture a life on a beautiful island with a loving partner by your side, a thriving community, and a successful business. That's the life that Brandy and Eric Cajudoy created for themselves. Their desire to spend more quality time with their family inspired them to leave full-time employment and become entrepreneurs. In 2017, they co-founded Cajudoy Construction, a woman-owned/led, family-operated general construction company based in central Maui. The company specializes in residential builds and credits its steady growth to the close-knit community on the island. It was connections in the community that helped them expand their business portfolio from custom homes and remodeling to commercial projects. In 2023, Cajudoy Construction secured one of the highest-paying residential contracts the business ever had and its first government job. The Cajudoys felt ready for the future, and then, their world was set on fire. The wildfires that burned more than 6,000 acres across the island in the summer of 2023 have had a lasting impact. Although the couple did not lose personal property in the natural disaster, they have felt the repercussions of a changed economy. They’ve utilized all the skills in their toolbox, including skills learned in ICIC’s Building for Growth program, to recover the life they once had. Read More


What’s eSmart Recycling’s Why? Holistic Sustainability


Electronic waste is the fastest-growing municipal waste stream in the world, increasing 3-times faster than the world’s population. It represents 2% of the waste in landfills but accounts for almost 80% of toxic and hazardous waste. It is estimated that only 20% of the electronics produced in America are recycled. This is a staggering number, especially considering that around 300,000 computers are disposed of daily. Tony Selvaggio is an Inner City 100 Award winner, Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) alumnus, and CEO of eSmart Recycling. Selvaggio had a background in scrap metal and knew there was money to be made by salvaging parts from old computers. In 2016, he launched eSmart Recycling, a company that combines environmental sustainability and social impact metrics, resulting in a holistic approach to offsetting carbon emissions through recycling technology at a corporate and residential level. As the U.S. prepares to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, Selvaggio shares how fellow small business owners can celebrate with their team members, “A little goes a long way. Most people would love to help if they just knew how. Even a simple game or call to action to do one small thing, especially if it is measurable, can bring you together as a team and serve as a catalyst for change.” Read More


Networking and Building Connections


ICIC's Building for Growth (BFG) program joined ICIC's Inner City Alumni Network (ICAN) in California, where they hosted information sessions in Oakland and Sacramento to launch the 2024 BFG application. In the two years since the program’s start, BFG has served 166 construction firms from 29 states. Graduates from the inaugural cohort saw incredible success, raising $5.4 million in total capital, increasing their bonding capacity by an average of 156%, and increasing their backlog by an average of 101%. The information sessions, which were held in conjunction with small business networking events hosted by ICAN, marked the first time that construction owners had the opportunity to network in-person with program staff and alumni before applying. Steve Lamar, BFG Program Director, shared how the program is specifically designed to help later-stage construction companies reach their next level, outlining the unique aspects of the program, such as classes taught by successful industry practitioners, learning with a group of peers from across the nation, and having access to digital and human resources that remain available after completing the course. Building for Growth alumni also offered comments, eagerly expressing the impact of the program on their companies. Read More


Protected: From Brownfields to Business Centers: The Evolution of Industrial Land Use in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Miles Chandler

Like many cities with strong industrial roots, Saint Paul, Minnesota, recognizes the value of protecting its industrial zones and ensuring a future of diverse land use. Light industrial businesses, which include breweries, body shops, and small manufacturers, are vital parts of local business ecosystems and are known to provide high-paying jobs that do not require postsecondary education. While there is value in low barrier-to-entry jobs and the goods and services these businesses offer, negative public perceptions of industrial land use and real estate pressures to convert these properties to residential or retail space often leave the light industry in peril. From 2022 through 2024, ICIC conducted research sponsored by the Saint Paul Port Authority to demonstrate the ongoing importance of light industrial businesses to the city’s economy. We employed a diverse set of methods to investigate many facets of the Saint Paul industrial economy, including the fiscal and private economic impacts of different kinds of businesses and land uses, the employment and wages of industrial and non-industrial sectors, and the spatial concentration of employment by industry. Read More


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